Literally do not take this class. First of all, he barely lectures. He goes on tangents, never stays on topic, interjects unnecessarily with his weird social and political commentary, and barely reformatted class to be on Zoom. He worries more about his podcast than teaching this class and is extremely unaccommodating and understanding. It's almost as if we weren't in a global pandemic for this past year. extremely unavailable, doesn't have office hours, and is overall horrible. do not take this class.
I thoroughly enjoyed McWhorter's class. I realized my fascination for linguistics that I honestly wouldn't have gotten if I had a different professor. He is hilarious. He makes the class enjoyable, I honestly felt that the class was only 30 minutes long. The TA's are great as well. You do feel the community in the classroom, you won't find this in most classes. Go to OH, if he knows your name he'll help you out in the future. Did I mention the final isn't cumulative???
McWhorter is a fantastic and extremely engaging lecturer. Not only is he clear about linguistics concepts but he also illustrates them through very interesting, relevant, and sometimes personal examples. I was actually excited to come to class each day because I knew it would be a treat. The TAs for this course were also awesome. They led many review sessions and provided useful tips for succeeding on the exams. Their office hours were also fantastic for understanding how to do the homework. The problem sets can be slightly challenging and tricky. They definitely force you to apply the concepts that you have learned in class and to think logically. However, if you come to office hours, they all become very understandable. The exams are extremely straightforward and actually easier than the problem sets. As long as you put in an honest effort into the problem sets, the exams are very easy. I definitely recommend this course!
Professor McWhorter's lectures are hilarious (seriously) and even in a big lecture, attendance is always near 100%. He is brilliant and passionate about the material and it's exciting to learn from him. However, his lectures are also circuitous and its references seemingly irrelevant. I would leave class with a handful of vague notes that weren't at all applicable to the upcoming problem set. This is perhaps also just the nature of linguistics, a vague field in and of itself.
McWhorter is great--charismatic, undeniably knowledgeable, entertaining--and for the most part, Intro to Linguistics is a really great class. I won't reiterate the other reviews, but here are two things you should be aware of when considering taking this class: 1. The problem sets are pretty difficult, especially if you work on them alone. I recommend having a study group and going to office hours for each one. The difficulty often comes from very specific things you need to write in order to get full points that you otherwise wouldn't know to include unless you went to office hours. Pretty annoying, but it's definitely possible to do well. 2. People ask seriously inane questions during lecture. Like an earlier reviewer indicated, any time McWhorter opened the lecture for questions, a horde of sycophants asks questions like "This is some thing I've noticed in language that I thought was really smart of me to observe, do you agree that it exists?!?!" It gets old really. Quickly. (Looking at you there, redheaded girl.) DON'T BE ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE. If you must, save it for his office hours. Don't waste your classmates' time and only ask questions if you legitimately don't understand the content. Otherwise, I highly recommend the class. You'll learn a ton, have a blast in lecture, and have a good shot at getting a solid A if you put a little time into it. And aren't classes like this why you came to Columbia in the first place?
You know when you are watching a highly acclaimed movie and you keep waiting for the good part? The part that has made everyone rant and rave about it? Although, this might be an unpopular comment, this analogy directly relates to my experience in Linguistics. I love Dr. McWhorter- he is passionate about the subject he teaches, is knowledgable, up to date, reasonable about expectations, and quite funny. However, there were a couple of frustrating things about this course: 1) Much of Linguistics I found very boring- sentence diagramming, what sounds are placed where in the mouth, etc., pretty much the entire first half of the semester I found uninteresting. 2) The notes were usually full of tangents and were not clear- usually before a test I found myself asking what does this term mean? Why is it important? 3) Both the midterm and final exam had oddly specefic questions from class on them- why? 4) The homeworks were quite hard. Although I found the second half of the course to be more interesting (full of sociology and psychology) I would suggest this course to solely interact with Dr. McWhorter. However, for me, this class was not as easy or interesting as many of the previous reviewers made it out to be, and while I think I am earning an A/A-, I struggled a lot. I guess the good part of the class came when it was finally over.
