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LIN 09 W — The Glamour of Grammar

Quarter: Fall
Course Format: Online course (System Requirements)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Sep 25—Dec 8
Drop Deadline: Sep 28
Units: 2
Tuition: $490
Instructor(s): Asya Pereltsvaig
Limit: 40
Status: Open
Please Note: No class the week of November 20. Update: Online courses have a new refund policy. The full tuition refund deadline for this course is 9/28 at 5:00 pm (PT); 50% tuition refund deadline is 10/3 at 5:00 pm (PT).
Sep 25—Dec 8
10 weeks
Drop By
Sep 28
2 Units
Asya Pereltsvaig
Please Note: No class the week of November 20. Update: Online courses have a new refund policy. The full tuition refund deadline for this course is 9/28 at 5:00 pm (PT); 50% tuition refund deadline is 10/3 at 5:00 pm (PT).

School teaching of English grammar often makes this subject appear dull and dreary. Writing manuals like The Elements of Style further confound even the most curious reader with their arcane prohibitions against using passives, split infinitives, or “negative form.” Unsurprisingly, many people still view grammar as “mysterious or occult,” which is exactly what the word “grammar” originally meant. (“Glamour,” as it happens, comes from the same root.)

In this course, we will examine the principles behind English grammar and will dispel many a mystery surrounding it. We will ask: Why is there “stupidity” but not “smartity”? Who decides what is a word anyway? How do we put words together into meaningful sentences? How do we interpret sentences to mean more than is being explicitly said? How do children acquire the knowledge of these grammatical intricacies? And how do adults learn them in a foreign language? By looking at these and similar issues, we will develop a subtler and more thoughtful approach to grammar. While the focus of this course is on English, we will also see that other languages possess grammars that are based on the same principles and constraints. So in addition to learning many fascinating (and glamorous!) things about our own language, we will gain new tools that will be helpful in learning another language—any language.


  • Course sizes are limited.
    You won't have 5,000 classmates. This course's enrollment is capped at 40 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) Roberts, Ian, The Wonders of Language: Or How to Make Noises and Influence People (ISBN 978-1316604410)