Miracles of Human Language: An Introduction to Linguistics

Everywhere, every day, everybody uses language. There is no human society, no matter how small or how isolated, which does not employ a language that is rich and diverse. This course introduces you to linguistics, featuring interviews with well-known linguists and with speakers of many different languages. Join us to explore the miracles of human language!

About The Course

The Miracles of Human Language introduces you to the many-faceted study of languages, which has amazed humans since the beginning of history. Together with speakers of many other languages around the world, as well as with famous linguists such as Noam Chomsky, you will learn to understand and analyse how your native tongue is at the same time similar and different from many other languages. You will learn the basic concepts of linguistics, get to know some of the key features of big and small languages and get insight into what linguists do.

This course gives an introduction into the study of languages, the field of linguistics. With the support of the basic linguistic terminology that is offered in the course, you will soon be able to comment both on variety between languages, as well as on a single language’s internal structure. Anyone who wishes to understand how languages work, and how they can give us insight into the human mind is very welcome to join.

The course is useful if you want to get a fairly quick introduction into linguistics, for instance because you are considering studying it further, or because you are interested in a neighbouring discipline such as psychology, computer science or anthropology. Furthermore, the course will help you develop analytical skills.

If you are curious to understand how language works and how it gives insight into the human mind, this course is definitely for you!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do I earn Leiden University credits upon completion of this class? 
No. This course is not part of a formal qualification from Leiden University.

2. What resources will I need for this class?
Compulsory reading materials will be downloadable for free from the course website.

3. What are the learning outcomes of this course and why should I take it?
First and foremost, this course will introduce you into one of the most crucial aspects of human beings: human language. And in practice, by following this course you will gain:

  • Knowledge of how understanding languages gives us insight into the human faculty
  • Knowledge of linguistic terminology and classifying tools
  • Experience with working with basic fieldwork methodologies
  • Experience with analysing linguistic data in a basic way
  • Insight into linguistic variety and the possible forces behind it

4. Why do you offer this course for free?

Leiden University is grounded in a long standing tradition in providing students the space for obtaining a thorough and multifaceted education. This MOOC offers us the possibility to share our knowledge globally.

Recommended Background

For participating in this course, no specific background is required.

Anyone with an interest in language is welcome to take a peek around the corner, and to join us during this basic exploration of the field of linguistics.