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!


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.