Alan Timberlake

This professor has earned a CULPA silver nugget

Jan 2021

Overall: - A mess of a Global Core class. - Marginally helpful in furthering your knowledge of Slavic cultures - Unnecessary amount of work required Re: Lectures— I took this class during the COVID-19 pandemic, so the tech and Zoom-associated issues were inevitable. But with the organization of the Courseworks page alongside the first few lectures in which Timberlake lectured—it was not an ideal set-up, not inherently nor with the extenuating circumstances. Re: Learning experience— I didn't learn much from the lectures. Everything I learned from this class is from the 8 mini papers I had to write for the course. I didn't particularly like the readings we had to do for this class either (a lot of them were more historical than literary), and frankly didn't do a good percentage of them (80%), but I still got an A. This is all to say that a lot of the class felt self-learned. Re: TAs— The TAs are the ones grading your papers, so it's important who's assigned to review your work over the semester. Actually, a lot of the grad students in the Slavic department are quite nice and very knowledgeable. Effectively, there's not a huge (?) difference in who you get. Nevertheless, some are harsher graders than others. Be advised. Re: Workload— - Workload consisted of 1 midterm, 1 final, 8 mini-papers (5 of which have to be about films you watch for class), and participation. I personally found the grading for the midterm and final quite stupid. - I did none of the readings for the midterm and only a couple for the final, and received very good grades for both exams. So, I was a bit confused. - Regarding the 8-mini papers. God, they were so annoying. We were instructed to write 1 page (1.5 spaced) for a given question... but honestly each paper required so much research, that I ended up spending more time writing something closer to a formal paper than a discussion post. - Participation was a joke. Maybe this was more a function of Zoom, but everybody basically had their cameras off and had to be called on by the TA's to speak.

Nov 2019

This class is great. It's very interesting, the slavic cultures and histories are super fun to learn about. as a lecturer, Timberlake is quite disorganized, but the TAs are awesome. we often have guest lecturers or the TAs give presentations, so it's often not Timberlake leading the class. he is hard to understand bc his voice is very low, he also tends to ramble.. but as long as you do the readings/watch the films we are supposed to watch, it's a very rewarding class, and not too difficult.

Dec 2013

Professor Timberlake is charming, as so many reviewers have already noted here, and his quirky sense of humor helped make a potentially dry topic palatable and even interesting. He might not have McWhorter's showmanship, but I looked forward to his lectures just as much. For the most part, lectures were centered around readings from a textbook by Andrew Carnie. It was refreshing to be assigned regular readings from the same textbook and not regret having purchased said text at semester's end (which is usually the case for me, because most textbooks are boring/irrelevant or rarely assigned). In response to the previous reviewer, A.T. is far from inept. I found his explanations thorough and his lectures very helpful in completing the problem sets. Just because he claims that he does not understand ambiguous parts of Carnie's theory, it does not follow that "he does not even have a handle on [...] foundational principals." It seemed to me he was actually pointing out minor weaknesses or inconsistencies in the Carnie chapters, only in his characteristically friendly manner. I agree that the linguistics department at Columbia is limited, but it's true weakness is its small size, not its current faculty. Timberlake is one of the most personable profs I've had over the past four years, and I can see him being a wonderful resource to anyone with an interest in graduate-level studies. I'd recommend this class to anyone with an interest in the topic. Skim the Carnie book and go to the first few lectures to be sure its for you. Then enjoy!

Dec 2013

Alan Timberlake is the most offensively inept professor I could ever even imagine. It is already disappointing that Columbia has such a limited Linguistics program, but that Professor Timberlake is the head of the "department" exacerbates this disappointment even more. There is little hope for Columbia to ever be able to accommodate those who are truly interested in the field when nearly the only person who feigns teaching it does not even have a handle on its foundational principles, let alone the complex ideas that this foundation has generated and that are currently being studied by those who treat Linguistics as the rigorous science that it truly is. Few readings were assigned from those who developed key ideas in the field, and when these primary sources were assigned, it was obviously without any consideration as to how this -- highly complex -- material should be presented. Assignments were indecipherable -- Timberlake is notorious for this, which most people talk about as if it were a charming quality --, serving to be entirely uninstructive wastes of several hours. Assignments were hardly ever returned. One e-mail we received from Professor Timberlake read: "Various things have conspired to keep me from finishing your earlier problem set (too much other work, avoidance,...)"...

Dec 2012

While the lectures may be sporadic, any of Prof. Timberlakes linguistics classes are worth taking, even if only to finish his notoriously long take home finals. Expect 10-15 pages of very vague questions that are only slightly clarified by his corrections by e-mail. Granted, the grading of the courses are not harsh, despite the level of the complexity of the material covered. All in all, do not expect to learn anything from the lectures, but look forward to interesting problem sets and take home midterm/final.

Jan 2011

TAKE TIMBERLAKE'S LIT HUM CLASS! If you're in his section, under no circumstances should you switch. If you're not in his section, switch into it immediately. This is one of the best classes I have ever taken. Ever! I came to Columbia in part because of Lit Hum, so I had very high expectations, and this class by far exceeded them! It was the perfect combination of every aspect of a college class: Timberlake was engaged, both with his students and the material, and absolutely brilliant; he was caring and kind and made an effort to connect to every single one of students; and he gave very little work (see Workload), and the work he did give was very well thought-out, so that one got a lot out of doing it--I learned the most in Timberlake's class by far out of all my courses, and had by far the least work. He's very understanding and knows that you don't get around to doing all the reading--but, that said, you want to, because the class is basically just a discussion, so in addition to participation being important, you simply want to participate, because the class is so interesting and you want to impress him, and that's kind of hard to do if you haven't done the reading, of course. The point is, don't sweat it. He's a lenient grader on exams and papers, and is mostly looking for original or interesting ideas that are supported by the text. Not difficult. The ONLY downside to Timberlake's class (okay, besides the 9 am time slot--but that IS SO WORTH IT!) is that he doesn't teach the second semester.

Jan 2010

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 it’s interesting but usually it’s not. At first I thought I could depend on the reading to get me through the course, considering the professor’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 professor’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 don’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.

Dec 2009

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.

Mar 2009

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.

Jan 2009

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 – 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).

Jan 2009

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.

Dec 2008

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.

Jan 2008

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.

Jan 2008

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!

Jan 2008

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.

Jan 2007

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.

Dec 2006

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.

Nov 2006

I've taken 3 courses with the guy- Intro to Linguistics, Historical Linguistics, and an independent study he designed for 5 students- and I can honestly say Alan Timberlake rocks my world. He's brilliant, hilarious, charismatic, approachable, and looks the spitting image of the absent-minded professor. More importantly, he's really excited about what he's teaching. Timberlake's main focus in every course he teaches is to get his students to learn, explore, and appreciate different ways of looking at language. He will go out of his way to help you with anything he can. He's organized, but happily changes around the syllabus to accommodate specific interests. I highly recommend any and all courses with him.

Oct 2006

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.

Apr 2005

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.

Dec 2004

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.

Nov 2004

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.