Ling 170D Introduction to Linguistics

Dr. Nick Danis,
Washington University in St. Louis


This course introduces students to the scientific study of language. All major subfields are covered: the physical description of speech sounds (phonetics), the cognitive patterning of these sounds in a speaker’s grammar (phonology), the creation and analysis of word and phrase structure (morphology and syntax), and the study of compositional meaning of these sentences (semantics) and their interaction in a discourse (pragmatics). Students will learn the fundamental tools and analytical methodology in each. Additionally, this course covers special topics in language variation, acquisition, and change; and writing systems.

Course Info

Course Number L44 Ling 170
Semester Fall 2022
Time MWF 10:00-10:50am
Location Somers Family Hall 249
Office Hours  


  1. Learn to view natural language, and humanity’s capacity for it, as an object of scientific inquiry
  2. Understand the different core subfields within linguistics: phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics
  3. Create representations and implement methodology within these subfields
  4. Analyze and solve problems in novel natural language data
  5. Apply linguistic tools to critique and debunk common myths about language

Required Materials

The required textbook is the 12th edition of Language Files (abbreviated LF12). Earlier editions are likely to differ in content and organization. Any additional readings are posted as PDFs as necessary.

Attendance and delivery

In-person attendence is required for the course. However, be smart and put your health, and the health of others, first. If you are sick, or think you are getting sick, please take all necessary precautions (health services, etc) and also contact me as soon as you think you might miss class. You will not be penalized for excused absences. If you contact me before you miss class, I will likely be able to record the class in some way. Lectures will not be recorded by default, so it is important for you to contact me.


The grade breakdown is shown below.

Category Weight
Quizzes 45%
Study Guides 15%
Exercises 30%
Participation 10%


There are four quizzes throughout the duration of this class. These are administered on Canvas, graded, open-book, and with a time limit. You have only one submission. Treat these as mini-midterm exams that are taking the place of in-person exams. These are the bulk of your grade.

Study Guides

For most of the chapters we cover, there is a corresponding Study Guide on Canvas. Each Study Guide is 20 multiple choice questions. You can and should submit the Study Guide multiple times until you get a score you are satisfied with. You will see your score and any incorrect answers, though the correct answers will be hidden. All due dates for the study guides are posted on Canvas in advance.


There will be several exercises throughout the semester, indended to give you a more hands-on experience with the material. Some will be individual assignments, some will be group assignments. Details will be on Canvas as we move through the semester.


There is no perfect (or even good) way to quantify participation, and I don’t like doing it for myself or for you, the students. Instead, I aim to provide a wide variety of participation methods, and trust that you will fall into a rhythym that works best for you. About once a month, there will be a short participation survey for you to reflect on your current status. I have tried to think of ways for all students to participate. Some of these are listed below:

  • Speaking up in class
  • Answering questions on PollEverywhere
  • Sending me emails with questions or comments
  • Coming to my office hours or scheduling individual meetings
  • Posting on the Canvas discussion boards

Letter grades

Letter grades are assigned based off the following scale. Numerical grades are not rounded.

  • 100 ≥ A+ ≥ 98
  • 98 > A ≥ 93
  • 93 > A- ≥ 90
  • 90 > B+ ≥ 87
  • 87 > B ≥ 83
  • 83 > B- ≥ 80
  • 80 > C+ ≥ 77
  • 77 > C ≥ 73
  • 73 > C- ≥ 70
  • 70 > D+ ≥ 67
  • 67 > D ≥ 63
  • 63 > D- ≥ 60

If you are taking this class pass/fail, you must receive at least a C- (70%) to pass.

If you believe there has been an error in grading, I am happy to discuss it with you. However, you must bring it up to me within one week of the graded assignment being returned to you. After this, the grade is considered final.


The exact schedule is likely to change as the semester progresses. Please see Canvas for all up-to-date readings and assignment due dates.

Date Day Week Comment Unit
8/29/2022 Monday 1 First Day of Classes Foundations
8/31/2022 Wednesday 1   Foundations
9/2/2022 Friday 1   Foundations
9/5/2022 Monday 2   Phonetics
9/7/2022 Wednesday 2   Phonetics
9/9/2022 Friday 2   Phonetics
9/12/2022 Monday 3   Phonetics
9/14/2022 Wednesday 3   Phonology
9/16/2022 Friday 3   Phonology
9/19/2022 Monday 4   Phonology
9/21/2022 Wednesday 4   Phonology
9/23/2022 Friday 4 Traveling - Recorded Lecture NO LIVE CLASS
9/26/2022 Monday 5   Phonology
9/28/2022 Wednesday 5   Phonology
9/30/2022 Friday 5   Phonology
10/3/2022 Monday 6   Morphology
10/5/2022 Wednesday 6   Morphology
10/7/2022 Friday 6   Morphology
10/10/2022 Monday 7 Fall Break NO CLASS
10/12/2022 Wednesday 7   Syntax
10/14/2022 Friday 7   Syntax
10/17/2022 Monday 8   Syntax
10/19/2022 Wednesday 8   Syntax
10/21/2022 Friday 8   Syntax
10/24/2022 Monday 9   Semantics
10/26/2022 Wednesday 9   Semantics
10/28/2022 Friday 9 Traveling - Recorded Lecture? Semantics
10/31/2022 Monday 10   Pragmatics
11/2/2022 Wednesday 10   Pragmatics
11/4/2022 Friday 10   Pragmatics
11/7/2022 Monday 11   Language Change
11/9/2022 Wednesday 11   Historical Linguistics
11/11/2022 Friday 11   Historical Linguistics
11/14/2022 Monday 12   Historical Linguistics
11/16/2022 Wednesday 12   Historical Linguistics
11/18/2022 Friday 12   Variation
11/21/2022 Monday 13   Flex Day
11/23/2022 Wednesday 13 Thanksgiving Break NO CLASS
11/25/2022 Friday 13 Thanksgiving Break NO CLASS
11/28/2022 Monday 14   Linguistic Discrimination
11/30/2022 Wednesday 14   Acquisition
12/2/2022 Friday 14   Acquisition
12/5/2022 Monday 15   Psycholinguistics
12/7/2022 Wednesday 15   Psycholinguistics
12/9/2022 Friday 15 Last Day of Classes Wrap-up

Academic Integrity

This course adheres to the university’s Academic Integrity Policy, and takes cheating and plagiarism very seriously. All work completed online must be done alone unless instructed otherwise, and no resources not approved by the instructor may be used during exams.

ADA Compliance

Washington University is committed to providing accommodations and/or services to students with documented disabilities. Students who are seeking support for a disability or a suspected disability should contact Disability Resources at 935-4153. Disability Resources is responsible for approving all disability-related accommodations for WU students, and students are responsible for providing faculty members with formal documentation of their approved accommodations at least two weeks prior to using those accommodations. I will accept Disability Resources VISA forms by email and personal delivery. If you have already been approved for accommodations, I request that you provide me with a copy of your VISA within the first two weeks of the semester. Please see more information at

Sexual Assault Resources

The University is committed to offering reasonable academic accommodations (e.g., no contact order, course changes) to students who are victims of relationship or sexual violence, regardless of whether they seek criminal or disciplinary action. If you need to request such accommodations, please contact the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center (RSVP) at or 314-935-3445 to schedule an appointment with an RSVP confidential, licensed counselor. Information shared with counselors is confidential. However, requests for accommodations will be coordinated with the appropriate University administrators and faculty. Please see more information at