New York University Abu Dhabi - Fall 2018

  • Instructor: Prof. Nizar Habash
  • Office: CR-189 (A2-189)
  • Email: nizar.habash@nyu.edu
  • Class Hours: Tue/Thu 10:25am - 11:40am
  • Class Location: Saadiyat Campus, Building-Room A2-001
  • 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.


Online Resources

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.

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. The solved puzzles must be delivered by the due date in class.
  3. Research Paper (15%)
    • Paper comparing two Middle Eastern languages from a third language point of view (minimally 4 pages double spaced - 1,000 words)
  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%)

Grade Conversion

  • A=94-100; A-=90-93; B+=87-89; B=84-86; B-=80-83; C+=77-79; C=74-76; C-=70-73; D+=67-69; D=65-66; F=below 65

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.



Slides and Handouts