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Intro

Coursera: Miracles of Human Language: An Introduction to Linguistics

 with  Marc van Oostendorp
Class Central Course Rank
#2 in Subjects > Social Sciences > Sociology

Everywhere, every day, everybody uses language. There is no human society, no matter how small or how isolated, which does not employ a language that is rich and diverse. This course introduces you to linguistics, featuring interviews with well-known linguists and with speakers of many different languages. Join us to explore the miracles of human language!

The Miracles of Human Language introduces you to the many-faceted study of languages, which has amazed humans since the beginning of history. Together with speakers of many other languages around the world, as well as with famous linguists such as Noam Chomsky and Adele Goldberg, you will learn to understand and analyse how your native tongue is at the same time similar and different from many other languages. You will learn the basic concepts of linguistics, get to know some of the key features of big and small languages and get insight into what linguists do.

This course gives an introduction into the study of languages, the field of linguistics. With the support of the basic linguistic terminology that is offered in the course, you will soon be able to comment both on variety between languages, as well as on a single language’s internal structure. Anyone who wishes to understand how languages work, and how they can give us insight into the human mind is very welcome to join.

The course is useful if you want to get a fairly quick introduction into linguistics, for instance because you are considering studying it further, or because you are interested in a neighbouring discipline such as psychology, computer science or anthropology. Furthermore, the course will help you develop analytical skills.

If you are curious to understand how language works and how it gives insight into the human mind, this course is definitely for you!

Syllabus

Introduction to Linguistics
In this first week, we will try to determine what makes language human: why do (almost) all human beings have a language, and what makes human language different from animal communication systems? We will furthermore discuss the many different places where linguists work, and the many different methodologies that they use for conducting their research. You will moreover get to know all the other participants in this MOOC: my students Inge and Marten, as well as the speakers of six different languages. Finally, don't forget to watch our first expert interview: Marten and Inge have talked with Dr. Victoria Nyst of Leiden University, who has enlightened us in the fascinating world of sign languages! For the assignments with the support of Ethnologue, please make sure to study the instructions listed in 'required and optional readings' of this module.

The study of sound: Phonology and Phonetics
In this module we will delve into what appear to be the smallest building blocks of spoken language: 'sounds'. As we will see however, all is not what it seems, as we will in fact encounter an even smaller building block of language, a true atom. Another interesting thing about this module is that as of this week our 6 informants will all only speak their own language. Naturally, there is also an interview with my very special friend Prof. dr. Claartje Levelt, whom I have announced before.

The study of words and sentences: Morphology and Syntax
In this module we will discuss words and sentences. All languages have them; but as I will illustrate, they can be organized in very different ways in different languages. I will furthermore demonstrate what cupcakes have in common with words in a sentence. This module's interview is with one of the most cited and re-knowned linguists alive, Prof. Noam Chomsky! Finally, our 6 language informants will provide us with information about the word order in their languages.

The study of meaning: Pragmatics and Semantics
This module deals with a topic which many of you find very interesting: meaning. How do we determine what a word means? To what extent does our language influence our thinking? How can we change the world with language? As usual, we also have an additional interview with an expert of the current module's theme: in this module Barend Beekhuizen talks to Inge and Marten about his work as a Leiden PhD student in computational linguistics.

Language in the Brain
This module features all of the well-known parts of the current MOOC. Informants tell us about speech errors in their native tongue, I discuss everyday mistakes with my students Marten and Inge, and we have an interview with Prof. Niels Schiller of Leiden University. He discusses with us his own research among others. We moreover go on a little outing, to see linguists in their natural habitat! Furthermore, thanks to our friends at 'Babel, -The Language Magazine' we have some interesting reading for you. For example, linguist Jörg Schwyter tells us all about how he had to deal with aphasia, and how that has influenced him as a multilingual speaker.

Language in the Society
In the previous modules we have dissected the structure of languages, but now we will study language in its real context: how does language change? How do people use language to be polite? Our informants are demonstrating their acting skills, and furthermore we have an interview with Prof. Adele Goldberg! She presents us with an alternative view of language, compared to the one as previously discussed by Prof. Chomsky in the third module.

20 Student
reviews
Cost Free Online Course (Audit)
Subject Sociology
Institution Leiden University
Provider Coursera
Language English
Certificates Paid Certificate Available
Hours 4-6 hours a week
Calendar 6 weeks long
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In-Depth Review
Requiring no prerequisites, a fun and relatively easy introduction into the field of linguistics and the study language. Read Review
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What are MOOCs?
MOOCs stand for Massive Open Online Courses. These are free online courses from universities around the world (eg. Stanford Harvard MIT) offered to anyone with an internet connection.
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To register for a course, click on "Go to Class" button on the course page. This will take you to the providers website where you can register for the course.
How do these MOOCs or free online courses work?
MOOCs are designed for an online audience, teaching primarily through short (5-20 min.) pre recorded video lectures, that you watch on weekly schedule when convenient for you.  They also have student discussion forums, homework/assignments, and online quizzes or exams.

