My Christmas break is starting to wind down and I’ll be back at school in another week. So before I get caught up in all the excitement of winter quarter, I thought I should pause long enough to look back (briefly) on fall quarter. Here is a course-by-course summary of my first few months back in school:
- Phonetics – Seeing as how I’m planning to focus on syntax and semantics (the S-side), I expected to be ambivalent at best about this course. It is, after all, at the opposite end of the linguistic spectrum. However, I ended up learning a lot and really enjoying the class. I’m certainly no phonetician by any means and I still don’t have all the articulatory subtleties straight in my head, but it did whet my appetite for more study on the P-side (phonetics and phonology). I was especially impressed with the ever more versatile “Swiss Army knife” of phonetics: Praat.
- Syntax 1 – My first ever syntax class was not without its bumps and bruises, but I think I emerged with a pretty good understanding of the field… and the realization that I’ve just barely scratched the surface of what’s out there. From case marking and theta roles to X-bar theory and invisible movement, syntax can be a bewildering ride for a novice. Even simple English utterances such as “I like cheese” or “Somebody please shoot me” can hide many layers of complexity when analyzed using current theories. We also took a look at several dozen other languages including Chichewa. That was probably the only day when I actually felt like I knew what I was talking about.
- Formal Foundations – This is basically a graduate-level math and logic course masquerading as a linguistics class. Yes, we did get into some linguistic topics in the last few weeks, but most of the course was devoted to set theory, relations, functions, induction, recursion, infinity, and propositional logic (among other topics). Unlike my other two courses, I felt right at home since most of the material was familiar to me from my math and philosophy courses as an undergrad.
In addition to the coursework itself, I also spent a lot of time learning LaTeX, a scientific type-setting system. This was especially helpful in creating all the strange symbols and formulas needed in my Formal Foundations homework. It also has additional features like glosses and trees that are very useful in linguistics research papers. I plan to spend a lot more time honing my LaTeX skills in the next few years.
So there you have it. One quarter down and fourteen to go?! Well, I’m not worried. I know how time flies… especially when I’m having fun.