Linguistics is Biology: An Introduction to Basic Issues and Concepts

In this course we will examin the position of linguistics with respect to other disciplines. I will argue that when you learned your native language as a child, you actively constructed your native language. The result of that construction, that is, the language you speak now, is much richer and contains much more information than the sentences that you heard as a child.

After introducting the basic arguments for this position, we will examine some challenges to this view. Then we will look at some consequences: First, that languages are mental -- languages exist in the minds of speakers and nowhere else. Second, that the mind cannot be uniform -- the mind must be divided into different faculites or modules each with its own structure and specific properties. Third, that the methods for studying language should be the same methods used in studying any other part of the natural world -- linguistics is biology.

The course is intended for absolute beginners who will wonder during the school why linguists approach things in such a strange way. It will introduce some basic terms like the following - Don't worry! It will all be clear in the end! - "argument from poverty of the stimulus", "Plato's problem", "I-language", "E-language", "structure dependence", etc.

If you are already familiar with these terms, the class might still be interesting to you if you want to find out what the debates between different philosophical schools of thought are about and what they have to do with linguistics - Again don't worry! The terms WILL make sense! - Empiricism versus Rationalism, Platonism versus Conceptualism, and Externalism versus Internalism.