20 reviews for Coursera's Miracles of Human Language: An Introduction to Linguistics

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8 out of 8 people found the following review useful
3 years ago
Marleen Larik audited this course.
I've always been passionate about language, and I am very grateful that this MOOC provided me with the opportunity to gain some beginner-level insights into the field of linguistics. The lecture videos were fantastic - short, to the point, and giving a good general overview. The difficulty level and pace were perfect: Read More
I've always been passionate about language, and I am very grateful that this MOOC provided me with the opportunity to gain some beginner-level insights into the field of linguistics. The lecture videos were fantastic - short, to the point, and giving a good general overview. The difficulty level and pace were perfect: very informative, without being overwhelming - perfect for some "casual learning" on the side. I also enjoyed the forum discussions. That being said, I do have one important criticism: questions in the weekly quizzes suffered from ambiguous wording. This was brought to the course owners' attention every single week after every single quiz. Some questions were reworded, but a lot of ambiguity remained. Sometimes correct answers were incorrectly marked. Over the duration of the course, this didn't really improve, and was present in the final exam. Maybe the problem is that I have a background in the "hard sciences", so my expectation is that if you have a great understanding of the matter taught through the videos/readings, following logic/reasoning, you should be able to select the correct multiple choice answer(s) with 100% certainty, and that, sadly, wasn't the case. (I can give specific examples if required.) So while the course itself was fun and informative, the feeling remains that in the end we all fought the quizzes/final exam rather than fighting to conquer the subject matter. I would certainly take part in further courses, but my hope is that the quizzes and exams would receive a greater degree of QA/testing before going live.
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a year ago
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Julie Weston audited this course and found the course difficulty to be easy.
Due to time constraints, I was only able to audit this enjoyable linguistic course. I can not provide a comprehensive review, other than to say the course content is well presented and interesting, especially for someone new to the subject, like me. If my university studies allowed some time, I would like to fully enga Read More
Due to time constraints, I was only able to audit this enjoyable linguistic course. I can not provide a comprehensive review, other than to say the course content is well presented and interesting, especially for someone new to the subject, like me. If my university studies allowed some time, I would like to fully engage with the material. This course is recommended, as supported by the crowd funding project for the last module.

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3 years ago
Deepak Jois completed this course, spending 2 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be easy.
This is probably the first linguistics course offered on Coursera. The course material is very engaging, and the instructors are fantastic. I especially liked the interaction sessions between the Professor and his two students Martin and Inge. The interview with Noam Chomsky was another great highlight. The assignmen Read More
This is probably the first linguistics course offered on Coursera. The course material is very engaging, and the instructors are fantastic. I especially liked the interaction sessions between the Professor and his two students Martin and Inge. The interview with Noam Chomsky was another great highlight.

The assignments are really interesting, as they deepen your knowledge of the course material.
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7 months ago
Auntie V completed this course, spending 10 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be very hard.
For someone who doesn't master English, this course can be difficult because of the technical terms applied througout the course. Apart from this, this course is well structured and substantial, the quizzes are very challenging. It requests lots of effort, but I truely enjoyed the learning and benefited a lot from this MOOC.
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a year ago
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Monica Stuckwisch is taking this course right now, spending 5 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be hard.
I am really enjoying and benefiting from this course. If you're at all interested in human language, and as a human being you probably should be, I would strongly recommend this course. It will take some effort on your part, but I assure you that it will be worth it.
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2 years ago
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Maia Milman completed this course, spending 3 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.
It was a very nice introductory course. The professor and his assistants were great, as well as the guests who showed their works in fields of linguistics, which was very useful to see how the field is going on.
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2 years ago
Francesco completed this course.
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2 years ago
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Monica Guimaraes partially completed this course.
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2 years ago
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2 years ago
Colin Khein completed this course.
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a year ago
Margaret Tracy Fryer partially completed this course.
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2 years ago
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a year ago
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2 years ago
Beatriz Sandoval is taking this course right now.
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a year ago
Kamil Trzebiatowski partially completed this course.
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a year ago
Zhe Li completed this course.
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3 years ago
Lydia Grachyova audited this course, spending 2 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.
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2 years ago
Alejandro Rafael Viluce is taking this course right now.
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2 years ago
Wong Sze Chai completed this course.
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a year ago
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