John McWhorter is a fantastic lecturer. I never wanted to miss a class, as each one was filled with both important basic linguistic knowledge and many other vaguely related but equally fascinating tidbits. I really recommend this class to anyone with any interest in language or linguistics. McWhorter makes a lecture class participatory, making an effort to learn everyone's name and very willing to entertain questions and comments. His assignments may be a little intimidating at times, but he's very helpful and they end up making his exams a breeze.
It's been said in previous reviews, but I'll say it again--this guy is knowledgeable, personable, at times downright rib-cracking hilarious, and capable of bringing fascination to any subject he touches. The review that says he's a God pretty much sums it up. He is as comfortable at the podium as on his living room couch, and the tone he set for the class was infectious--he seemed to bring out the best in all his students--the best inquisitive, positive qualities. Office hours (Introduction to Linguistics) were a 30 person weekly party that I looked forward to attending more than actual parties. His lectures were, naturally, also a delight to attend. In contrast--to an almost amusingly absurd degree--was my experience with the TAs. I found them to be ignorant, difficult, and sometimes downright snide. Luckily I didn't have to experience them much. If you take linguistics--or anything--with Mr. McWhorter, you're making a great choice!
I was surprised to read the reviews below because while I agree that John McWhorter is in ways fabulous - funny, smart, engaging, often hilarious - the reviews have neglected to mention his disorganization, which ended up being pretty central to my experience in intro to linguistics. The class was fun, but as mentioned, swerved off into seemingly pointless and endless question and answer periods. In the end I'm not sure how much real material we covered. The problem sets were problematic in the same way. The TAs grading was all over the place. And so were the questions. Each set took me at least three hours, not because of the actual material, but because confusion over the questions asked - a problem I shared with almost everyone I spoke to in the class. When I sought out TAs to explain, they often had no idea what the questions wanted either. On one occasion a TA essentially gave me an answer - which another TA proceeded to mark incorrect when I turned the homework in. I think some of the problem set material went uncovered in class. I'm a good note-taker and a stay pretty focused, and yet occasional homework questions seemed entirely unfamiliar. In this way the textbook is helpful - while the readings never get explicitly referenced in class (and can be easily skipped, especially in the second half), the textbook (often sections never assigned) can be hugely helpful in filling in the problem set gaps. Otherwise, the earlier reviewers are right in calling it useless. In the end the general chaos of Intro to Linguistics became more funny than frustrating, but still I can't help responding to the reviews I've read. John McWhorter is the man. But his class leaves a lot to be desired.
One of the best professors I've had. Very animated, funny, entertaining but also just a brilliant mind and a nice guy. He takes the time to talk to you after class if you have questions and to answer questions on the homework. I happen to love the subject matter but even if I didn't I'd imagine it wouldn't be too bad because professor Mcwhorter makes most anything interesting. His lectures can be a bit all over the place but if you make sure to just write down most everything he says you'll be ok. Also, the homeworks are pretty tough. If you don't have a knack for linguistics they can be very challenging but the TA's are very helpful and so is he. I'd reccomend using the TA's office hours for hw questions- a lot!
I'll add to the chorus here. Professor McWhorter is a phenomenal lecturer, with a great balance of anecdotes and information. He's just naturally engaging and interesting, and you'll always be interested in what he has to say, whether it has to do with descriptivism vs. prescriptivism or his cats. Basically, what you come to CULPA for is to find out whether or not you should take the class, and the answer with Professor McWhorter is, "Yes, you should take the class." The rest of this review is basically filler, but perhaps it will help people know what to expect. I will add a dissenting voice to say that the class was more difficult than I anticipated. I would frequently stare at the homework blankly for a good thirty minutes before I started figuring anything out. And riddle-like is certainly the best description of the homework, and, in the opinion of more than one person I know in the class, riddle-like is also an apt description of the grading style. Nevertheless, with a good study group you can certainly figure out what you need to know for the homework, especially if you get in the habit of visiting the TAs or Professor McWhorter during office hours. Also, make sure you go to class every time as the textbook is absolutely useless. Very interesting, but useless for the class. Overall, I would basically take any course McWhorter offers, because he's brilliant. He makes class interesting from start to finish without sacrificing learning, which is a pretty impressive feat. While I did perhaps have some issues with the mechanics of the class, ultimately the combination of the sheer amount of things you learn in the course and Professor McWhorter's engaging style of lecturing makes Intro Lingusitics one of the best courses I've taken at Columbia.
