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).
Professor Gasparov is everything you would have hoped for. Brilliant, well-spoken, but never intimidating. The course has a definite ideological bent, but that's sort of the point-- you get enough Chomskyan linguistics elsewhere (psych, CS, intro to linguistics), so this class provides a useful contrast.
I signed up for this class on a whim, and I am so glad that I decided to stay with it. The syllabus was very well organized to give a clear overview of the history of semantics, and the other students were all very into the subject. The best part of the class, though, was the professor. Though the readings were minimal, he used his lectures to put them into context with so much clarity, knowledge and wit that the course was more enlightening than some I've taken with five times as much reading. His lectures are funny and engaging - I loved just sitting back and listening to him relate his own experiences in linguistics circles in the 1960s, his time in Berkeley, his return to Russia, etc. A quarter of my notes are just quotations of his that I couldn't resist writing down. (It's particularly fun to listen to him talk about Chomskyans.) I never found his accent a challenge (though you might want to sit near the front of the room), and his English was virtually perfect, so I don't know why people seem to have a problem with it. He talked with the confidence and depth you imagine from a real old-school professor, the type I came to Columbia to learn from. On top of his knowledge and subtle humor, he is a kind and fair professor. He responded to student questions patiently, and he clearly enjoys teaching. You will not regret taking a class with Professor Gasparov, so if you have the chance to do so, take it.
Boris is a really smart guy. The stuff he says can be truly profound and inspiring, if you can understand him. He's got a thick Russian accent and grammar that is so precise that he often constructs his sentences in ways that no native speaker would ever do. English is his worst language- of course, I think he speaks about 10 other languages. He talks about 90% of the class, sometimes going on tangents about hippies in communist Russia and once he spent an hour doing a thorough review of world history, for some unknown reason. He is also a pretty easy grader. That's why I liked this class; he was brilliant and required less work than most other Lit Hum professors.
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.
Proffessor Gasparov is a very nice man, but the syllabus for this class is really unenlightening and the class discussions don't exist. This class was a huge disapointment. We never spoke about the works themselves, only minor points or issues around the works. The music and film element is so minor it could not exist either,
After the first semester of Lit Hum, Professor Gasparov yielded the lectern in my section to a professor in the classics department. I miss him. He taught Lit Hum in a low-key but highly interesting manner, occasionally adding amusing commentary on how the "20th Century was the worst century in human history." While he would occasionally spend too long going off on tangents about the history of archaeology in Greece, I was very pleased with the semester overall. He doesn't teach Lit Hum often, so consider yourself lucky if you happen to draw him.