College of Humanities & Social Sciences

Core Courses

Click on WWU ClassFinder to view the days, times, and openings for courses during the academic year.

Core Courses 

LING 201: Introduction to Linguistic Science (5 credits, Social Sciences GUR)

Introduces students to the basic structural components of language (phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics) and to the subfields of linguistics, which may include language acquisition, language change over time and space, language in various social contexts, and language and the brain. Students will discover the ways in which language can be studied and the implications such study has for other fields, as well as for their own lives. The course may explore these structural explore the components of linguistics via various themes; these may include Languages of Native North America, Language in a Pluralistic Society, Language and Mind, Linguistic Typology, among others, but it is not repeatable.  May be substituted for by ENGLISH 370 or TESL 401.


LING 204: Sociolinguistics (4 credits, Social Sciences GUR)

Examines the relationship between society and language, concentrating on the following areas: address forms, variation theory, language use, sociolinguistics and education, multilingualism, language policy and language attitudes. May be substituted for by ENGLISH 270.


LING 310: Introduction to Linguistic Theory (5 credits)

Provides students with a rigorous introduction to the scientific methods linguists use to describe and analyze language. Drawing on data from many of the world’s languages, students will explore the core structural components of grammar:  phonetics (production, transmission, and perception of sounds), phonology (sound patterns), morphology (word formation), syntax (sentence structure), and semantics (meaning). Students will learn to draw conclusions and inferences from linguistic evidence by formulating and testing hypotheses. As an introduction to the linguistics major, this course will prepare students to take more in-depth courses at the 300- and 400-level.


LING 311: Phonetics and Phonology (5 credits)

Explores the patterns in the organization of sounds within and across languages. To do so, the first half of the course focuses on the physical and physiological basis of speech sounds, while the second half applies those tools to the formal analysis of sound systems in various languages. An emphasis on analytic thinking and problem solving teaches students to identify, describe, and formalize patterns in sound variation in familiar and unfamiliar languages. A number of theoretical frameworks are introduced, with an emphasis on generative grammar.


LING 321: Syntax (5 credits)

Explores the patterns in the organization of words and phrases within and across languages. An emphasis on analytic thinking and problem solving teaches students to identify, describe, and formalize patterns in syntax in familiar and unfamiliar languages. The emphasis is on generative grammar, using a theoretical framework called Principles and Parameters. Also typically includes related discussion in language acquisition and language processing.


LING 331: Semantics and Pragmatics (5 credits)

Exploration of semantics and pragmatics across languages and the theoretical principles proposed to explain them.


LING 411: Topics in Phonetics and Phonology (5 credits)

Building on knowledge from Ling 310, Introduction to Linguistic Analysis, and Ling 311 Phonetics and Phonology, this course continues exploration of phonetics and phonological theory, with a focus on investigation of languages other than English. Topics vary depending on instructor; sample course topics include: Optimality Theory, Metrical Phonology, The Metrical Analysis of Poetry, Cognitive Phonology, Experimental Phonetics, and Morphophonology.

LING 411: Experimental

This course focuses on applying and testing the theoretical knowledge gained in 300 level classes through the lens of experimental phonetics and phonology. The class will explore how researchers design experiments to test theoretical hypotheses, how the experiments are then reported (by reading many journal articles within experimental phonetics and phonology), and explicitly follow the patterns noticed there by proposing, designing, conducting, and reporting students' own experiments. You can expect to read 8-12 journal length articles and some assorted other assigned readings, write 1-2 page summaries of each (with different foci throughout the quarter), and finish the quarter with a presentation of your own work, also submitted in paper form, length about 10-15 pages.


LING 421: Topics in Morphology and Syntax (5 credits)

Building on the knowledge from Ling 310, Introduction to Linguistic Analysis, and Ling 321 Syntax, this course continues exploration of topics in morphological and syntactic theory, with attention to languages other than English. Focus varies depending on instructor; sample course topics include: The Morphology and Syntax of Native American Languages, Polysynthetic Languages, Psycholinguistics and Syntax, Ellipsis, Question Formation, The Syntax of the Noun Phrase, Pidgins & Creoles.

LING 421: Grammaticalization (WP3) 

This course investigates both theoretical and methodological issues relevant to the study of grammaticalization, the change whereby lexical terms (e.g. nouns and verbs) and constructions come in certain linguistics contexts to serve grammatical functions (e.g. particles, aspect markers).”

LING 421: Pidgins and Creoles

In this course we will explore new languages that have developed as a result of the European expansion to the Americas, Africa, Asia and the Pacific. Many of these languages (Jamaican Creole, Haitian Creole and others) have been considered “corrupt” or “broken” versions of some European language, but in fact, they are distinct languages in their own right. Moreover, the study of their genesis and acquisition provides fascinating and often overlooked insights into the human capacity for language, the notion of Universal Grammar, and a human bio-program for language. We will study the structure of pidgins and creoles around the world, the social histories of their speakers, and the theories advanced to account for the development of their morphology, phonology and syntax.