McWhorter is extremely animated, approachable, and a bit of an oddball. He'll regale you with stories about errant opossums, his kittens, and his neighbors - and give you a broad survey of the linguistics field in the meantime. His unofficial office hours became more and more crowded each week, and if you bothered to talk to him, you would inevitably develop a rapport. He has a great sense of humor and it's easy to see that he enjoys being in front of a classroom - bounding around, trying to remember people's names, sucking on his dish of candies... but I know that some people might have a problem in this class despite his charisma and how fun the lectures are. For one, because it's difficult to seriously study all the areas of linguistics, he has his obvious biases - semantics is whatever, and pidgin languages and descriptivism FTW. Secondly, he entertains EVERY question. Every. Single. One. He has about two Q&A's in each class. While an open atmosphere never hurt anybody - especially at Columbia, where competition and performance seem omnipresent - it really does end up wasting time. There are going to be students in every class, especially linguistics classes, who feel the need to bring up their childhood, relatives, and language and how the concept McWhorter just taught may or may not apply, but they haven't made up their mind yet, so they're just going to talk about it during open forum, and blah blah blah blah as their classmates couldn't care less whether or not French/Mandarin/Croatian/Arabic/baby nephew/my neighbor/my father/et al subscribe to this obscure rule. If you think about the time we spend on the lecturer's and students' tangents, you realize we could have covered much more material in class. It could be annoying for somebody who wants a more rigorous introduction to the field, but it's not exactly unpleasant to have such a friendly welcome to the subject. Thirdly, the homework can be a bit of a toss-up. Find a group to do homework with because asking either McWhorter or the TA's for help was an exercise in frustration - it seemed like they felt they had to give you the answer or not help at all. Often the TA's would get frustrated and act all pissy, which was unwarranted, especially because most of them were undergraduates and didn't fully understand the topics themselves. But the good news is that this class is extremely easy.
I took two courses with Prof. Gasparov: Introduction to Linguistics, and Discourse Analysis. He is both brilliant and a phenomenal pedagogue. While I would have liked the intro course to be more technical, Prof. Gasparov gave a wonderful overview of the field. In Discourse Analysis, we analyzed different philosophies of discourse: class was a mix of very clear explanations in a lecture style and discussion. For each philosophy, we had a practicum in which we would apply the theory by analyzing some language sample (writing or speech).
There are no words. The best professor I have ever had at Columbia or anywhere else. SO funny, SO intelligent, SO informal, the course was just an amazing experience. He spends roughly half of every class telling jokes or personal anecdotes which are rarely sleazy or corny, so the class would be laughing all the time, while at the same time getting all this knowledge that he had to give. He structured the course in a very systematic manner and it covered everything from Phonology/Morphology/Syntax to Historical Linguistics to Speech Disorders. Truly an introduction in every word yet you learn a lot. Plus it was super easy to get a good grade. If you're remotely interested in any sort of language, take this class!!
Professor McWhorter is a GOD. Best class I've taken since coming here. He is hilarious, smart, well spoken, engaging, easy to talk to, easy to get in touch with, easygoing, and wonderful. I looked forward to this class every week, even though it was very late (6:10-7:25) and during dinnertime. The material of the course is interesting, and he makes it relatable for students. Go to his office hours! He will be more than happy to sit and talk to you; about the class, any questions you have, or life in general. I've already declared my major, but this class made me want to change it to Linguistics. Moral of the story: I would highly recommend taking this class with him.
