Courses taught regularly/recently

Linguistics 65: African American Vernacular English
(last taught Win 2012)
This course, which fulfills GER" DB-Social Sciences, and GER: EC-American Cultures, deals with the distinctive varieties of English used primarily by and among African Americans, particularly by members of the working class in informal interactions, and with their parallels in the Caribbean and elsewhere.  The subject is approached from four perspectives:  (1) Present-Day Features of African American Vernacular English (AAVE, aka Ebonics), its vocabulary (lexicon), pronunciation (phonetics and phonology) and grammar (morphology and syntax), as exemplified primarily in the informal vernacular speech of African Americans.  (2)  The Living Art:  How AAVE is expressively employed by writers, comedians, actors, singers, toasters and rappers, as well as its deployment in African American speech events (verbal routines and rituals) like rappin, signifyin, soundin, and boastin.(3)  History of AAVE, exploring earlier examples of African American English, and its source in African languages, as well as the controversial question of its possible creole ancestry.  Comparison with creole languages currently spoken in the Caribbean and off the S Carolina coast (Gullah) will be undertaken to shed light on this controversy.  A related issue we’ll explore is whether AAVE is currently diverging from Standard English and White Vernacular English.  (4)  Education/Ebonics and other applied issues connected with the use of AAVE; attitudes towards this variety and its effects on teachers’ expectations and students' progress; linguistic profiling and discrimination in employment, housing, and Disney cartoons; the extent to which AAVE affects the learning of Standard English and the acquisition of reading skills. Includes controversies about whether AAVE should be "wiped out" or used as a basis for the teaching of initial literacy skills and Standard English mastery in the classroom, e.g., in the Ann Arbor “King” case of 1977-79, and the Oakland Ebonics resolutions of 1996, including the response of the media, the public, humorists, legislative bodies at the state and federal level, and linguists.

Linguistics 66/266:  Vernacular English and Reading
(last taught Spr 2010) 

Linguistics 162/262: English Transplanted, English Transformed--Pidgins and Creoles
(last taught Spr 2011)
This course provides an introduction to pidgins and creoles, and the three main stages in the pidgin-creole "life cycle":  Pidginization, Creolization, and Decreolization.   Our primary focus will be on the dramatic transformations which took place in the English language as it was transplanted from Britain to Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific (i.e. much of what is now known as the Third World) between the sixteenth century and the present, yielding such varieties as Nigerian Pidgin English, Chinese Pidgin English, New Guinea Tok Pisin, Sranan, Saramaccan and Ndjuka (all in Suriname), and the creole continua of Guyana, Jamaica and Hawaii.  But other languages (e.g. French, Dutch, Portuguese, Chinook, Motu, Sango) have been similarly pidginized and/or creolized, and we will consider these as well. 

Linguistics 250: Sociolinguistic Theory and Analysis
(last taught Fall 2011)
This is a seminar style course for graduate students and advanced undergraduates in Linguistics and related fields (e.g., Anthropology, Education).  Prior background in Linguistics is assumed.  This course surveys the kinds of issues with which sociolinguists deal, the theories and analytical methods they/we have developed, and some of their/our major findings about the nature of sociolinguistic variation and change.  Primary emphasis is on work within the area of "socially realistic" linguistics (Hymes 1973), which brings social considerations to bear on problems of description and analysis common to phonology, syntax, historical linguistics and other "core" areas of linguistics.

Linguistics 251 (formerly 286):  Sociolinguistic Field Methods
(last taught Spr 2011)
This introduction to sociolinguistic fieldwork is designed for graduate students and advanced undergraduates.  It involves a judicious combination of reading, discussion, and fieldwork.  There is a field assignment--and a write-up of that assignment--every week.  Methods to be covered include: the use of questionnaires, with and without recorded stimuli, approaches that involve gathering samples of language in use with minimal or no observer impact (including anonymous interviews, mass media, and computerized corpora), ethnography, entering and observing the speech community, individual interviews, double and group interviews, using reading passages and more formal methods, eliciting and analyzing specific features via interviews (e.g. personal narratives, variation in -ing and t, d deletion).  A recurrent theme will be the plusses and minuses of alternative approaches.  Other topics we'll consider are:  ethical issues, equipment, applying for institutional human subjects approval, and the complementarity (plusses and minuses) of different methods, especially the relation of sociolinguistic methods to introspection, the primary data-gathering method of "formal" or "theoretical" linguistics. 

