The Deconstruction of the Tower of Babel: Puzzles and Key Ideas in Linguistics (解构巴别塔:语言学导论)

赵雪萌 | Junior, Double Majors in Linguistics and Cognitive Science, Hampshire College

Reading Genesis, you will notice the trace of an ancient relic: the Tower of Babel. After God knew that the survivors of the Great Flood were planning to unify humans’ languages and build a tower in an Eastern city to reach the Heaven, he prevented humans from understanding each other by diversifying their languages and naming the city “Babel” (“confusion” in Hebrew). While the Tower of Babel remains an unfinished utopian building, human languages have been evolving day by day with various verbal & sentential structures, compound grammars, and multi-layered implicatures. Why do humans have such a variety of languages? Where did they stem from? How are they similar and different? Where are they heading towards in the current era, the Great Acceleration? This course opens up discussions in multiple facets of natural human languages, including phonetics/phonology, morphology, philology, semantics, syntax, and pragmatics. Ultimately, we will revisit and investigate ourselves via interdisciplinary linguistics (psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, functional linguistics, etc.), for languages mirror our past, present, and future.