Reed College Catalog

Kara Becker

Sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology, American regional dialects, social practice and identity construction, African American English, language and gender.

Sameer ud Dowla Khan

Phonology, phonetics, intonation/prosody, reduplication, laboratory phonology, voice quality and phonation, speech acoustics, Bengali and other South Asian languages. On sabbatical 2020–21.

Matthew Pearson

Formal linguistic theory, syntax, typology and language description, phonology, morphology, historical linguistics, the syntax-semantics interface, Austronesian languages.

Alice Shen

Phonetics, psycholinguistics, bilingualism, laboratory phonology, speech perception and production, code-switching, sociophonetics.

Linguistics is the study of human language: its form, variety, and social life. Human language may be studied from a variety of perspectives, whether as a complex social behavior; as a medium for creating and embodying social meaning and identity; or as the instantiation of a highly structured system of knowledge within the mind of the language user (a mental grammar), which can be investigated empirically and modeled formally. Starting from the detailed description of phonological, morphological, syntactic, and semantic patterns in the world’s languages, linguists seek to discover general principles governing the structure and use of language. Research in linguistics encompasses theories of language universals and language variation across space and time, how grammar evolved in the species and develops in the individual, and how language is used to create and perform social relationships.

With its focus on language as a unique facet of human nature, linguistics bridges the divide between the cognitive sciences and the social sciences, and interfaces with the humanities, mathematics, logic, and philosophy. Linguistic concepts have contributed to the study of style and rhetoric, genre and register, poetic meter, and metaphor, thereby enhancing our understanding of literature. The techniques of linguistic analysis provide a window into the ideas of other cultures, whether distant in space and time or close to home, and thus contribute to the study of history and anthropology. Linguistic semantics has informed our understanding of the relationship of logic to language, and has influenced (and been influenced by) research in philosophy and mathematics. Finally, discoveries in linguistics have made major contributions to the development of cognitive science, and have applications in fields as diverse as neuroscience, evolutionary biology, speech and hearing technologies, computer science and artificial intelligence.

Reed offers a variety of linguistics and linguistics-related courses. In addition to introductory courses in formal analysis and sociocultural linguistics, more specific offerings deal with particular areas of analysis (phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics/pragmatics, and discourse), as well as sociolinguistics, language typology, the psychology of language, and research methods. Courses are also offered periodically on the structure of less familiar languages and language families. Linguistics at Reed has an interdisciplinary orientation: through the allied field and language requirements, students are encouraged to develop links to other fields, including anthropology, psychology, philosophy, mathematics, biology, sociology, and classical and modern languages and literatures. Students may also have the opportunity to engage in linguistic fieldwork and laboratory research.

Admission to the Major

After passing Linguistics 211 and Linguistics 212 (or equivalent courses), the prospective linguistics major must present a plan of study to the department for approval.

Requirements for the Major
  1. Linguistics 211 and Linguistics 212.
  2. Five additional courses in linguistics (or cross-listed in linguistics).
  3. Language requirement: Evidence of academic study of two languages other than the student’s native language(s), equivalent to at least second-year college-level proficiency in one language and at least first-year college-level proficiency in the second. Students may meet this requirement through Reed coursework, coursework completed elsewhere for transfer credit, placement or proficiency exams, or some combination of these. Students who are not native speakers of English may use their academic study of English to satisfy their second-year requirement.
  4. A total of four semester units in an allied field, none of which can be used to fulfill 1, 2, or 3 above. Some representative examples are a) Anthropology 211 plus three upper-division anthropology courses (including linguistics courses cross-listed with anthropology); b) four courses in psychology, including the introductory courses; c) four courses from a single department in the Division of Literature and Languages, or four courses listed as comparative literature; d) four courses in mathematics; e) four courses in philosophy. Other choices of allied field are also acceptable, as appropriate to the student’s needs and interests, and subject to the approval of the department.
  5. A junior qualifying examination in linguistic analysis, to be attempted after taking no fewer than five units of linguistics.
  6. Linguistics 470 (thesis), which may, as appropriate, be jointly supervised by faculty members from linguistics and an allied field.


