Special Topics Courses

Below you will find topic descriptions for the Special Topics in Linguistics Theory Courses we are offering in the 2018-2019 Academic year.  Topics courses may be taken more than once if the course content is different year to year or section to section.


 Winter 2019      
LING 499 B4
Dr. Jordan Lachler Language Revitalization
This course will explore the ways in which communities around the world are working to recapture, restore and revive their traditional languages. We will examine a wide variety of case studies of language revitalization, looking at the different political, social and economic challenges communities face in revitalizing their languages, and the innovative strategies they have developed to overcome those obstacles.
Special topics will include the impacts of modern technology and media, the role of young adult learners in revitalization, and understanding language revitalization in the context of other modern social movements. By the end of the course, students will also become acquainted with the diverse set of language revitalization efforts that U of A faculty are engaged in, both locally and internationally.  After this course, students will be prepared to undertake a practicum in contributing to a specific language revitalization project.
This course is specifically designed for students with an interest in issues of language and identity, power and justice, and safeguarding our planet's linguistic diversity.

Contact: Jordan Lachler at for all questions
LING 499/599
09:00- 11:50
Dr. Melvatha Chee

The Dene Verb
(Verbal Morphology of Indigenous languages of North America)

This course will explore the morphological structure and function of the Dene polysynthetic verb. The course materials will focus on the Diné (Navajo) verb, providing students with a solid foundation for understanding polysynthesis in this language. Because the Diné verb is both highly fusional and highly synthetic, we will also be able to examine morphophonological issues, factors that provide unity within the verb, polysemy of morphemes, and the semantics of polysynthetic verbs. Students will each choose a different Athabaskan language in order to investigate its verb structure towards a comparative look at verbs across the language family.

The class will end with a discussion of research on child language acquisition in Dene, and the implications of this research for language revitalization efforts. Students will do a final paper that incorporates the results of their research on verb composition in the language they’ve chosen with ideas for language revitalization materials for the community of speakers.

Contact: Melvatha Chee at for all questions

LING 606 B1
09:00- 11:50

Prof. Terry Nadasdi Languages in Competition 
(Seminar in Sociolinguistics)

This course examines the question of why some languages are more powerful than others and, ultimately, why some languages survive while others disappear. It is a course about linguistic “winners” and “losers” and the socio-political factors that influence linguistic outcomes. Subtopics to be covered are Contact linguistics, Language Change, Language and Power and Standardization. Particular attention will be paid to English, French and Spanish in a North American context. Students from a variety of backgrounds will benefit form this course, particularly those interested in matters of language education, language maintenance, sociolinguistics and anthropology.

Contact: Terry Nadasdi at for all questions