Review Comment

[LING W4903] Syntax

December 09, 2013

Timberlake, Alan
[LING W4903] Syntax

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

Professor Timberlake is charming, as so many reviewers have already noted here, and his quirky sense of humor helped make a potentially dry topic palatable and even interesting. He might not have McWhorter's showmanship, but I looked forward to his lectures just as much. For the most part, lectures were centered around readings from a textbook by Andrew Carnie. It was refreshing to be assigned regular readings from the same textbook and not regret having purchased said text at semester's end (which is usually the case for me, because most textbooks are boring/irrelevant or rarely assigned).

In response to the previous reviewer, A.T. is far from inept. I found his explanations thorough and his lectures very helpful in completing the problem sets. Just because he claims that he does not understand ambiguous parts of Carnie's theory, it does not follow that "he does not even have a handle on [...] foundational principals." It seemed to me he was actually pointing out minor weaknesses or inconsistencies in the Carnie chapters, only in his characteristically friendly manner. I agree that the linguistics department at Columbia is limited, but it's true weakness is its small size, not its current faculty.

Timberlake is one of the most personable profs I've had over the past four years, and I can see him being a wonderful resource to anyone with an interest in graduate-level studies. I'd recommend this class to anyone with an interest in the topic. Skim the Carnie book and go to the first few lectures to be sure its for you. Then enjoy!

Workload:

Three problem sets, one take-home final. Although you had to get yourself in a bit of a 'Timberlake state of mind' to figure out what he was really asking in certain questions, if you played along there'd always be a worthwhile insight to follow.

December 02, 2013

Timberlake, Alan
[LING W4903] Syntax

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

Alan Timberlake is the most offensively inept professor I could ever even imagine. It is already disappointing that Columbia has such a limited Linguistics program, but that Professor Timberlake is the head of the "department" exacerbates this disappointment even more. There is little hope for Columbia to ever be able to accommodate those who are truly interested in the field when nearly the only person who feigns teaching it does not even have a handle on its foundational principles, let alone the complex ideas that this foundation has generated and that are currently being studied by those who treat Linguistics as the rigorous science that it truly is.

Few readings were assigned from those who developed key ideas in the field, and when these primary sources were assigned, it was obviously without any consideration as to how this -- highly complex -- material should be presented. Assignments were indecipherable -- Timberlake is notorious for this, which most people talk about as if it were a charming quality --, serving to be entirely uninstructive wastes of several hours. Assignments were hardly ever returned. One e-mail we received from Professor Timberlake read: "Various things have conspired to keep me from finishing your earlier problem set (too much other work, avoidance,...)"...

Workload:

A few indecipherable, uninstructive "problem sets." Long and similarly pointless final.

Directory Data

Dept/Subj Directory Course Professor Year Semester Time Section
SLAL / LING SLAL LING W4903: Syntax Alan Timberlake 2012 Spring MW / 2:40- 3:55 PM 1
SLAL / LING SLAL LING W4903: Syntax Alan Timberlake 2009 Fall MW / 2:40- 3:55 PM 1