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Languages of the World

Monday, March 30, 2015 to Friday, June 5, 2015
Course topic: 


More than 6,000 languages are spoken in the world today, and their variety seems unbounded. This linguistic diversity tells us a lot about the development of human language and thought. It also serves as an important tool for understanding the history of human civilization and what it means to be human. In this course, we will examine how languages change and how historical relationships among languages can be ascertained. We will study how languages spoken today reveal the history of populations migrating, splitting, and interacting. We will investigate how languages around the globe differ in their sounds, words, and grammar and will address the question of whether the language one speaks affects how one thinks and perceives the world. We will learn that the variation among languages is not as unrestrained as it may seem to a casual observer, which will lead us to question why human languages evolved to be different yet not limitlessly so. Finally, we will become familiar with cutting-edge scholarship showing that language is not simply a means for communication but rather the essence of what makes us human.

This is an online course. Thanks to the flexibility of the online format, this course can be taken anywhere, anytime—a plus for students who lead busy lives or for whom regular travel to the Stanford campus is not possible. While necessarily structured differently from an on-campus classroom course, this course maintains a similar level of instructor engagement through videos, interactive exercises, and discussion with fellow students, as well as optional online video conferencing sessions.

Tuition Applies.


Asya Pereltsvaig, Lecturer in Linguistics, Stanford

Asya Pereltsvaig received a PhD in linguistics from McGill and has taught at Yale, Cornell, and Stanford, as well as at several European universities. Her area of specialization is Slavic and Semitic languages. Her latest book is Languages of the World: An Introduction.DOWNLOAD THE PRELIMINARY SYLLABUS » (subject to change)- See more at: