ENGL 482/550 (Section 901, Schedule #34692/34702)
Virginia Commonwealth University
Spring 2017
MW 4-5:15pm :: Hibbs 440
Prof. David Golumbia
Office: 324D Hibbs Hall
Spr 2017 Office Hours: MW 1:30-2, 2:50-4pm

Theories of Language

Despite its centrality of language to every part of human life, and to many parts of academic research, there is and has always been very little agreement among scholars and other thinkers about just what "language" is. This class surveys major works from a number of traditions that attempt to address that question, primarily including philosophy of language, linguistics, and literary theory. We’ll read work by and about figures including Plato, Locke, Humboldt, Chomsky, Saussure, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Kripke, and Taylor. Students will write two medium-length papers or one longer paper, and offer one brief presentation in class. The class will be taught mostly by discussion with some lecture. Students will benefit from having had some prior exposure to one or more of the approaches, disciplines, or lines of thought to be covered in the class.



Assignments and Evaluation

Evaluation will be based on written exercises and course participation as follows:

Course-Specific Policies

Official VCU Policy Statements

Please consult the Provost's official page on topics such as classroom conduct, email, the Honor System, and other important policy issues.

Week-by-Week Syllabus

Week One. Introduction

Week Two. Introduction; McWhorter

Week Three. McWhorter, What Language Is

Week Four. Cratylus

Week Five. Cratylus

Week Six. Kripke, Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language

Week Seven. Kripke, Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language

Spring Break. No classes.

Week Eight. Chomsky, Aspects of the Theory of Syntax

Week Nine. Baker, Atoms of Language

Week Ten. Chomsky, Science of Language

Week Eleven. Essays by Martin Heidegger, Walter Benjamin

Week Twelve. Taylor, The Language Animal

Week Thirteen. Taylor, The Language Animal

Week Fourteen. John Joseph, Jacques Derrida

Week Fifteen. Derrida

Final paper is due via email to the professor by the final exam period for this course, Monday May 8, 4pm. There is no final exam for this course.

Last updated April 20, 2017.