  1. Further courses in the allied field and in linguistics.
  2. At least one classical language or one non-Indo-European language as part of, or in addition to, the language requirement above. Additionally, more advanced competence in the languages used to meet that requirement.
  3. Courses in anthropology, psychology, literature, and/or philosophy, in addition to courses in the student’s chosen allied field, if it is not one of these. Students’ attention is particularly drawn to those courses dealing with poetry, prose style, and the grammars of individual languages, both modern and classical, in the Division of Literature and Languages; courses on logic and the philosophy of language; and courses on human cognition, mental representations, and psycholinguistics.


Linguistics 211 - Introduction to Linguistic Analysis

Full course for one semester. An introduction to the empirical study of human language. This course introduces students to the core subfields of linguistics (phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics/pragmatics), focusing on the essential formalisms and analytical techniques needed to pursue more specialized coursework in the field. Through direct engagement with data from a wide range of the world’s languages, students gain experience in describing linguistic structures and formulating testable hypotheses about the organization of mental grammar. Conference.

Linguistics 212 - Introduction to Language, Culture, and Society

Full course for one semester. The second part of the department’s introduction to the field of linguistics. Building on key themes from Linguistics 211, we consider the inclusion of social aspects of language use in linguistic inquiry—the dialogue between langue and parole. This course is presented as a survey of the central themes in the study of language and culture. We will explore theoretical notions (facework, power, ideology, indexicality, social meaning), methodologies for gathering sociolinguistic data (variationist/quantitative sociolinguistics, ethnography, discourse analysis), perspectives on sociolinguistic analysis at the level of the group (speech communities, communities of practice, social networks) and the individual (style, audience design, social practice), and threads of inquiry (ethnicity, gender, third wave sociolinguistics). Prerequisite: Linguistics 211 or equivalent, or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Linguistics 312 - Topics in Linguistic Analysis

Full course for one semester. Topics vary. Prerequisite: Linguistics 211 or equivalent, or consent of the instructor. May be repeated for credit with consent of the instructor. Conference.

Full course for one semester. This course is an overview of bilingualism from linguistic, sociocultural, and developmental perspectives. Who is a bilingual, and what does it mean to be bilingual? Topics covered will include language dominance; bilingual identity; social and linguistic theories of code-switching; the effects of educational policies on heritage language development and maintenance; the phonological, syntactic, and morphological features of code-switching and heritage language use; differences between monolingual and bilingual language processing. Throughout these discussions, we will develop writing and research skills by exploring sociolinguistic and psycholinguistic tools for studying bilingualism, evaluating theories and models of bilingualism, and proposing new studies. Prerequisite: Linguistics 211. Conference.

Linguistics 320 - Phonetics

Full course for one semester. This course covers areas such as the articulation of speech, the basic anatomy of the vocal tract, the acoustic properties of speech sounds, and speech perception. Students will become proficient in reading and using the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) through extensive practice in transcribing speech sounds drawn from a wide variety of languages, and will obtain practical skills in doing speech analysis with Praat. The course will prepare students for independent field and laboratory work, as well as familiarizing them with basic techniques necessary for conducting phonetic experiments. Conference.

Linguistics 321 - Phonology

Full course for one semester. Although no two utterances sound exactly the same, speakers of a language overlook distinctions to which mechanical recording devices are sensitive, and they “hear” contrasts that are objectively not there. This course examines the nature of the complex links between abstract language-specific perceptual worlds and the real world of actual sounds in light of the major empirical approaches and theoretical currents in the study of linguistic sound systems. It will consider the relations between the articulatory gestures of language and other levels of linguistic description, notably morphology and syntax, and will also explore different models for formulating phonological rules. Prerequisite: Linguistics 211 or equivalent, or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Linguistics 322 - Phonological Knowledge

Full course for one semester. The way we understand the phonological grammar has changed as formal phonological theory and psycholinguistic research continue to evolve. Through reading articles, writing reviews, and designing our own experiments, we will seek to answer the question: what do speakers know about the sounds of their language? Topics to cover include exemplar theory, the psychological reality of irregular patterns and morphological structure, the gradient nature of phonotactics, the strength of paradigm uniformity and contrast, and the role of lexical statistics in a speaker’s native language. In addition, we will cover linguistic accommodation, second language phonology, and the effect of having competing phonologies in the same speaker. Prerequisite: Linguistics 211 and Linguistics 321, or consent of the instructor. Conference-laboratory.

Not offered 2020–21.

