Course Syllabus

Welcome to LING 100: Foundations of Linguistics


Credits 3
Prerequisites None
Delivery Web (Canvas,
Dates See the Calendar.
Instructor See the Orientation module under the Modules tab.


This course provides an introduction to the study of human language. We will cover the major subfields of linguistics: the study of sounds and sound patterns (phonetics and phonology), the study of words and their parts (morphology), and the study of the structure and meaning of phrases and sentences (syntax and semantics). We will also explore the social aspects of language variation and use (sociolinguistics), how language changes over time (historical linguistics), how children and adults learn language(s) (language acquisition), as well as other key topics in the field. 

Along the way, we’ll ask questions such as: How do children learn a language, and why are some children faster than others? How do power and gender influence language use? Does the language we speak influence the way we think? How do you know whether an utterance is grammatical? What causes languages to change? Is it impossible to master a foreign language after childhood? How does caregiver speech influence child language development? How does brain damage affect language abilities?

Finally, throughout the course, we’ll work toward an appreciation of the complexity and systematicity of language, language variation, and language change. We will also develop skills for solving language puzzles, debunking popular misconceptions about language, classifying languages based on historical relationships and on similarities, and applying linguistic theories and concepts to language as we observe it today.


This course is made up of 15 lessons divided into 4 units. The first lesson will provide an introduction to the study of human language.

You will find a brief overview of each lesson when you click on the link for that week’s reading assignment, which is located in the Lesson 01 Overview page in Canvas. Find the first lesson by clicking on the Modules link in the course menu and then clicking on the Lesson 01 Overview page located in the Lesson 01 Introduction module.

Each week you will have assigned readings, review questions, and complete practice activities. The practice activities are based on the required texts and content in Canvas, you will receive automated feedback about your responses and performance, these activities are for practice only and are not graded. The review questions will serve as a guide to the important concepts, vocabulary, and skills learned within a particular unit and can be used as a study guide. You will also be working in the Applying Linguistics Discussion Forum.

In summary, your coursework will include:

  • Exploring online course content for each lesson.
  • Reading the assigned chapters from the textbook and readings found on Course Reserves from the library (see the Course Reserves section in the Course Syllabus)
  • Completing the weekly assignments (discussions, practice activity, and quiz) by the due dates listed on the course calendar or at the bottom of the course syllabus.
  • Completing the language log journal entries by the due date listed on the course calendar or at the bottom of the course syllabus.

Be sure to check out the list of assignments in the course calendar (click on the "Calendar" link in the main menu or refer to the bottom of the course syllabus). It clearly lays out all the Lessons and their various assignments, and it indicates when each assignment is due. Grading rubrics and further descriptions of the assignments can be found in the Syllabus (click on the "Syllabus" link in the course menu).

Online Learning and Attendance

This course has been developed to promote asynchronous learning. The instructor and students do NOT meet on a designated day and time each week. For each lesson, there is a timeframe to complete all activities and assignments, and you may work at your own pace within that timeframe. However, you must adhere to the due dates outlined on the Calendar. (Due dates can also be viewed under the Syllabus tab.) You should log into the course daily to check for updates, review lessons, and participate in activities.



The following texts are required:

  • Mihalicek, V & Wilson, C. (2011). Language files: Materials for an introduction to language and linguistics. Ohio State University Press. Columbus: Ohio State UP Press. [ISBN: 978-0814251799]
  • Headphones or speakers for listening to audio files and videos
  • Download Adobe Reader for free from
  • Download QuickTime for free from 

Typing Phonetics

The following fonts include all the phonetic symbols used in this course:

  • Cambria (Microsoft Office)
  • Calibri (Microsoft Office)
  • Lucida Grande (Macintosh)
  • Arial or Arial Unicode (Windows)
  • SIL Doulos, SIL Charis (free download from SIL fonts)

You can produce phonetic symbols by copying and pasting them into other documents or Web sites. The site below contains a wide variety of symbols to copy.