This was a really fun class. I took it on a whim as an elective and was glad I did. McWhorter is a fantastic and engaging lecturer: enthusiastic, hilarious, incredibly bright, and personable. He strays from the book so you have to go to class, but that's hardly a chore with McWhorter. Very open to questions and participation (although sometimes a little too open, sometimes he should have told some over-talkative students to can it) and when asked a question he can't answer, will actually look it up and tell you instead of bull-shitting you like some professors do. Learned the names of a lot of the class, which is rare in a big lecture. The information is usually fascinating, and even the dry parts (phonology, for example) are made relatively interesting. The homeworks are tricky and sometimes graded harshly, but they are usually tricky in a fun puzzle-y way. Exams are very fair.
I found Amelia to be very helpful, as the other reviewer writes. She knew my name, remembered things we had discussed, and was very flexible in meeting with students. She was willing to answer e-mails full of questions with detailed responses, even if it was late and the night before the assignment was due. Attending office hours with her or with Ben is absolutely necessary to do well in the class, as Professor Timberlakeâ€™s lectures are terrible. That said, her competence cannot completely make up for the classâ€™s terrible lectures and confusing material. Though I am grateful for all of her help, I certainly would not call the course â€œenjoyableâ€.
Throughout the semester, lectures became increasingly disorganized and typically had nothing to do with the reading or homework assignments. Mostly Professor Timberlake rambles, and sometimes itâ€™s interesting but usually itâ€™s not. At first I thought I could depend on the reading to get me through the course, considering the professorâ€™s deficient lecture skills. But when the reading stopped relating to the homework a few weeks in, I had to rely on Wikipedia to understand the concepts and complete my homework. How sad is that? Also, the TAs were frequently a better resource than the professorâ€™s lectures. I stopped doing the reading a few weeks in, and I ultimately stopped coming to lectures unless I had to turn something in, or I would bring other work to do other while there. I found my attendance at the TAs' office hours to be much more important to my grade. Really, I would not have survived the class without Amelia and Ben. The take home final was very long and parts of it seemed impossible. Beyond that, the class was actually not too difficult. (If you met with the TAs and used Wikipedia, that is.) I think it says a lot that I rarely attended lecture but still did well in the class. Before I took this class, I thought that I would pursue a concentration in Linguistics. Now I know that I do not want to study further in a concentration that is directed by this professor, but I am frustrated because I really donâ€™t know if I would actually be interested in the subject under different circumstances. I cannot tell if I would actually appreciate linguistics if I had received more relevant and engaging instruction.
Professor Timberlake. Pause. One of the most passionate professors I've had at Columbia. Knows a lot about linguistics and language(s), and is open to questions and challenges. He will answer your e-mails, talk to you after class, and give you all the attention you might want/need. True, he can be a little disorganized at times. NOT IMPORTANT!!!! It's minor, it's nothing, you'll forget this tiny flaw when you are faced with what he has to offer. The course covers a lot of material, and I found myself fascinated in every lecture! The readings are interesting, the work is pleasant and necessary. While I came to this class with an innate passion for language, I now want to get a PhD in Linguistics - major life decision here. I will always have Professor Timberlake to thank for this. Whether you're a language lover or a curious person, take this class! Be ready to work hard, but it'll be all worth it in the end.
I had a mixed experience in this class. Professor Timberlake is very scatterbrained and unorganized, which was funny at times, and annoying at others. He often made mistakes on the questions we had for homework, which can really change a problem in linguistics. However, he is clearly very intelligent and great to talk to in office hours or after class if you have questions or curiosities about the subject matter. I found the material very interesting, but class could drag on sometimes.
If you know anything about linguistics already, don't take this course. If you know nothing, it's still probably not a good idea. Alan teaches in a flippant, cursory manner that fails to really educate â€“ all you get from the class are some slightly interesting anecdotes about language, and that's only if you manage to stay awake during the lectures. I only went to class when I had nothing better to do, but I still got an A (granted, I knew something about linguistics beforehand).
