New York University Abu Dhabi - Fall 2019

  • 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 A3-005
  • 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

Components of the Final Grade

  1. Participation in class (10%)
    • Demonstrate through participation in discussions about assigned readings and videos. See Participation and Attendance Policies below)
  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 (20%), 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 (25%)

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.

Assignment Submission Policies

All assignments are due at 11:59pm on the due date specified in syllabus. Submission will be done through NYU Classes. For late submissions, 10% will be deducted from the assignment grade per each late day.

Grade Conversion

  • A=95-100; A-=90-94; B+=87-89; B=83-86; B-=80-82; C+=77-79; C=73-76; C-=70-72; D+=67-69; D=63-66; F=below 63

Academic Integrity

NYU Abu Dhabi expects its students to adhere to the highest possible standards of scholarship and academic conduct. Students should be aware that engaging in behaviors that violate the standards of academic integrity will be subject to review and may face the imposition of penalties in accordance with the procedures set out in the NYUAD policy. Full details at: https://students.nyuad.nyu.edu/campus-life/student-policies/community-standards-policies/academic-integrity/



Slides and Handouts