Review Comment

[LING W3101] Introduction to Linguistics

April 16, 2019

McWhorter, John Silver_nugget
[LING W3101] Introduction to Linguistics

Professor McWhorter is a truly amazing instructor and engaging lecturer. He was able keep every lecture interesting to all 180 of us no matter the topic. He explained complicated concepts (particularly in the syntax unit) in a way that made sense to students with no prior experience. He's super approachable and very knowledge about linguistics in general.
As for the class, linguistics is a very broad field, so the course itself was a mix of different subfields which at times made it feel like we were never learning quite enough about each one. The course teaches phonetics, phonology, syntax, and language change the most thoroughly. If you're interested in sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology, or language interaction, then this isn't the course for you. The constant switching of subfields felt disjointed but I don't think this is an issue with McWhorter but an issue with linguistics in general.

Workload:

Problem sets, midterm and final - all graded by TAS. Weekly problem sets that you MUST go to office hours to complete - there is pretty much no way to get an A on these without working with other students and the TAs. The problem sets are difficult but the midterm and final are super easy in comparison. Overall manageable if you attend lectures and TA office hours.

January 03, 2017

McWhorter, John Silver_nugget
[LING W3101] Introduction to Linguistics

Professor McWhorter is one of the best lecturer I have encountered at Columbia. A lot of animated examples. A lot of story-telling. He also opened up the class to Q&A and discussion. Before the midterm, the class followed the textbook more closely whereas after the midterm you really had to pay more attention to what he said in class. At times, John was an awesome tour guide for newcomers to this field and he opened up my mind to a life-long adventure of languages and linguistics. He also recommended a lot of other important linguists and books and I appreciate this. I will give a Gold Nugget for professor McWhorter!

The TAs are very helpful as well. They are very chill and approachable. Alma explains concepts really well. The TA office hour is a great opportunity to interact with classmates as well. I have found many classmates in this class are somewhat more brainy and witty than those in my Econ core classes and this really humbles me. In conclusion, I enjoyed the class, the TA office hours and the company of my witty classmates.

Workload:

10 PS. 1 midterm. 1 final. I was lucky to have awesome TAs who gave great exam reviews and thus I didn't have to worry much about the exams.

December 11, 2016

McWhorter, John Silver_nugget
[LING W3101] Introduction to Linguistics

Professor McWhorter would be a great tour guide. He is endearing, funny, but he doesn't give much content. I could have learned this ENTIRE semester in 2 hours maximum. My friend said that "he's like icing without the cupcake." It was very frustrating to sit through over an hour of maybe two sentences of actual content that I could take notes on and think over later. Linguistics is a fascinating field to me, but this course was a waste of my time.

Examples: the class on syntax was simply examples drawn on the board with ZERO explanations given. The TAs would grade differently based on what they knew, and one TA would tell me an answer while another TA would mark it wrong on my homework. The class on writing systems felt like an abstract on Wikipedia where McWhorter clearly didn’t even open any of the content portions of the page. We learned more about his love life in college than about sociolinguistics.

It's also strangely difficult. Review sessions are a MUST (they give all the answers) before the midterm and final. The homeworks are difficult and must be done by a consensus vote of 20-30 people. Go to office hours (or find out what happened in office hours from your 20-30 friends), but you may still get the question wrong if the TA from office hours isn't the same TA that graded your homework.

TLDR: This class is a waste of your time. Read a book on it and spend your tuition money on something *anything* else. If you really want McWhorter's comedy, then watch his TED talk, which he'll play for you during class anyways because he can't be bothered to teach you.

Workload:

Not much reading past the midterm, weekly problem sets you need a study group for, and a midterm and final.

May 05, 2013

McWhorter, John Silver_nugget
[LING W3101] Introduction to Linguistics

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Professor McWhorter is honestly the best! Take this class even if you aren't considering linguistics because he is such a good lecturer and makes the whole class so interesting. Sure, the problem sets might be challenging, but if you go to his office hours, he really helps so much, and you'll be fine. Plus, then you get to know him, which is awesome too because he is just great. I don't see why he doesn't have a gold nugget, personally, because he definitely deserves one.

He has been my favorite lecturer so far in my college career and I highly recommend this class.

Workload:

Weekly problem sets, which are pretty challenging, but not impossible. The midterm and final are very easy, however; they're more just to make sure you showed up to his lectures, which you will want to do anyway because he is so good.

December 09, 2011

McWhorter, John Silver_nugget
[LING W3101] Introduction to Linguistics

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Save your GPA; take this course on a Pass/D/Fail. Professor McWhorter's lectures may be entertaining at times but if he spent less time rambling and more time lecturing on relevant material, the assignments would not be so time consuming.

Since the Linguistics department is very small if existent at all, the TAs are not grad students but students who have taken this class before. The course started out with three TAs but had to add more to handle the volume of students who were having difficulties with the problem sets.

I would recommend purchasing the study guide even though it is not a required text or even mentioned on the syllabus.

Good Luck!

Workload:

Assigned readings, Nine assignments, mid-term, and final.

Directory Data

Dept/Subj Directory Course Professor Year Semester Time Section
SLAL / LING SLAL LING W3101: Introduction to Linguistics John McWhorter 2012 Fall TR / 4:10- 5:25 PM 1
SLAL / LING SLAL LING W3101: Introduction to Linguistics John McWhorter 2010 Fall TR / 6:10- 7:25 PM 1
SLAL / LING SLAL LING W3101: Introduction to Linguistics Alan Timberlake 2009 Fall TR / 6:10- 7:25 PM 1