About this Course
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Beginner Level


Subtitles: English, Romanian, Arabic, Bulgarian

Skills you will gain

Essay WritingHistoryEnglish LanguageChinese Language

100% online

Start instantly and learn at your own schedule.

Flexible deadlines

Reset deadlines in accordance to your schedule.

Beginner Level


Subtitles: English, Romanian, Arabic, Bulgarian

Syllabus - What you will learn from this course

4 hours to complete

Introduction to Linguistics

In this first week, we will try to determine what makes language human: why do (almost) all human beings have a language, and what makes human language different from animal communication systems? We will furthermore discuss the many different places where linguists work, and the many different methodologies that they use for conducting their research. You will moreover get to know all the other participants in this MOOC: my students Inge and Marten, as well as the speakers of six different languages. Finally, don't forget to watch our first expert interview: Marten and Inge have talked with Dr. Victoria Nyst of Leiden University, who has enlightened us in the fascinating world of sign languages! For the assignments with the support of Ethnologue, please make sure to study the instructions listed in 'required and optional readings' of this module.

14 videos (Total 74 min), 6 readings, 1 quiz
14 videos
Human Language and Animal Communication Systems6m
Human Language Versus Other 'Languages'9m
Discussion with Marten and Inge: Language Diversity9m
Language Diversity and Ethnologue8m
Discussion with Marten and Inge: What do Linguists do?13m
Interview with Dr. Victoria Nyst10m
Introduction language informants + introducing Han Hu, Speaker of Mandarin Chinese4m
Introducing Roberta D'Alessandro, speaker of Abruzzese48s
Introducing Khalid Mourigh, speaker of Tarifit Berber51s
Introducing Varun DeCastro-Arrazola, speaker of Basque1m
Introducing Beste Sevindik, speaker of Turkish1m
Introducing Enoch Aboh, speaker of Gungbe1m
Conclusion; language and dialect2m
6 readings
Meet the instructor & his team5m
Welcome to Leiden University5m
Community Guidelines & Academic Toolkit10m
Study tips for studying online5m
Registration Ethnologue10m
Required and optional readings30m
1 practice exercise
Test your knowledge 124m
2 hours to complete

The study of sound: Phonology and Phonetics

In this module we will delve into what appear to be the smallest building blocks of spoken language: 'sounds'. As we will see however, all is not what it seems, as we will in fact encounter an even smaller building block of language, a true atom. Another interesting thing about this module is that as of this week our 6 informants will all only speak their own language. Naturally, there is also an interview with my very special friend Prof. dr. Claartje Levelt, whom I have announced before.

13 videos (Total 62 min), 1 reading, 1 quiz
13 videos
Production of speech sounds7m
Discussion with Marten and Inge: consonants of world languages8m
Sounds in systems7m
Discussion with Marten and Inge: sounds and language change11m
Interview with Prof. dr. Claartje Levelt7m
Introduction + Tarifit Berber4m
Mandarin Chinese1m
Conclusion; sounds and gestures1m
1 reading
Required and optional readings30m
1 practice exercise
Test your knowledge 224m
5 hours to complete

The study of words and sentences: Morphology and Syntax

In this module we will discuss words and sentences. All languages have them; but as I will illustrate, they can be organized in very different ways in different languages. I will furthermore demonstrate what cupcakes have in common with words in a sentence. This module's interview is with one of the most cited and re-knowned linguists alive, Prof. Noam Chomsky! Finally, our 6 language informants will provide us with information about the word order in their languages.

14 videos (Total 86 min), 1 reading, 2 quizzes
14 videos
Discussion with Marten and Inge: world of words11m
Syntax and word order (a)8m
Syntax and word order (b)5m
Discussion with Marten and Inge: world of word order8m
Interview with Prof. Noam Chomsky28m
Introduction + Basque3m
Tarifit Berber2m
Mandarin Chinese55s
Conclusion; structure beyond sentences1m
1 reading
Required and optional readings1h
1 practice exercise
Test your knowledge 324m
3 hours to complete

The study of meaning: Pragmatics and Semantics

This module deals with a topic which many of you find very interesting: meaning. How do we determine what a word means? To what extent does our language influence our thinking? How can we change the world with language? As usual, we also have an additional interview with an expert of the current module's theme: in this module Barend Beekhuizen talks to Inge and Marten about his work as a Leiden PhD student in computational linguistics.

13 videos (Total 66 min), 2 readings, 1 quiz
13 videos
Discussion with Marten and Inge: color and snow10m
Discussion with Marten and Inge: changing the world with sentences9m
Interview with Barend Beekhuizen MA11m
Introduction + Abruzzese1m
Tarifit Berber1m
Mandarin Chinese2m
Conclusion; untranslatable words?1m
2 readings
Required and optional readings1h
Quiz readings10m
1 practice exercise
Test your knowledge 424m
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Top reviews from Miracles of Human Language: An Introduction to Linguistics

By DCSep 24th 2017

Extremely informational, well presented, with questions that stimulate reflection. The optional reading material is food for thought. I hope to see more courses from the same professor and University.

By SSMar 22nd 2019

I've taken a number of online courses on linguistics now, and this one was by and far the best. The material covered is indepth and engaging, and the professor's enthusiam makes the videos a delight.



Marc van Oostendorp

Prof. Dr
Meertens instituut

About Universiteit Leiden

Leiden University is one of Europe's foremost research universities. This prominent position gives our graduates a leading edge in applying for academic posts and for functions outside academia. Leiden University is the oldest university in the Netherlands. It was founded in February 1575, as a gift from William of Orange to the citizens of Leiden after they had withstood a long siege by the Spanish. Our motto is: Praesidium Libertatis — Bastion of Liberty....

About Meertens instituut (KNAW)

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