Linguistics 252: Sociolinguistics and Pidgin-Creole Studies
(last taught Spr 2008)
This course explores the relations between Sociolinguistics and Pidgin-Creole Studies as subfields, taking into account the fact that they both developed, in their most modern form, around the same time (late 1950s, early 1960s), and that many of the linguists involved in one subfield were involved in the other (as a glance at the contributors to Hymes' (1971) Pidginization and Creolization of Languages will reveal.  Our focus will be on how research in and data from each subfield contributed to the development of the other.   For instance, Creole and Standard French in Haiti constituted one of the defining cases of Ferguson's (1959) concept of diglossia, and data from anglophone creole data from Guyana and Belize were central to two variation models of the 1970s, Bickerton's development of the Implicational Scale/Dynamic Model, and Le Page and Tabouret-Keller's Acts of Identity model, respectively.  By the same token, quantitative and other approaches to the study of social class and style variation developed in urban American and European sociolinguistics were rapidly extended to the sometimes more challenging cases of creole continua in the Caribbean, and contemporary theoretical and methodological controversies (e.g. whether variable rules could be fruitfully extended to levels above the phonological, or whether quantitative and implicational models were commensurate) were sometimes tested against creole data (as for instance, in the work of Edwards, Rickford, and Winford).  Finally, the study of language attitudes and applied sociolinguistics both contributed to and benefited from pidgin-creole research.

Courses not taught regularly or recently

Linguistics 1:  Introduction to Linguistics

Linguistics 10SC-01: Ebonics, Creoles and Standard English in Education
(Sophomore College course, last taught sum 2007).
The Oakland School Board’s proposal to take the everyday vernacular of African American students (African American Vernacular English or Ebonics) into account in teaching them mainstream or Standard English provoked a firestorm of controversy when it was first made public in 1996. However, the proposal, widely misrepresented as a move to replace the teaching of Standard English with teaching in and about Ebonics˜was rarely understood. And evidence for the efficacy of Contrastive Analysis and other methods implicit in the proposal was almost never introduced.  In this course we’ll take a more dispassionate and informed look at the Oakland proposal and the substantial linguistic and pedagogical research associated with it. We’ll also look at earlier controversies over educational recognition and use of African American Vernacular English in the United States, and at ongoing but low-profile classroom experiments elsewhere in North America involving vernacular or Creole English in addition to Standard English.

Linguistics 17N:  Spoken Soul--Black English and its Controversies
(last taught Win 2005)

Linguistics 97: Spring Seminar (Undergraduate Research)
Introduction to research goals and methods in linguistics and related disciplines. Provides a forum for students to work on a small project that helps define a focus for their linguistic studies. Presentations, discussion, and final paper.

Linguistics 150: Language in Society
The study of language in society. Social dialects, class, ethnic, and gender differences in speech. Prestige and stigma associated with different ways of speaking. Stylistic variation; how speakers adapt their language to different audiences and different social contexts. For additional units, students have the option of a public service internship in an organization dealing with linguistic minorities or language-related issues (bilingual education or language rights) with additional section meeting weekly focusing on their field experience. (WIM) GER:3b (DR:9)

Linguistics 153:  Inter- and Intra-Ethnic Variation in Urban Vernacular English
(last taught 1991)

Linguistics 154:  Reading, Writing and the AAVE Speaker
(last taught Win 1995)

Linguistics 159:  Language in the USA
(last taught Spr 2004)

Linguistics 255B: Topics in Sociolinguistics: Stylistic Variation
Sociolinguistic approaches to the study of stylistic variation in language, concentrating on the work of Labov (attention paid to speech), Bell (audience design), Coupland (speaker design) and Finegan and Biber (register design). Papers from the 1996 Stanford Workshop on Style along with other recent and older work. Prerequisites: 150, 250 or 255A or consent of instructor.

Linguistics 255C: Topics in Sociolinguistics: Study of AAVE and other American dialects
Advanced seminar for Linguistics undergraduates and graduate students focusing on recent research in the study of African American Vernacular English and other American dialects, as reported in journal articles and conference presentations. Possible topics: the creole hypothesis, new descriptions and formalizations of AAVE features (prepositions, negative inversions), and proposals for taking AAVE into account in educational reform. Research on other American dialects like Chicano English, Spanish, and Ockracoke English (North Carolina Outer Banks).

Linguistics 256:  Language and Identity (last taught Spr 2007)