Currently more than 300 million people live in the US, the vast majority of whom have English as their native language. However, there is no standard variety of American English (which the notion “General American” suggests) and the English spoken by US residents is far from being uniform. Therefore, the US - as any other country in the world - are a patchwork of different dialect areas. This seminar aims at studying the most important varieties of American English, including their historical backgrounds, current status and most important features on various language levels. During the first phase of the seminar, we will talk about the history, general principles and methodology of sociolinguistics in general. In the second phase, work will get more practical: students will be exposed to different audio/video samples which will provide them with the opportunity to practice their ability to recognize distinctive features of language and interpret them according to their sociolinguistic context. Requirements: active participation, reading assignments, (short) presentation and final exam.
This course is an introduction to the study of the English language. After an initial discussion of the main properties of human languages that set them apart from animal communication, the first part of the course offers an overview of the main structural properties of the English language. These will include a description of the following linguistic levels: 1. Phonetics and phonology: i.e. the human speech sound inventory as well as the specific sounds used by the English language; 2. Morphology and word-formation: the analysis of meaningful units below the word level (such as plural -s in cats, dogs or horses) and the various ways of creating new words (e.g. the verb to google deriving from the name of the search engine Google); 3. Syntax: the structure of English sentences; and 4. Semantics and pragmatics: both dealing with different types of linguistic meaning. Finally, the course explores the effects of the main linguistic changes on all linguistic levels that have affected the English language since its "birth" in the 5th century (History of the English language). - Requirements: regular attendance, final exam (the exact date will be announced in the first session).