Anthropology | Topical Seminar in the Ethnography of Communication
L400 | 0502 | Le Sourd


This course provides an introduction to the areas of contemporary
linguistic work that are most relevant to the concerns of archaeologists
and students of human origins.  We will begin by exploring the methods that
historical linguists use to group languages into families and to
reconstruct proto-languages, the ancestors of these linguictic families,
then investigate the ways in which this work can help in reconstructing
aspects of ancient cultures and identifying the homelands of those
cultures.  The remainder of the course will be concerned with the question
of the origin of language, asking what cognitive abilities underlie
language learning and language use, how and when those cognitive abilities
might have arisen in the evolution of our species, and what the results of
contemporary linguistics can (and cannot) tell us about the antiquity of
human speech.  Written work for the course will consist of a series of
problem sets designed to provide students with a practical understanding of
the mehtods of linguistic reconstruction, plus several short papers.  The
course is open to advanced undergraduate as well as graduate students.  No
previous knowledge of linguistics will be assumed.