Library Services

Penn State Libraries provides a wide variety of services and resources. To learn how to take advantage, refer to the Online Student Library Guide at This guide serves as your starting point for access to all that Penn State Libraries can offer you as an online student. Use this guide if you have questions on library services offered to you, how the library can help you, how to use the library, or what resources you can access via the library! The guide will connect you to important pages and resources within Penn State Libraries and save time from you searching for the information you need.

Course Reserves

There are electronic resources on reserve for this course that can be accessed through the Penn State Libraries. To access your Course Reserves, please use the Library Resources link in the course navigation menu.

For any questions you may have about searching, viewing, or printing your Course Reserves, refer to the Viewing/Printing Electronic Reserves page at


Final letter grades will be assigned based on the scale below.


A 95-100 475-500
A- 90-94 450-474
B+ 88-89 440-449
B 82-87 410-439
B- 80-81 400-409
C+ 78-79 390-399
C 70-77 350-389
D 60-69 300-349
F 0-59 <300

Grading is distributed among the assignment types as follows. See the Assignment section for more details about each assignment.

Applying Linguistics Discussions 30 150
Language Log Journals 24 120
Quizzes 40 200
Final Research Project Language Log 6 30
Total 100 500

Due Dates

All assignments are due by 11:59 PM Eastern Time on the date indicated on the Calendar. (Due dates can be also be viewed under the Syllabus tab.) Please be aware that Canvas follows the Eastern Time (ET) time zone. Assignment due dates adhere to this time zone, and it is your responsibility to submit assignments accordingly. If you are outside of the ET time zone, you can set your Canvas account to sync to it. Refer to the Set a Time Zone article in the Canvas Guide at

Except for any changes made by the instructors, the following deadlines apply to the following kinds of assignments:

  • Applying Linguistics Forum
    • Initial posts to Applying Linguistics Forums are due earlier in the week by 11:59 PM (Eastern Time) - check the course calendar for the specific date
    • Replies are generally due a few days later by 11:59 PM (ET) - check the course calendar for the specific date
  • Language Log Posts are due by 11:59 PM (ET) - check the course calendar for the specific date
  • Unit Quizzes are due by 6:00 PM (ET). Quizzes will be open for a 54-hour period and are completed at the end of a Unit. - check the course calendar for the specific date
  • Practice Activities are ungraded but should be completed with the corresponding lesson. - check the course calendar for the specific date

Please view the Calendar for all dates. (Due dates can be also be viewed under the Syllabus tab.) See notes in the Assignments areas for more details on completing your course work.

As a general rule, you will NOT be able to go back and make up missed assignments. It is your responsibility to keep up with your assignments. Students with an excused absence (hospitalization, jury duty, family emergency, or military service) may be asked to produce proper documentation in order to make up graded work.

All make-up work is at the discretion of the instructor.

Veterans and currently serving military personnel and/or spouses with unique circumstances (e.g. upcoming deployments, drill/duty requirements, disabilities, VA appointments, etc.) are welcome and encouraged to communicate these, in advance if possible, to the instructor in the case that special arrangements need to be made.


  • To Do List: Some assignments may not appear in the To Do list under the Home tab. Use the Calendar or Syllabus to ensure that you are fully aware of assignment due dates.
  • Late Assignments: No late assignments will be accepted unless the following conditions are met:
    • you contact me before the assignment is due,
    • you provide a valid excuse for not completing the work on time, and
    • I approve your request prior to the deadline.
  • Technology problems do not excuse late work.
  • All assignments will close at a specific date and time (see the COURSE CALENDAR), and students are strongly encouraged to begin assignments well before the deadline to ensure sufficient time to resolve any problems that might arise.

Communication and Questions

We will rely on Canvas as our medium of communication. Using Canvas’s email feature is the best way to privately contact me or your classmates. You can find the email tool by clicking on the Inbox/Messages link in the Canvas menu and then "Compose a new message". For more information see the Canvas Student Guide What is Conversations? or the Canvas Video Student Guide on Communication.

Email sent to me should be reserved for personal issues, since we will have other ways to communicate about the course.

If you have general questions regarding how to use the technology, you may post to our technology discussion forum (like a message board) called Technical Help Discussion Forum located under the Modules section. Students should feel welcome to respond to questions and offer help.

