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LIN 05 W — Languages of the World

Quarter: Fall
Course Format: Online (System Requirements)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Sep 26—Dec 9
Drop Deadline: Oct 4
Unit(s): 2 Units
Tuition: $435
Limit: 45
Status: Closed
Please Note: No class the week of Thanksgiving
Sep 26—Dec 9
10 weeks
Drop By
Oct 4
2 Units
Please Note: No class the week of Thanksgiving

More than 6,000 languages are spoken in the world today, and their variety seems unbounded. This linguistic diversity tells us a lot about the development of human language and thought. It also serves as an important tool for understanding the history of civilization and what it means to be human. In this course, we will examine how languages change and how historical relationships among languages can be ascertained. We will study how languages spoken today reveal the history of populations migrating, splitting, and interacting. We will investigate how languages around the globe differ in their sounds, words, and grammars, and will address the question of whether the language one speaks affects how one thinks about and perceives the world. Variation among languages is not as unrestrained as it may seem to a casual observer, which leads us to discuss why human languages evolved to be different, yet not limitlessly so. Finally, we will become familiar with cutting-edge scholarship showing that language is not simply a means for communication but rather the essence of what makes us human.


  • Course sizes are limited.
    You won't have 5,000 classmates. This course's enrollment is capped at 45 participants.

  • Frequent interaction with the instructor.
    You aren't expected to work through the material alone. Instructors will answer questions and interact with students on the discussion board and through weekly video meetings.

  • Study with a vibrant peer group.
    Stanford Continuing Studies courses attract thoughtful and engaged students who take courses for the love of learning. Students in each course will exchange ideas with one another through easy-to-use message boards as well as optional weekly real-time video conferences.

  • Direct feedback from the instructor.
    Instructors will review and offer feedback on assignment submissions. Students are not required to turn in assignments, but for those who do, their work is graded by the instructor.

  • Courses offer the flexibility to participate on your own schedule.
    Course work is completed on a weekly basis when you have the time. You can log in and participate in the class whenever it's convenient for you. If you can’t attend the weekly video meetings, the sessions are always recorded for you and your instructor is just an email away.

  • This course is offered through Stanford Continuing Studies.
    To learn more about the program, visit our About Us page. For more information on the online format, please visit the FAQ page.

Asya Pereltsvaig, Linguistics Scholar

Asya Pereltsvaig received a PhD in linguistics from McGill and has taught at Yale, Cornell, Stanford, and several European universities. Her areas of specialization include historical linguistics, Slavic languages, and the history of Yiddish. Her latest books are Languages of the World: An Introduction and The Indo-European Controversy: Facts and Fallacies in Historical Linguistics (co-authored with Martin W. Lewis).

Textbooks for this course:

(Recommended) Asya Pereltsvaig, Languages of the World: An Introduction (ISBN 978-0521175777)