Introduction to Linguistics (with a focus on comparing Chinese and English)

Stephen Politzer-Ahles

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This a self-paced online subject. There are no lectures; the class is organized around learning activities, and you can do most of them at your own pace. To earn the highest grades, you also need to participate in some real-time discussions. For more details about how these online classes are arranged and about how you can use these materials, see the description on my Classes homepage.

This subject is a basic introduction to the field of linguistics. During this subject, you will learn what the fundamental concepts of linguistics are, and use them to compare features of different languages.

The subject is divided into modules. Each module involves some reading and activities for you to do on your own, as well as one or more tasks to submit for credit. Each module also includes a group discussion carried out over Zoom. Participating in the group discussion is not necessary for completing the module, but to earn certain grades you need to participate in a certain number of discussions.

In addition to the modules, there are some extra assignments that are necessary for students who want to earn higher grades. You may choose which modules and assignments to do, based on what grade you aim to earn.

Activities and assignments

Here are the assignments included in this class. You don't need to do every assignment; see the "Grade bundles" below to see which assignments are needed to earn a given grade.

Grade bundles

These are the assignments that you need to complete to earn a given grade:

There are no minus or plus grades in this subject.


Most of the modules in this class include some readings from external sources (mostly textbook chapters). When I teach this class in the university, I provide students PDF scans of those chapters; however, I of course cannot do this for a publicly available OER. On this website I have listed both the reading that I use in my own class, and a freely available alternative video or reading (most of these are from the Essentials of Linguistics OER from eCampusOntario).

If you are a teacher and are planning on using or adapting these modules in your own class, you can probably make your own copies of the relevant chapters and distribute them to your students. In many cases you probably don't need to use the exact reading that I have listed here; I use readings from a bunch of different texts, not because those texts are necessarily the best ones, but just so that I could avoid distributing multiple chapters of the same book, for copyright reasons. Therefore, in most cases, you could easily swap out e.g. the phonetics chapter I use here for a phonetics chapter from any other introductory linguistics textbook.

Likewise, if you are using these materials to learn linguistics yourself, then you can try to access these readings through your library, or use one of the free alternatives listed.

Below is a list of all the non-open readings that are used in this class and that you may therefore need to either get access to or replace with other readings.

by Stephen Politzer-Ahles. Last modified on 2021-04-25. CC-BY-4.0.