Linguistics 323 - Introductory Syntax

Full course for one semester. The goal of syntax is to characterize the (largely unconscious) knowledge that enables speakers of a language to combine words into larger units such as phrases and sentences, and to “parse” (i.e., assign an abstract representation to) the phrases and sentences that they read and hear. This course—accessible to students with no previous training in linguistics—will introduce increasingly explicit grammar fragments of English. The goal is to present a range of phenomena of concern to syntax, and to explore formal devices that have been proposed to account for such phenomena. The course will consider such topics as constituent structure, subcategorization and selectional restrictions, idioms, movement and locality, case assignment, empty categories, and the interpretation of pronouns. The course also introduces central concepts and notation from contemporary theoretical syntax, focusing on the Principles and Parameters framework developed by Noam Chomsky and others. Conference.

Linguistics 324 - Advanced Topics in Syntax

Full course for one semester. This course gives students the opportunity to build on concepts and methodologies learned in introductory syntax by exploring current research problems in formal syntax. Readings for the course include influential papers from the history of generative grammar, as well as more recent contributions to the field. This course also builds on the topics discussed in Linguistics 328 by considering data from a wide variety of languages, and addressing the issue of how formal syntactic theories handle cross-linguistic variation. Topics covered may include word order variation, constraints on phrase structure and movement, functional categories, and the theory of anaphora. May be repeated for credit with consent of the instructor. Prerequisite: Linguistics 323 or equivalent, or consent of the instructor. Linguistics 328 is recommended. Conference.

Not offered 2020–21.

Linguistics 328 - Morphosyntactic Typology

Full course for one semester. The course provides an introduction to cross-linguistic variation and grammatical description. We develop the notion of linguistic typology and explore proposed universals of language, based on the comparative study of the morphology and syntax of the languages of the world. We consider such topics as parts of speech, word order, case marking, grammatical relations, passive and its friends, causatives, relative clauses, and configurationality—all with reference to both the familiar languages of Europe and less familiar languages of the Americas, Africa, Asia, Australia, and Oceania. Prerequisite: Linguistics 211 or equivalent, or Linguistics 323, or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Linguistics 329 - Morphology

Full course for one semester. This course is an introduction to the study of the internal structure of words, providing an overview of contemporary morphological theory and analysis. Topics include a survey of word formation processes (such as affixation, reduplication, and stem changes); the interface between word structure and other domains of organization in the grammar, such as sound structure (phonology) and sentence structure (syntax); and the reality of morphological categories such as “morpheme.” Prerequisite: Linguistics 211 or equivalent, or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Not offered 2020–21.

Linguistics 330 - Contact Languages

Full course for one semester. An investigation into the linguistic varieties and linguistic practices that emerge from contact situations. Taking into account both diachronic and synchronic perspectives, we focus on the linguistic effects of language contact, including code-switching, admixture, lexical borrowing, and language shift. We emphasize the most striking cases of language contact—pidgins and creoles—identifying the formal structures of these varieties, describing the social contexts that surround their emergence, and discussing the relevance of creole formation to models of universal grammar. Students gain experience working with audio and other primary source data to present case studies of the structural and sociolinguistic properties of contact varieties. Prerequisites: Linguistics 211 and 212, or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Not offered 2020–21.

Linguistics 331 - Laboratory Phonology

Full course for one semester. In this course, we will read and discuss seminal and contemporary research papers in experimental phonetics and phonology, while gaining laboratory skills for testing phonetic and phonological theories. We will examine the relationship between the gradience of phonetics and the categoricity of phonology: how is phonological knowledge realized in the acoustic signal, and how are phonological processes grounded in phonetic naturalness? Examples of methods covered include acoustic analysis, data visualization, and designing and running speech perception studies. Prerequisites: Linguistics 211 and either Linguistics 320 or 321. Laboratory-lecture.

Linguistics 332 - Dialects of English

Full course for one semester. This course is an introduction to dialectology—the study of regional variation in language—with an emphasis on the history and description of the varieties of English currently spoken in the United States. Students will acquire a practical knowledge of major linguistics differences among dialects of English, and will gain hands-on experience in collecting linguistic data from varieties of nonstandard English. Forms of English to be discussed include varieties of American English and other global English dialects. Other topics include language attitudes, the rise of “standard” English and its implications, phonological chain shifts and diffusion, and language variation and change. Students will actively collect data on dialects from family, friends, and the media, to be accompanied by audiovisual material in class, including video clips and songs. Students will read scholarly articles and complete short assignments throughout the semester, and conduct a data-driven research project to be submitted at the end of the semester. Prerequisite: Linguistics 211 and 212. Conference.

Not offered 2020–21.

Linguistics 334 - Historical Linguistics

Full course for one semester. This course provides an introduction to the study of language change, linguistic relatedness, the spread of new forms in language, and linguistic prehistory. Students will engage in two methods of reconstructing words in unattested languages: the comparative method and internal reconstruction. The comparative method is traditionally used as the basis for classifying linguistic relatedness, but has been challenged because of assumptions that it makes about how innovations in language occur. Students will be presented with critiques of certain approaches to reconstructing languages at large time depths and will learn about alternative cross-disciplinary methods of understanding language diversification at deep time depths. In addition, students will learn about cultural reconstruction on the basis of linguistic reconstruction and geography. Prerequisite: Linguistics 320 or 321, or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Not offered 2020–21.

Linguistics 335 - Language, Sex, Gender, and Sexuality

Full course for one semester. This course is an introduction to the large body of literature on language and gender within sociolinguistics and the study of language in context more generally. Students will investigate how language in use mediates, and is mediated by, social constructions of gender and sexuality. An emphasis on the history of research in language and gender, which contains distinct phases and movements in the field, will culminate in a current description of the state of language and gender research today. Particular attention will be paid to the evolution of feminist theory, the political economy, ideology, hegemony, performativity, resistance, and the “borders” of gender identities. Students will read scholarly articles and write critical reflection papers, and complete a final paper on a topic of their choosing related to language and gender. Prerequisite: Linguistics 212 or equivalent, or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Linguistics 336 - Linguistic Field Methods

Full course for one semester. Through the empirical study of a non-European language, using native-speaking informants, the course explores the aims and techniques of linguistic fieldwork. Students will be expected to produce fragments of linguistic description based on individual and group elicitation. Prerequisites: Linguistics 211 or equivalent and one 300-level linguistics course. Recommended: Linguistics 328, or at least one other course focusing on formal analysis (such as Linguistics 321, 323, or 329). Conference with laboratory sessions.

Linguistics 337 - Methods of Design and Analysis

Full course for one semester. The tasks of designing, carrying out, and interpreting linguistic research vary across subfields, traditions, and time; in particular, quantitative methods have become increasingly crucial in both formal and social areas of linguistic study. Using a different unifying topic each semester, this course will guide students through the process of quantitative linguistic research from the choice of topic and research design through statistical analysis and presentation. Students will write their own research papers on topics of their choosing using the skills covered here, including devising a feasible research question; designing a study to operationalize that question; gathering, annotating, and analyzing data; visualizing results in various formats; interpreting and evaluating those results; writing a journal article–style paper to present the findings; and preparing a conference-style poster and/or talk presentation to share the conclusions. Students should emerge with a newfound ability to critically engage with journal articles in linguistics and related fields. Throughout the semester, students will make use of software such as Audacity, Praat, Excel, and R, and learn how and when to use statistical tests such as correlations, regressions, t-tests, and ANOVAs. Prerequisite: Linguistics 211 and 212, or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Linguistics 338 - African American English

Full course for one semester. The variety currently known as African American English (AAE) is perhaps the most studied by sociolinguists yet remains the least understood by U.S. residents. This course covers the history, linguistic structure, and sociocultural patterns of use of the English of African Americans in the United States. We will place the systematic descriptions of AAE by sociolinguists in the context of critical race theory, and use the concept of strategic essentialism to understand the context for and history of AAE scholarship. We will take a variationist approach to African American English features, focusing on the phonology and morphosyntax that is considered unique to AAE, and discussing lexical and discursive features as well. We will cover the major debates that continue to rage in AAE scholarship: the origins debate, including the Anglicist and creolist positions, and the related divergence/convergence debate over AAE’s relationship to standard American English. Additional topics include AAE and hip-hop, appropriation and crossing, and AAE in education and the public sphere. Prerequisite: Linguistics 212, or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Linguistics 341 - Semantics

Full course for one semester. The course will introduce the systematic study of meaning in language, ranging from problems in the semantic structure of lexical systems, and syntactic and morphological contributions to sentence meaning, to competing theories of truth-conditional semantics, situational semantics, and putative universal semantic primitives for integrated linguistic description. Prerequisite: Linguistics 323 or equivalent, or consent of the instructor. Students may take Linguistics 341 concurrently with Linguistics 323 if they have already completed Linguistics 211. Conference-seminar.

