This course is an introduction to the empirical study of the English language. We'll learn about everything from why English has what seems like very strange spelling to what the major dialects are of American English. When we finish, you'll know what the parts are that work together to form the language we speak. There are right and wrong answers for part of the course, but I also assign a paper on the language topic of your choice--perhaps the slang terms you use or finding out more about what strategies women use to make a point and how that contrasts with what men do. You might want to take a look at your family's language heritage or how often you and your friends use emoticons.
The class gives English students a Theory and Methodologies course (one of the area requirements for the major) if needed. For non-English majors, the course is a VLPA class satisfying that general education requirement. And for those who need writing credit, we do a final paper which would satisfy that requirement.
In addition to the fairly traditional introduction to language textbook (Finegan, Language Its Structure and Use), we will also be using the book, Raciolinguistics: How Language Shapes Our Ideas about Race, which takes up many of the regular topics but drawing from language contexts world wide (not just the U.S.). Many of the articles in the book show how people shape attitudes about race and ethnicity by directing language and conversation, often without direct intent but predictable results.