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MIRACLES OF HUMAN LANGUAGE:

INTRODUCTION TO LINGUISTICS.

AN

MARC VAN OOSTENDORP


LEIDEN UNIVERSITY

Hi, I'm Marc van Oostendorp. This is Leiden University. Welcome to this course on the miracles of
human language. This is our studio where we prepared a course full of
surprises, full of miracles of human language.
THE COURSE. This course is all about diversity, and it's also about
similarity. That's because there are about 6,000 languages in the
world. They're diverse. They're all different, but they are also similar
in some way. How is that possible? That's one thing, an important
thing that we're going to explore in this course. We're going to
explore this in five modules.
MODULE 1: INTRODUCTION. In the first module, we talk about
questions like what makes language so typically human, or
differentiates it from, from animal languages, for instance. And we're going to see how linguists go
about their work. There are different kinds of linguists, and we're going to meet them.
MODULE 2: SOUNDS. In the second module, we talk about sounds of language. How do we produce
sounds? How do we distinguish sounds? How do we organize sounds in our minds?
MODULE 3: WORDS AND SENTENCES. In the third module, we talk about words and sentences. How
are languages different in the way in which they create words? How are they different in the way in
which they organize words into sentences?
MODULE 4: MEANING. In the fourth module we talk about meaning. How do we give meaning to words
and sentences in human languages? And how do languages differ in that?
MODULE 5: LANGUAGE IN SOCIAL CONTEXT. In the fifth module, we talk about language in its social
context. We talk about how language is actually used in, let's say, everyday life.
Since this course is all about diversity, there's also diversity within every module. It's not just me
explaining things to you. We also have discussions with students, and interviews with experts, with
linguists from the Netherlands and other countries about linguistics, about their job. But most of all, we
have speakers of different languages. We have found six speakers of six very different languages. They
will give examples of how they speak of words and sentences in their language. And it will be up to you
to analyze those examples. If you're in an advanced track or you just like that kind of thing, we also

invite you to submit your own language, to make videos in which you give those same words and
sentences in your own language. And then, other students can analyze those.
We also invite you to participate. We have an online forum on our course page. And if you like that kind
of thing, we also have a Facebook group in which you can discuss these things. But in any case, we hope
to see you very soon in the first module of our course on the miracles of human language.