LING 431: Topics in Semantics and Pragmatics (5 credits)

Building on the knowledge from Ling 310, Introduction to Linguistic Analysis, this course continues exploration of topics in semantics and pragmatics, with attention to languages other than English. Focus varies depending on instructor; sample course topics include: Formal Semantics, Lexical Semantics, The Semantics of Humor, Discourse Analysis, Speech Act Theory, Metaphors and Figurative Language, Politeness and Apology, among others.


LING 402: Topics in Linguistics (3-5 credits)

Ling 402 courses are often cross-listed with courses in other departments. Check with an advisor if you have questions about which 402 to take.

See ClassFinder for current available courses.

LING 402: The Structure of English (5 credits)

This course provides you with the basic tools to analyze sentence structure, in order to better understand how structure affects meaning in oral and written language. We take as a starting point our own internalized system of linguistic rules, which allow us to produce and understand language. Through the study of our own linguistic system we will discover the organizing principles of grammar: how words are organized into categories (or “parts of speech”); how words form syntactic units, or phrases; how these phrases function together in larger units or clauses. Along the way, you will acquire a precise and useful vocabulary to talk about sentence structure, as well as a useful set of tools you can use to analyze language in its many forms.


LING 402: Cultural History of English (5 credits, WP2)

This course introduces and discusses the history of the English language, examining its cultural, linguistic, and literary context. The pre-history of English as descendant from the Indo-European branch, its Germanic roots and significant French influence, and present globalization of English are among the topics discussed chronologically. By the end of this course, students will have a comprehensive grasp of the history of English, how it has changed over time, and how its development has been impacted by significant social and historical events. Students will have the opportunity to explore individually interesting topics in greater detail through a written paper submitted near the end of the quarter.


LING 402/CHIN 402: Introduction to Chinese Language and Linguistics (4 credits, WP3)

This course is designed for students to gain a comprehensive understanding of the structure and usage of Mandarin (Modern Standard) Chinese. Through class discussion, reading materials, and a research project, students explore all core areas of Chinese language and linguistics: phonology, morphology, semantics, and syntax, as well as dialectal variations. Also explores the relationship between language and society.


LING 402/ANTH 490: Endangered Languages (5 credits)

Many linguists predict that by the year 2050 over half of the world’s languages will be dead or dying.  As many scholars have noted, the figures used in these predictions are difficult to verify.  Nevertheless, language loss is occurring and this projected loss of linguistic diversity is of deep concern, not only for those whose languages are at risk, but also to those who use dominant languages as their primary form of communication.  Through the lens of language revitalization, or Reversing Language Shift (RLS), this class explores the phenomenon of language loss, the relationship between political and economic factors and language maintenance, and the resiliency of human languages in the face of homogenizing forces.

The core of the course is the concept of language revitalization.  We’ll explore the motivation(s) behind this process, the methods and the obstacles encountered in efforts to revive and maintain endangered languages.  We will consider the impact of language ideology on the process of language revitalization, and explore the various methods with which linguistic anthropologists, linguists and speakers of endangered languages are working to return these languages to vitality.  The class will culminate in poster presentations based on your research papers, allowing each of you to present your research to your peers.


LING 402: Morphology (3 credits)

This course provides a thorough analysis of concepts involved in word formation (morphology). It covers English word formation by comparing it with the morphologies of many other languages. It also studies the interface between morphology and syntax across languages. Course material includes rich examples of morphological and syntactic patterns from languages radically different from English to illustrate the concepts being covered. Learning outcomes include: 1) acquiring a theoretical grasp of all aspects of morphology and a solid understanding morphological theory; 2) gaining a clear understanding of which syntactic concepts tend to be encoded morphologically across languages; and 3) developing an awareness of how English word formation contrasts with that of other languages.  


LING 402/ENG 439: Language and Gender (5 credits)

This course examines commonly held beliefs about communication between men and women (for example, the notion that men and women speak different languages; that women’s speech is “powerless,” and men’s “powerful”). We will explore research on language, gender, and sexuality from early “classic” studies to contemporary theories, considering the construction and performance of gender in different private and public contexts (school, social media, political discourse etc.), and the theoretical models proposed to explain them (discourse analysis, speech act theory, politeness theory, sociolinguistic models of language change and variation).


LING 402: Historical Linguistics (3 credits)

This course provides an in-depth look at how different components of language evolve through time: phonology, morphology, syntax, semantic structure. It provides an overview of genetic classification of languages and of the methods that historical linguists used to trace prehistoric language diversification and contact.  Universal tendencies of change, as well as unique aspects of the history of individual families, all received attention.  We also explore what universal processes of language change tell up about the inborn human language ability. The course counts toward fulfilling one of the two required core LING402 classes in the linguistics major.


Frequently asked questions about LING 402

Question:  I signed up for ENG 436 “Structure of English”, which is cross-listed as LING 402. Even though I took the course as English and not as “LING 402”, do I still get linguistics major credit for it? 

Answer: Yes. If a course in another department (English, Anthropology, Philosophy) is cross-listed as LING 402, you need not sign up for it as LING 402. For example, if you sign up for English 436, you automatically get credit as taking LING 402.

Question: Can I take two LING 402 courses the same quarter.

Answer: Yes, but for the second course, you need to go to the Registrar’s and be manually signed up, since the online system mistakenly thinks you are signing up for the same course twice, and won’t let you.  You will need to ask the instructor for a permission override to sign up for any LING 402.