If you have questions related to course content, post to our discussion forum called General Questions Discussion Forum This forum is under the Modules section and will include student- generated threads of content-based questions. Students are encouraged to answer each other’s questions. I will also contribute to the forum as necessary. 

You also have access to the Internet Café, which is an unmonitored forum you may use to contact classmates, organize study groups, socialize, or post interesting links and videos related to linguistics. I will not address questions or problems posted here; be sure to post to the General Questions or Technical Help forums for content or technology questions.



The bulk of the course content will be conveyed through the readings. To be successful in this course, you must complete all of the assigned readings. Readings will come from:

  • The assigned textbook Language Files
  • Supplemental readings and videos within the course
  • Articles posted in Electronic Reserves within the University Libraries
  • Additional materials or links posted by the instructor

Video Lectures

Some lessons there will also be video lectures to help you understand the content. You must watch all of these lectures, as some times the terminology will be slightly different than your textbook, and the course quizzes will use the terminology used in the video lectures. Most students find these very helpful.

Review Questions

For each unit, you will use a document called Review Questions as your guide to the important concepts, vocabulary, and skills. Please treat these questions as a study guide to use throughout the unit.

Practice Activities

For most lessons, you will complete practice based on the required texts and Canvas content. You will receive automated feedback about your responses and performance, but these practice assignments are NOT graded. They are designed to allow you to practice as you would during class time in a traditional course. You will have unlimited attempts at completing these assignments. It will be essential to understand and be able to exemplify concepts and relate them to each other. The practice assignments will allow you to test yourself and your understanding. These activities will be crucial to your success on the quizzes.

Basic information about each assignment group is provided below. For detailed directions about an individual assignment, see the assignment information under the Modules tab.

Applying Linguistics Discussion Forum

Value: 11 x 15 PTS, the lowest score is dropped, 150 PTS total

In this forum, you will apply the course materials to your life or demonstrate how they might be applied in other contexts. The tasks include (but are not limited to) commenting on an article, analyzing your speech (or the speech of your friends or family), conducting a linguistic interview, or finding examples of a particular phenomenon. You will also respond to and discuss your classmates’ posts.

There are 11 Applying Linguistics forum assignments. Your lowest Applying Linguistics grade will be dropped.

Grading Rubric for Applying Linguistics Discussions

Applying Linguistics entries will be graded on a 10-point scale:

  • Analysis (3): accurately and thoroughly reported on the topic using appropriate terminology
  • Critical Thinking (3): carefully considered the topic and relevant issues and contributed a thoughtful and critical response
  • Organization (1): clearly presented arguments and similarities/differences using examples and textual support
  • Linguistic Accuracy (3): demonstrated understanding of course materials and ability to accurately apply concepts and problem solving skills to the given topic

Applying Linguistics responses will be graded on a 5-point scale:

  • Originality (1): contributed post sufficiently different from your classmates’ posts
  • Critical Thinking (2): contributed a careful and critical response demonstrating understanding of the original post or pushed discussion further
  • Linguistics (2): demonstrated understanding of course topics and ability to apply concepts and problem solving skills

Language Logs

Value: Language Log Discussion Assignments (9) x 15 PTS, the lowest score is dropped, 120 PTS total

There are 9 Language Log discussion assignments. For these, you will complete a journal entry in response to learning about a particular language. Your lowest grade for the Language Log Assignment will be dropped.

You’ll listen to a short recording of a speaker discussing his or her native language and how it differs from English. In response, you’ll write a short essay in a Language Log Discussion Forum. Your response will answer the assigned questions by summarizing the main points made by the speaker about the language and discussing how the linguistic features of the language (phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, social implications) relate to class discussions and course materials. The goal of this assignment is to apply our knowledge to real languages and to demonstrate how different features of language relate to each other.

Grading Rubric for Language Log Assignments

The Language Log entries will be graded on a 15-point scale. The lowest Language Log score will be dropped.

