NYUAD Course COREI-AD 58 – Fall 2016



For the final class project websites, go to https://sites.google.com/a/nyu.edu/nyuad-words-fall2016/conlangs 

  • Class HoursTuTh 2:40pm – 3:55pm
  • Class LocationSaadiyat Campus, Building-Room A4-006
  • Office Hours: By appointment


Words, words, words. How do words,  as basic units of language, help us communicate our thoughts? How are they internally constructed? And how do they come together to form complex meanings? How are words from different languages similar, and how are they different? Do words reflect or shape our thought? Do they expand or constrain our imagination? This interdisciplinary course explores what words are and how we think of them by bringing together insights and ideas from a number of fields: linguistics, computer science, psychology, sociology, philosophy, history, literature, religion and visual arts to help answer these questions. Students will read materials from a variety of books and articles and discuss them in class, and they will engage in solving language puzzles. Students will learn how to analyze words in terms of their form, function and meaning in context. Class final group project will be to invent a constructed language.

Students will gain knowledge in the different aspects of language from phonology and morphology to semantics and writing systems. The students will understand how different languages and dialects vary in terms of different linguistic aspects. The students will gain understanding in the subtleties of language and power in society. The students will acquire basic computational skills that will help them with processing texts regardless of their majors. The students will gain appreciation of the interconnectedness among the various disciplines studied in the course. Students will improve their writing skills by learning to write grammatically correct and clear prose, to develop well-reasoned and persuasive arguments, and to credit and cite sources accurately.  The students will learn how to present their work (constructing narratives, creating slides, projecting their voice, etc.).

Text Books

  • [L&L] Ralph W. Fasold and Jeff Connor-Linton. Eds.  An Introduction to Language and Linguistics.  Cambridge University Press. 2014.
  • [TLG] Guy Deutscher. Through the Language Glass: Why the World looks different in other languages. Metropolitan Books, 2010.
  • [LOF] Dan Jurafsky. The Language of Food. W. W. Norton and Company, 2014.
  • [NT] Suzette Haden Elgin. Native Tongue. New York: The Feminist Press, 2000.


  • My Fair Lady. Dir. George Cukor. Perf. Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison, Stanley Holloway. 1964. [Available on NYU Classes]
  • The Imitation Game. Dir. Morten Tyldum. Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode. 2014. [Available on NYU Classes]

    Online Resources

   Slides and handouts

Grading Policy and Components of the Final Grade

  1. Participation in class (10%)
    • Demonstrate through participation in discussions about assigned readings and videos.
  2. Linguistic Puzzles (10%)
    • Eight language puzzles to solve during the semester
  3. Research Paper (15%)
    • Paper comparing two Middle Eastern languages from a third language point of view (4 pages double spaced)
  4. Computational linguistics lab assignment (10%) 
    • Basic computational linguistics exercises and linguistic data analysis.
  5. Class Project: Written report (15%), Presentation (10%)
    • In a group of three, construct an artificial language. Write a short grammar and dictionary, and create an artifact in the constructed language (calligraphy, artwork, translation, performance, etc.). 
  6. Midterm Exam (15%)
  7. Final Exam (15%)

Participation and Attendance Policies

Full attendance is required. Absences must be excused. Participation is required in the form of class discussions and class presentations. Every unexcused absence (not pre-cleared with instructor, or not with medical documentation provided to instructor) will automatically result in a 10% reduction in the final grade.

Academic Integrity

Copying or paraphrasing someone's work, or permitting your own work to be copied or paraphrased, even if only in part, is not allowed, and will result in an automatic grade of 0 for the entire assignment or exam in which the copying or paraphrasing was done. Your grade should reflect your own work. If you believe you are going to have trouble completing an assignment, please talk to the instructor in advance of the due date.

Class Outline 

LectureDateLectureAssigned ReadingsAssigned OnDue On
1Tue30-Aug-16Introduction(no reading)Puzzle 1
2Thu1-Sep-16IntroductionTLG Prologue & Chomsky VideoPuzzle 2Puzzle 1
3Tue6-Sep-16PhonologyL&L p15-36
4Thu8-Sep-16PhonologyL&L p42-57Research PaperPuzzle 2
Tue13-Sep-16No CLASS. Happy Eid!
5Thu15-Sep-16MorphologyL&L p63-80Puzzle 3
6Tue20-Sep-16MorphologyL&L p80-99
7Thu22-Sep-16LexiconTLG chapters 1,2,3 & 4Puzzle 4Puzzle 3
8Tue27-Sep-16Class Project Discussion I: Constructed LanguagesThe Memorandum (Havel); The Principles of Newspeak (Orwell); The Sixteen Rules of Esperanto Grammar (Harlow); The Palisra Project Talk (Habash); and Browse OmniglotConlang Project
9Thu29-Sep-16SyntaxL&L p105-128; 136-141Puzzle 4
10Tue4-Oct-16SyntaxTLG chapter 5Project Group Formation & Abstract
11Thu6-Oct-16SemanticsL&L p 149-156; 170-178
12Tue11-Oct-16Writing SystemsL&L p413-442Research Paper Draft
13Thu13-Oct-16Writing Systems / Midterm Review(no reading)
Thu20-Oct-16NO CLASS
Tue25-Oct-16NO CLASS
15Thu27-Oct-16Language Change (+ Midterm Answers)LOF chapter 3 and 4; L&L p287-315Puzzle 5
16Tue1-Nov-16Language Change Research Paper Final
17Thu3-Nov-16Language PoliticsL&L p383-409; My Fair Lady Puzzle 6Puzzle 5
18Fri4-Nov-16Language Politics(no reading)
19Tue8-Nov-16Class Project Discussion II: Constructed Languages(no reading)Project Abstract & Short Presentation
20Thu10-Nov-16Basics of Programming & Regular Expressions(no reading; bring laptop to class)
Puzzle 6
Tue15-Nov-16Basics of Programming & Regular Expressions(no reading; bring laptop to class)
21Thu17-Nov-16Basics of Programming & Regular Expressions(no reading; bring laptop to class)
22Tue22-Nov-16Basics of Programming & Regular Expressions(no reading; bring laptop to class)Puzzle 7, CompLing Lab
23Thu24-Nov-16Computational LinguisticsL&L chapter 14
24Tue29-Nov-16Applications - CryptographyThe Imitation GamePuzzle 8Puzzle 7
Thu1-Dec-16NO CLASS. Happy National Day!
25Tue6-Dec-16Applications - Machine Translation(no reading)
26Thu8-Dec-16Word Art + Native Tongue + Final Review
Native Tongue
Xu Bing. “Book from the Sky.”   
Puzzle 8
27Tue13-Dec-16Invited Talk - American Sign Language    Can you read my lips?
Why do so many Deaf people have trouble with English?
Wikipedia page on William Stokoe
Conlang Project Draft
Final Project Presentation
WA-005 (A3-005)  830-1130Conlang Project Final Report
Conlang Project Presentation
CompLing Lab Report