August 29th: My friend: "What class are you most excited for?" Me: Linguistics! My friend: ::unsuccessfully tries to smother a nervous face:: me: "Why?? What? did you take it? that's okay, you can tell me" My friend: "I just found that it was very technical and I'm just not interested in all the details, so I found it realy boring" me: "oh, i'll be fine- i love that sort of thing" I often thought about that ominous discussion, trhoughout the course of the semester. i found prof. timberlake incredibly hard to follow, in class. the problem sets were increasingly unmanageable. i thought it would be good to take linguistics because it's not a subject i will ever read about on my own, and i'd like to have some knowledge of it. i wish i had read about it on my own. so much of class and the time iput in it was busy work. if you just want to taste this subject, i strongly recommend just reading a book about it.
She is the BEST TA I've ever had at Columbia. She is so incredibly educated and obviously loves linguistics, and originally she was just a "grader" but upgraded to main TA because the other one (Katya) had no clue what she was doing. Amelia worked so hard and was the perfect complement to Alan's slightly scatterbrained way of teaching. She graded all of the homework and knew each subject like the back of her hand. She would follow up on smaller conversations about linguistics every time, and was always available to meet or discuss different things outside of class. Somehow she knew everyone's names (I don't know how) and she also really obviously cared about whether or not people understood the material. She actually took it upon herself to hold two extra sessions post-class because so many people showed up for her office hours, and she spent hours just explaining material that we did not understand in a way so that we could grasp it and use it. Amelia saved my interest in this subject because I want to grow up and be as cool as she is one day. I honestly wouldn't have survived this class (or at least would not have enjoyed it so much) without Amelia and am truly grateful that she was my TA.
Katya is literally the worst TA I've ever had. She is not a linguistics person, so I'm not sure what she was doing in Linguistics save for the Russian factor, because she had no idea what she was doing. She'd come in late every class (which was really obvious because she wore clunky boots that made more noise than I'd ever thought possible) and she could not answer even the simplest of questions. Her "sections" after class were funny just because every question sent her directly to the book where, obviously, everyone had already been, and she didn't understand the material. She also forgot the homework at home several times. She was just so timid and always seemed like she was on the verge of tears. I feel like this girl is too fragile to be a TA -- we all were torn between feeling really bad for her and also just annoyed that she was so incompetent. Hopefully, she will never TA a linguistics class again. I don't think that she or the class could handle it.
Oh, Alan. What can I say about Alan? He obviously loves linguistics, and after meeting with him a few times I can tell that he's actually pretty organized and really intelligent. In class, however, this is not apparent. He's totally scatterbrained, his powerpoints were never in order (not once) and he seemed confused most of the time. Every single email and homework assignment had a typo, and in linguistics this is actually a big deal. We had a take-home final and every single day until the day before it was due he sent out corrections that students had caught. It was ridiculous. Totally ridiculous. HOWEVER. Although Alan was somewhat exasperating, he was also really into linguistics and knows so much that it slightly makes up for all the shortcomings. I still plan on concentrating or majoring in linguistics, and Alan's class was actually really enjoyable for all its ridiculousness. I came to every lecture and learned to just stop taking notes and to just sit back, relax, and enjoy the hilarity that was Alan Timberlake. Love it.
Timberlake is funny and all of that but eventually he gets a bit boring. The lectures start out important and helpful but soon turn into silly ramblings and unnecessary theory. Bring other work to class, or a crossword puzzle, as many other students do, because even though you don't really have to be there, he takes attendance. It's a good class if you want to get to know the basics, or if you want to major or concentrate in linguistics.
Amazing professor. I came into the class thinking I might want to major or minor in linguistics, and left with no doubt that I want to major in it. He can be a little unorganized, but it was never a problem. His lectures were absolutely fascinating, and I never had a problem staying awake for them. He's really helpful both during class and after (there was usually a long line to talk to him after class, although usually just to discuss, not ask for help). There was a fairly light workload, and the lectures corresponded nicely. I cannot recommend him enough. Take this class!