  • Analysis (5 pts): accurately reported on linguistic features of language using appropriate terminology
  • Comparison (5 pts): accurately compared the language, its features, and its linguistic context to English
  • Reflection (5 pts): showed thoughtful consideration of the language and how it fits into the linguistic diversity we discuss in class


Value: 4 x 50 PTS, 200 PTS total

There will be 4 quizzes during the course (see the DUE DATE section mentioned earlier, and also the COURSE CALENDAR for specific dates). Students will take the quizzes online and individually during a specified window of time. Quizzes will include multiple choice, true or false, and multiple select questions and possibly short answer, problem set, or essay questions. Quizzes will be open for 54 hours. You will have one attempt for each quiz, and each quiz must be completed within the time limit stated on the quiz.

Final Research Project Language Log

Value: Final Research Project Language Log (1) x 30 PTS, 30 PTS total

The final research project language log will be be worth two regular language log entries or 2 entries at 15 points for 30 points total. Each language is worth 15 points.

Language Selection and Bibliography/Research Methods

For the final project, you will choose two languages to research further. You will need to provide possible online or print grammar resources for each of your languages. If you wish to use online resources, the website must be pre-approved by the instructor. For each language, you will answer questions provided by the instructor. The goal of this project is to explore the different aspects of a language using the concepts learned earlier in the semester.

The Final Research Project Language Log is split into two parts. The first part will discuss the demographic and cultural issues of a language. The second part will focus on phonology, morphology, and syntax.

Grading Rubric for Final Research Project Language Log

  • Language Selection (2 pts): select two languages to research and compare and write a summary of their linguistic and key cultural features.
  • Bibliography/Research Methods (4 pts): successfully completing all of the research method activities, on time submissions of your language sources, and submitting an outline for instructor
  • Linguistics (14 pts): demonstrated understanding of course topics, success with approaching language topics from the perspective of a linguist, and ability to apply concepts and problem solving skills to world languages
  • Writing (10 pts): points are conveyed in a manner that conveys your information and analysis in a clear manner

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Dishonesty of any kind will not be tolerated in this course. Dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, cheating, plagiarizing, fabricating information or citations, facilitating acts of academic dishonesty by others, having unauthorized possession of examinations, submitting work of another person or work previously used without informing the instructor, or tampering with the academic work of other students. Students who are found to be dishonest will receive academic sanctions and will be reported to the University's Judicial Affairs office for possible further disciplinary sanction. For further information, please read University Faculty Senate Policy 49-20 at

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In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled, participate in an intake interview, and provide documentation described at If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus’s disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations.


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Students may request assistance from CAPS regarding a variety of common mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, relationship difficulties, and stress. CAPS services are designed to enhance students' ability to fully benefit from the University environment and academic experience. Call CAPS at 814-863-0395 (8 am-5 pm, Monday-Friday EST) or submit an inquiry online at to schedule an appointment with a mental health advocate, who can help you address mental health concerns that may interfere with your academic progress or social development. This appointment will include a one-on-one session that can be conducted via telephone, teleconference (Skype, FaceTime, etc.), or locally at Penn State University Park. For more information on services provided through CAPS, please visit the Penn State CAPS website at Students enrolled at the World Campus are also encouraged to visit its Mental Health Services page at

Reminder: These services are for non-emergencies only. If you or someone you know is experiencing a crisis situation, please call your local crisis center or 911.


The materials on the course website are only for the use of students enrolled in this course for purposes associated with this course and may not be retained or further disseminated.

University Emergency Procedure

In the event of a University-wide emergency, the course may be subject to changes. Exigent circumstances may require alternative delivery methods, class materials, and interactions with the instructor and/or classmates. In addition, there may be revisions to grading policies and the Calendar, including assignments and their due dates.

In the event of a University-wide emergency, please refer to the Canvas website at for specific information related to the course. For more general information about the emergency situation, please refer to the Penn State website at or Penn State News website at

To register with PSUAlert, a service designed to alert the Penn State community when situations arise that affect the ability of a campus to function normally, please go to the PSU Alert website at Subscribers can receive alerts by text message to cell phones, and also can elect to have alerts sent to an email address.

Syllabus Subject to Change

The class will likely adhere to the information outlined in this Syllabus and the Calendar, but adjustments may be made based on what actually transpires during the semester. Remaining in the course after reading this Syllabus will signal that you accept the possibility of changes and responsibility for being aware of them.

Course Summary:

Date Details