French and Italian | Introduction to French Linguistics
F402 | 25654 | Prof. Barbara Vance


This course introduces students to the field of Linguistics – the
scientific study of language – through the analysis of the structure
of French. We will look at three main areas:

1. sentence structure: how sentences are constructed in hierarchical
as well as linear form; how French sentence structure is like and
unlike that of other languages (with special comparison to English),
how individual sentences are hooked together in discourse, and how
French sentence and discourse structure has changed over time and
continues to change ...

2. word structure: how words are built up out of the basic building
blocks – morphemes like aim- (a root) and –iez (an inflectional suffix
which designates the word's function) or –able (a derivational suffix
which adds to the root's meaning); how form and meaning are matched up
(why is an ambassadrice NOT necessarily a female ambassadeur – and
could this ever change?); how compounds are constructed differently in
French and English (ouvre-boîtes vs. can opener), and how children and
adults invent new words (in different ways) ...

3. sound structure: the basic inventory of French sounds and how it is
organized; differences in pronounciation among different varieties of
French in France and around the world; how to write French (and
English) in the International Phonetic Alphabet, thus overcoming the
limitations of a complex but not completely illogical spelling system
...

The course takes a problem-solving approach: students are presented
with specially constructed data sets and learn to make their own
linguistically-informed generalizations about how French works.
Although it will be assumed that students are meeting linguistic
concepts for the first time, students who have already had an
introduction to general linguistics are welcome. All students must
have taken French through at least the F313 level (or have special
permission from the instructor). Graduate students enrolled in the F
575 version will have additional graduate-level assignments and extra
meetings with the instructor.