Modern language professor creates new linguistics course

Jacklyn Pellegrino, Copy Editor

Associate professor of modern language and interdisciplinary studies Mary Paddock created a new linguistics course that launched this semester, which is the only currently offered course in the subject of modern languages.

Paddock said although there are various sections in the modern language department, they are never studied  together in one course. She said she thought that the course would be a good way to “span the department.” In addition, this linguistics course is cross listed in the academic catalog with interdisciplinary studies and anthropology.  

“Linguistics is something that I’ve always had an interest in teaching but haven’t had a chance to,” Paddock said. “I was an administrator for a long time and became a full- time faculty member pretty recently. So, I’m able to add a few courses to my repertoire.” 

Illustration by Shavonne Chin

Paddock said the course will cover topics such as the “building blocks” of language, the origin of human language, units of sound and word formation. The course will also go into cultural and regional variations of language. In the last few weeks of the class, students will get to choose a topic for a project such as language acquisition, neurolinguistics or historical linguistics and then they will present it to the class. 

Eleven students are currently enrolled in the class despite it opening after students’ registration period. 

The students taking the course this semester will have the opportunity to speak with language informants, which is a native speaker of another language, throughout the duration of the class. The 11 students will have a pre-made script that they will ask the informants to translate and then the class will compare how the different languages operate.

“I would very much hope that they will learn pretty quickly that languages are systems

and that they are put together and composed of many different things, and they develop in certain ways,” Paddock said. “There are certain universals about language, but there are also a lot of things that make one language different from another one.”

Aileen Dever, modern language professor and chair of the department, said she believes this new course will work toward improving the department due to its attention to detail.

“The goal of the course would be to increase our understanding of ourselves and the world through the lens of language,” Dever said. “The value of the course is that it’s something new. It’s a way to improve our communication skills.”

At the end of the course, Dever said she hopes students will be able to communicate more clearly, understand others, take an interest in how and why we speak and better understand others and ourselves.

“I think it’s a real tribute to Quinnipiac,” Dever said. “Quinnipiac is open to really offering all sorts of different courses, you know, giving students the opportunity to take courses and for professors to innovate and create.”

Naomi Gorero, a junior sociology major, decided to take the course because of an interest in languages. Gorero can speak Korean fluently, has taken Chinese classes in past semesters and took Spanish in high school.

“I’ve always been so fascinated with languages and how there’s a lot of connection and correlation,” Gorero said. “So ever since I started learning Korean, since 2015, I could see patterns such as how this is connected to Chinese and how also the Korean language is also connected to the Japanese language and other languages have such a familiar pattern.”

In the course, Gorero said she hopes to learn how to analyze languages and how different languages connect.

“I feel like learning about linguistics is so underrated because people are interested in language but they don’t really know how it came to exist or how we are able to form languages,” Gorero said.

Another student in the class, Alexandra Martinakova, a first-year English major, has always been interested in languages and currently speaks five. Martinakova said the class has recently been covering the origins of language, as well as animals and human language.

“It’s really interesting to see the different theories (of the source of language),” Martinakova said. “It ranges from the divine source of the languages given to us by God to … the fact that somebody thinks we got our language from listening to other animals and the sounds they make.”