Course preparation

At 3:30 this afternoon begins the first departmental colloquium of the year at Stanford, presentations of their work by five summer interns for 2012, including Melissa Carvell, on the Linguistics in the Comics project directed by Elizabeth Traugott and me. Melissa’s slides are available here; the link takes you to a file that needs to be downloaded to view.

The final product was a draft of a course outline for the course (investigating how courses are organized was one of the points of the project). Not on the slides were the readng assignments for the course, excerpts from two books:

Language Files: Materials for an Introduction to Language and Linguistics (10th ed.), from the Department of Linguistics at Ohio State University

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, by Scott McCloud (1993)

One further source at roughly the right level for a freshman seminar arrived in my mailbox too late to be worked into the schedule:

Understanding Language Through Humor, by Stanley Dubinsky and Chris Holcomb (2011)

Dubinsky & Holcomb is a short (202 pages, including reading suggestions, notes, glossary, and index) intro, using jokes as an entry point into a full range of beginning topics. Comics and cartoons play a big role in the book: each chapter except the first and last is introduced by a cartoon; some others are worked into the text; and a number of others are described, without the images, there. (Note: the book is about language, not humor; D&H treat humor straightforwardly as turning on incongruity.)

The chapter titles give a sense of the range of topics:

1 Introduction
2 Talking to Garfield: Human and animal communication
3 Did I hear that right? The sounds of language
4 Twisted words: Word structure and meaning
5 Fitting words together: Phrase structure and meaning
6 Meaning one thing and saying another: Indirect speech and conversational principles
7 Fitting the pieces together: The structure of discourse
8 “Kids say the darndest things”: Children acquiring language
9 Variety is the spice of life: Language variation
10 Cross-cultural gaffes: Language and culture
11 The language police: Prescriptivism and standardization
12 So long, and thanks for all the fish …

There’s a lot of serious material in there, written in an engaging style.

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