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 A&H 226 - Linguistic Throught from Plato to the Present


A&H 226 provides a survey of Western linguistics from antiquity to the twentieth century. Students will learn about the history and development of linguistics and consider how different scholars throughout the ages have responded to some of its major concerns. Students will become conversant with the thinking of individual key scholars in linguistics, including the major twentieth-century linguists Saussure, Bloomfield and Chomsky. Students leaving this course will (1) be conversant with some of the major concerns of linguistic theory (e.g. the form-meaning relationship; the links between language and culture and/or language and reality; the origins and ‘uniqueness’ of human language; language in use/context, etc. (2) be able to characterize a number of different schools of linguistic thought (e.g. structuralist, generativist) and (3) be able to associate these schools with their representative thinkers. In exposing students to the scholars and ideas that have been central to the study of linguistics up to the contemporary period, this course lays the theoretical groundwork necessary for students to move on to more advance work in linguistics.

The first half of the course will focus on the history of linguistic thought from Plato’s Cratylus to Sapir’s (1921) work on language and culture. The second half of the course will be devoted to developments in later twentieth-century linguistics, with special attention to the work of Chomsky and his critics.

This course also includes a skills component. Through a series of carefully planned step-by-step assignments which will culminate in a final term paper, students will develop key skills in research, thus preparing themselves for more advance undergraduate research at the 300-level.


Dr. Ernestine Lahey




The following is required in order to take this course:
  • A&H 126 Introduction to English Linguistics