Alan Timberlake was a fun professor, clearly passionate about linguistics, and fair and kind to students. However, I feel like I got more out of the readings in this class than the lectures. The readings covered an interesting and broad range of topics, and yet Prof. Timberlake tended to focus on a few obscure technical topics and spend a very long time talking about them. By the end of the semester I had stopped listening during lectures. At least everyone in the class seemed to be genuinely interested in the topic. If you are interested in linguistics, you should definitely consider this enjoyable class - just make sure to do the readings.
Alan Timberlake is a great person whose obvious enthusiasm for linguistics may have been the only saving grace to his disorganized class. Every lecture was long and unstructured and, though Timberlake did an excellent job of finding interesting trivia to show the class, I wish his lectures were a little more centered. Additionally, his lectures do nothing to address the concepts in the assigned reading. Since Timberlake failed to reinforce sometimes painfully complex concepts, the homework was at times nightmarish and parts of the final were like trying to solve a riddle. Though Timberlake is a nice and approachable person, he was somewhat inaccessible. Furthermore dealing with his unsympathetic and confusing TA only left me with more questions. Also note that the homeworks were mysteriously graded by someone other than the TA who still remains anonymous to me. There were no corrective comments and no resource for feedback since I presume the TA did not see the students' work. By the time the final rolled around I had amassed a large number of unanswered questions pertaining to the subject matter. Lastly, though at times I found this subject matter to be very interesting, it is not what one might expect from linguistics. If you are only interested in language in social contexts and aren't particuarly fascinated by sentence diagramming or phonological or morphological structures, this may not be the class for you. Timberlake should be praised for his playful attitude and boundless knowledge of lingustics but sadly this class would need to be far more organized and clear for me to recommend it to anyone.
The Professor: If you want to spend an hour and fifteen minutes listening to a well-organized, coherent lecture, then Alan Timberlake is NOT the professor for you. At best, his lectures are thought-provoking, demonstrating how linguistics and the real world intersect. At worst, his lectures are rambling, sporadic, and constantly interrupted by certain-know-it-alls in the classroom that begin to ask a question but end up stating something that falsely asserts their intelligence. I hate to say this, but the majority of the lectures fell to the "at worst" part of the spectrum. In addition, there is a disparity between the materials in his lectures and the homework assignments that he doles out. This is a real pain in the ass because as the homeworks progressively become more difficult, the the textbook becomes less and less useful. Without guidance from the lectures or the book, I was pretty much left in the dark. The reading materials: "Contemporary Linguistics" is somewhat helpful, but Prof. Timberlake uses it less and less as the semester wears on. The "Language" book is rather useless, as are the extra readings that he assigns. In general: If you had previously taken linguistics courses, this class is (al)right for you. Otherwise, I don't recommend this class.
Alan Timberlake definitely has a passion for teaching and for linguistics -- he is interesting to watch during lectures. He spent 30 minutes on the word "acessorize" during our first class, and it wasn't boring! Unfortunately, if you're not passionate about linguistics, this class is unpleasant. Timberlake is interesting to watch but his lectures have nothing to do with the text book or the homework about 90% of the time. To make matters worse, roll is taken every class. The subject matter of the course is also not very interesting unless you're that special type of linguistics person... just because you are interested in languages doesn't mean you will find this course's scientific attempts to codify the un-codifiable entity known as language interesting in the least.
Alan is great. His love for linguistics was evident in every class. I thought that this class was usually interesting, however, some students seemed really into it while others slept most of the time. I suppose it really depended on how much each person cared about the subject in general. Alan did make plenty of jokes to keep life interesting, although sometimes he was the only one that really understood them (but that's okay - it was entertaining to watch him laugh at his own jokes - he's awesome). Class was always really casual. Quite a bit of reading was assigned, yet I honestly (and somewhat regretfully) didn't do much of it. The grading system for the homeworks was a complete mystery, Tom the TA explaining that a "5 is the best, 4 is good, 3 is not-so-good and anything below is terrible. " I guess that is an alright explanation. The homeworks were sometimes difficult (sometimes too difficult), but usually were manageable with the help of the textbook. Both Alan and Tom were really nice and understanding about exercises that were particularly hard. There are no tests except for a take-home final. Even with so many resources, it was pretty challenging and took a long time, I spent probably 20-25 hours on it. As far as final grades, I pulled a B+ without doing much work. I don't think anyone got below a B if any sort of effort was put into the final.
