Tuesday, Thursday, OPT 401

Hagey Hall 247, x35362
Hours: Wednesdays, 12:30-2:00 (or email me for another time)
Home phone (Milton): (905) 876-3972

We study what it means to know and use a language: you need to know the sounds, the words, the way words group together, and how those word groups fit into a web of meaning. That's a lot just to get someone to pass you the salt or agree that the Leafs sucked last night, but you deploy those systems effortlessly every day. What's more, you know them pretty much the way you know how to breathe or swallow or ride a bike: at a below-the-surface level. At the surface, you don't know which of your consonants resonate out your nose, but you know it, because you always send the right ones out the nose. In this course, we're going to drag that knowledge to the surface, kicking and screaming.

We're also going to see how that knowledge interacts with other, non-linguisticky areas of cognition—in particular, perception, emotion, categorisation, abstraction processes, and reasoning—to get some purchase on the way we express and exchange ideas and thoughts through weird little noises or marks on a page or lines and circles on a screen, like these ones.

English 306A is a required course in the Cognitive Science option.

Midterm I (14 October) 20%
Midterm II (18 November) 30%
Final (
16 December, 7:30 PM, RCH 305) 50%

Dirven and Verspoor, Cognitive exploration of language and linguistics. Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 1998 (ISBN 155619 1987) and 2004 (ISBN 158811 4864). There are two editions, the second one with a few errors corrected and some other minor massaging. Either edition is fine for the course, but I'll be using the 2nd edition, so if you're using the first, be aware of minor pagination discrepancies. As always, if you are unsure about anything in the book, please ask.

Cognitive exploration of language and linguistics is on three-hour loan at the library.

Answers to the textbook exercises here (

Please have the required readings done before class, and be prepared to read them again after class, and, if you're not clear about something, ASK.

Although this course has the word Introductory in its title, because this is the first time most students learn about the field of linguistics and its result, please do not make the mistake of thinking it is a low-level course. It is a third-year course, with appropriate demands and expectations. Many students find it quite difficult.

The textbook will be supplemented very regularly with concepts and examples, and the lectures have a strongly cumulative structure. It is, therefore, not a very good idea to miss class. If you do, get notes, preferrably from more than one person, so you can triangulate on what we did.

Members of the University of Waterloo community are expected to promote honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility. [Check the UW Academic Integrity page for more information.]

You are expected to know what constitutes academic integrity [check www.uwaterloo.ca/academicintegrity/] to avoid committing an academic offence, and to take responsibility for your actions. A student who is unsure whether an action constitutes an offence, or who needs help in learning how to avoid offences (e.g., plagiarism, cheating) or about “rules” for group work/collaboration should seek guidance from the course instructor, academic advisor, or the undergraduate Associate Dean. For information on categories of offences and types of penalties, students should refer to Policy 71, Student Discipline. For typical penalties check Guidelines for the Assessment of Penalties.

A decision made or penalty imposed under Policy 70 (Student Petitions and Grievances) (other than a petition) or Policy 71 (Student Discipline) may be appealed if there is a ground. A student who believes he/she has a ground for an appeal should refer to Policy 72 (Student Appeals).

A student who believes that a decision affecting some aspect of his/her university life has been unfair or unreasonable may have grounds for initiating a grievance. Read Policy 70, Student Petitions and Grievances, Section 4. When in doubt please be certain to contact the department’s administrative assistant who will provide further assistance.

The Office for Persons with Disabilities (OPD), located in Needles Hall, Room 1132, collaborates with all academic departments to arrange appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities without compromising the academic integrity of the curriculum. If you require academic accommodations to lessen the impact of your disability, please register with the OPD at the beginning of each academic term.


Get the SIL-Doulos font here
(Casey Ho's PDF instructions for installing SIL-Doulos)
Consonant and Vowel Charts
A FAQ for 306A
Word Categories.pdf
English Inflectional Morphemes.pdf
Forms of English be and pronouns.pdf

Lecture materials
(updated as the course proceeds)

Please note these files are developed for lecturing only, and made available for your convenience; they are not developed for home-studying, independent of the course, and they contain many redundancies, partial explanations, enigmatic notes, and so on--the sorts of things which depend on in-class lectures to clarify. Because I adapt them as we go, they are made available only after the relevant module has been taught.

For onscreen viewing
For printing
This list will include power-point show files (pps), which you can download and view on your own machine with MS PowerPoint (part of the MS Office suite), or with PowerPoint Viewer (available in a free download from Microsoft). You can also print them off, of course, though that's probably a waste of resources. (The labels will become active links as the files are available.)
This list will include portable document format files (pdf), which you can download and view on your own machine with Acrobat Reader (available in a free download from Adobe). You can use these files anyway you like, but they have small images of the slides I use in class, and they are meant to help you collate your notes. (The labels will become active links as the files are available.)

History.pps (2 MB)
CognitiveBasis.pps (1.5 MB)
Words.pps (8.5 MB)
Morphology.pps (1.5 MB)
Syntax.pps (1.5 MB)
Phonetics.pps (3 MB)
Phonology.pps (700 KB)
Entailment-Denotation.pps (1.2 MB)
Language-Culture.pps (1.5 MB)
Pragmatics.pps (3.9 MB)
CourseWrap.pps (3.1 MB)

History.pdf (500 KB)
CognitiveBasis.pdf (500 KB)
Words.pdf (950 KB)
Morphology.pdf (400 KB)
Syntax.pdf (500 KB)
Phonetics.pdf (850 KB)
Phonology.pdf (300 KB)
Entailment-Denotation.pdf (246 KB)
Language-Culture.pdf (360 KB)
Pragmatics.pdf (870 KB)
CourseWrap.pdf (344 KB)
Podcast files

I will be recording the lectures and posting them as MP3 files on this site:

(usr=eng306f10, pw=harrisf10

Please note that these files are in no way meant to substitute for attending the lectures. They can supplement your notes, since you can listen to them at your own pace, listen to sections multiple times, and so on. But without the visuals, and my incredibly informative, not to mention simulating, hand gestures, eyebrow movements, and surprising footwork, their information quotient will be very low.

Interactive Exercises

Kevin Russell's phonetic transcription practice page

Linguistics sites

Fields of linguistics
Linguistic Society of America FAQ
LINGUIST list site

Cognitive linguistic sites

Cognitive linguistics, the journal
Bert Peeters's article on Cognitive Linguistics
Marjolijn Verspoor's home page

Language pages

The Enduring Languages Project
Klingon language page

I love languages page (formerly the Human languages page)

Phonetics and phonology sites

X-Ray movie of man speaking syllables and sentences
International Phonetics Association
Interactive phonemic lessons
IPA Help
IPA and ASCII alphabets (with sound)
Speech Animator
Interactive Articulation tutorial (Sammy)
The Virtual Talking Head (great videos)
The Phonetic Chart

Text linguistics

Intro to Rhetorical Structure Theory (coherence relations)

Writing systems

Evolution of alphabets

Karen Chung's magnificent list o' links

Language and linguistics links


Online english grammar
Glossary of linguistics terms