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to the world of Germanic linguistics:
Welcome and advice from Rex Sprouse
Welcome. Welcome to the world of Germanic linguistics at Indiana University. I believe that you will find IU’s Germanic linguistics program both an intellectually rich environment and a mutually supportive community of scholars.
The primary purpose of this document is to provide you with a bit of orientation and guidance as you begin or continue your studies. I must stress that most of what will be presented here should not be considered necessary prerequisites for your studies in IU’s Germanic linguistics program. You may well be entering or already have entered the program with very little background knowledge of general linguistics or Germanic languages other than proficiency in German and English. That is virtually the norm and need not be the cause for any particular anxiety. Many linguists (including me) did not begin their study of linguistics until graduate school.
Although in-depth proficiency in English and German, intellectual curiosity about language, and a willingness to work hard are the only real “prerequisites” for graduate study in IU’s Germanic linguistics program, you will certainly want to begin as soon as you can to lay the best foundation you can to derive maximal benefit from your course work and research projects.
Most students in IU’s Germanic linguistics program seek to acquire four-skills proficiency in at least one “less commonly studied” modern Germanic language. As of fall 2006, the Indiana University Department of Germanic Studies offers relevant instruction in Dutch, Norwegian, and Yiddish. It is, of course, also possible to study Icelandic, Faroese, Swedish, Danish, Frisian, or Afrikaans in the countries where these languages are spoken or through self-instructional materials, perhaps with the assistance of a tutor in Bloomington.
I feel that it is also important for your development as a linguist to become quite familiar with the structure of at least one “exotic” (non-Germanic and non-Romance) language. Current favorites appear to be Estonian, Finnish, and Turkish, but this is a matter of your personal interest.
Your studies will also involve the history of German and a thorough grounding in older Germanic languages. The IU Department of Germanic Studies offers courses in Middle High German, Old Icelandic, Old Saxon, Old High German, and Gothic. I would strongly advise you to enroll in these courses as they are offered. Instruction in Old English is offered through the English Department. You will find a basic reading knowledge of New Testament Greek helpful in the study of Gothic and a basic reading knowledge of Latin helpful in the study of the other older Germanic languages, but I must stress that neither Greek nor Latin is a requirement for these courses or for a degree in our program.
I want you to understand that this background is to be developed over a period of years and to remember that an important part of your graduate training involves “learning how to learn” effectively. You may well find that long after you have completed your graduate education, you will continue to begin or to extend your knowledge of various modern and historical languages. It is unlikely that any given student will complete his or her Ph.D. with all of the language background discussed above.
Suggestions for background readings:
Baker, Mark C. (2001) The Atoms of Language: The Mind’s Hidden Rules of Grammar. New York: Basic Books.
Bauer, Laurie & Peter Trudgill (eds.) (1998) Language Myths. New York: Penguin Books.
Carnie, Andrew (2002) Syntax: A Generative Approach. (Introducing Linguistics, 4.) Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Chomsky, Noam (2000) New Horizons in the Study of Language and Mind. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Comrie, Bernard (1989) Language Universals and Linguistic Typology: Syntax and Morphology. 2nd edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Green, D.H. (1998) Language and History in the Early Germanic World. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Green, Georgia M. & Jerry L. Morgan (1996) Practical Guide to Syntactic Analysis. (CSLI Lecture Notes, 67.) Stanford: Center for the Study of Language and Information
Haspelmath, Martin (2002) Understanding Morphology. New York: Arnold/Oxford University Press.
Hawkins, Roger (2001) Second Language Syntax: A Generative Introduction. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Odden, David (2005) Introducing Phonology. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Pinker, Steven (1994) The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language. New York: Morrow.
Portner, Paul (2005) What Is Meaning? Fundamentals of Formal Semantics. Oxford: Clarendon.
Russ, Charles V.J. (1994) The German Language: A Linguistic Introduction. New York: Routledge.
Smith, Neil (1999) Chomsky: Ideas and Ideals. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Trask, R. L. (1996) Historical Linguistics. New York: Arnold/St. Martin’s Press.
Wardhaugh, Ronald (1998) An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. 3rd edition. Malden, MA: Blackwell.Wells, C.J. (1987) German: A Linguistic History to 1945. New York: Oxford at the Clarendon Press.
31 October, 2014
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