Linguistics 348 - Structure of Austronesian

Full course for one semester. Austronesian is a family of over a thousand languages spoken primarily in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Melanesia, Micronesia, Polynesia, Taiwan, and Madagascar. Some of these languages (e.g., Malay, Tagalog, Javanese) are well documented and spoken by millions of people, while many others are highly endangered and have received little attention in the linguistics literature. In this course we discuss the grammatical diversity of the Austronesian family and probe some of the distinctive features of these languages, focusing on morpho-phonological and morpho-syntactic properties such as word order, reduplication, ergativity, case marking, and wh-question formation. By surveying both classic and contemporary research on Austronesian, we explore how the study of these languages has contributed to developments in linguistic theory. As part of the work for this course, each student will conduct research on a different Austronesian language and report on the grammatical features of that language through a series of in-class presentations and short papers. Prerequisite: Linguistics 211 or equivalent, or consent of the instructor. Recommended: Linguistics 328. Conference.

Not offered 2020–21.

Linguistics 350 - Languages of South Asia

Full course for one semester. The Indian subcontinent is home to five typologically divergent language families (Indo-European, Dravidian, Tibeto-Burman, Austroasiatic, Tai-Kadai) in addition to at least two language isolates, creating an ideal setting for the areal spreading of diverse linguistic features across genetic affiliations, affecting all areas of the grammar, from phonetics (e.g., retroflexion) and intonation (e.g., macrorhythmicity) to morphology (e.g., fixed segment reduplication) and syntax (e.g., head finality). In class, we will take a broad typological view of the languages of South Asia while also making more detailed observations of specific languages representing the diversity of the region. Outside of class, each student will focus on a South Asian language of their choice—collecting data from native speakers or from available language grammars—to examine the phonetic, phonological, lexical, morphological, syntactic, semantic, and other features, from a synchronic formal perspective as well as from historical and sociolinguistic perspectives. Prerequisite: Linguistics 211 or equivalent, or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Not offered 2020–21.

Linguistics 352 - Intonation

Full course for one semester. This course will explore linguistic prosody from a range of theoretical, structural, and functional perspectives. We will begin by first contextualizing prosodic research historically, philosophically, and academically—focusing on the long-term relative neglect of prosody in twentieth-century linguistic theory—and, second, constructing a (more or less) theory-neutral metalanguage appropriate to the cross-linguistic description and analysis of prosody. We will turn our attention to the major prosodic features and structures (e.g., length, stress/accent, tone, intonation) in terms of their phonetic manifestation, their phonological organization, and their pragmatic function. We will compare, contrast, and critically evaluate the most important contemporary theoretical perspectives on prosody and, finally, investigate the potential utility of a distinctly semiotic anthropological approach to its study. Prerequisite: Linguistics 211 or equivalent and one other linguistics course. Conference.

Not offered 2020–21.

Linguistics 411 - Performance and Performativity

See Anthropology 411 for description.

Not offered 2020–21.

Anthropology 411 Description

Linguistics 412 - Sociolinguistic Variation

Full course for one semester. The contemporary field of sociolinguistics is most often associated with the program on language variation and change (or variationism), which focuses on the orderly heterogeneity of the linguistic system and how that variation is indicative of language change. This approach to language in use utilizes quantitative methods to track the patterns of linguistic variables according to both linguistic and social constraints. This course explores the theories that motivate variations as a means to a deeper understanding of the linguistic system. In particular, we will use the “three waves” model of variations to follow the evolution of variations theory over the last 50 years. In tandem, students will work as variationists, collecting data and analyzing it within the quantitative paradigm. Prerequisites: Linguistics 212 and 337. Conference.

Not offered 2020–21.

Linguistics 470 - Thesis

Full course for one year.

Linguistics 481 - Independent Reading

One-half or full course for one semester. Open only to upper-class students with special permission.