The reviewer below is right. Professor Timberlake is a crazy, funny man. He's a great teacher. He teaches pretty well; class is a little long, but it's pretty fun to just sit there and watch him teach; he often brings in "exhibits" that are pretty interesting. The only downsides to the class were attendance (may or may not have counted toward grading; the world may never know), the cryptically graded weekly homework (try to figure out what a 3+ or 5 means); and the brutally time-consuming and difficult take-home final (expect to take 10-30 hrs. on this, depending on your talent and how well you want to do). Regardless, the class seems to have been leniently, if mysteriously, graded. Still, despite it all, I'd recommend the class and the prof.
I love this man... and the class. Both are completely wonderful! Alan is hilarious and laid back always. The subject matter is sometimes a bit dry... but for the most part it is an interesting class - i've never once dreaded having to go. This is definitely a great class and an amazing professor.
Great course to take. Prof. Gasparov is tremendously knowledgable and nice. Though there was a lot of reading, it wasn't necessary to do it all, and the reader and textbook are interesting enough to get you to do at least some. Disregard the previous review dissing Prof. Gasparov's knowledge of English. Yes, he has a strong accent, but I never found him unintelligble. Also, he explained in class that he had consciously chosen to retain his accent when he came to the US to keep the "educated foreigner" persona rather than just sounding like he talked strangely. The man is a linguist; he knows language. You won't have problems with his examples.
Luckily, this course counts for nothing but blank credits- no majors, no distribution requirements, nothing (as far as I know). This means everyone taking the class will actually be INTERESTED in the subject. Because of this, discussions are usually worthwhile. Okay, so sometimes Dr. Gasparov does let students go on a little too long in their own lectures. The subjects lends itself to anecdotes about second cousins, friends of friends, and that girl in the mall who talks funny. But every now and then, the ramblings do have an interesting point. And in a class so based on discussion, how can this be completely avoided? The material: No, it doesn't go very deeply into any particular topic. It's an intro course. It's an excellent survey of historic and current work in the field, the readings are relevant and interesting. I suppose the class is more teaching about the field and study of linguistics than preparing you to do your own research. It's refreshing to take a course purely for enjoyment. The homework and tests were pretty easy, but I get the idea that your grade isn't the point of the course. And it is enjoyable. Dr. Gasparov's often really funny, and he's done so many amazing things; his stories are actually entertaining and have to do with the course. All in all, a great class if you like linguistics. If you're taking a really hard semester and want a class you won't have to worry about and cram for, but will still get a lot out of, I recommend this one.
this class is a mess. gasparov doesn't have a native understanding of english so he can't really give examples of any of the concepts we study, which results in the class trying to provide examples and the professor trying to determine whether they are appropriate, not really knowing. gasparov lets all the obnoxious know-it-alls in class voice their ideas, but the class is really too big for this sort of thing. and the material is covered so rapidly that you learn only the most obvious, intuitive things from each topic. i really discourage anyone from taking this class. buy a textbook and teach yourself. if you ARE in this class, don't bother to attend lectures. i have never been glad i've attended one.
What can I say? It's great that there's at least one linguistics course in Columbia. But due to the "introductory" nature of the course, you'll go through a whirlwind tour of the various fields of the subject, and come out without a real grip on any of the concepts. As long as you accept that, this is a great course to take. Classes are dicussion sessions rather than lectures (i.e. not much to be learnt) but you'll probably be among intelligent company. There will be boring stretches, but Prof Gasparov's anecdotes are very amusing, and he's accessible during office hours.