Syllabus for COM-339



The Story of Human Language examines how language is created, acquired, and utilized. Topics examined in this course include the origin of language, differences between animal and human language, sound and word formation, language acquisition, verbal and nonverbal utilization, and its regional, social and cultural variations. These topics are fundamental to a greater understanding of human language and its use and origins. Lastly, this course provides an essential foundation for advanced courses in linguistics.


  1. Origins of language
  2. Sound and word formation
  3. Acquisition of language in children and adults
  4. Non-verbal and written forms of language
  5. Regional, social and cultural variations in language


After completing this course, you should be able to:

  1. Identify how animal language differs from human language
  2. Describe how sounds are created and articulated
  3. Describe how language is learned and acquired
  4. Demonstrate how meaning is conveyed in nonverbal and written language
  5. Describe how humans first started using language
  6. Explain the origins of language in terms of its social, physical, tool-making, and genetic source         
  7. Recognize the articulation of consonants and vowels in tongue position and placement
  8. Compare and contrast verbal and written language
  9. Compare and contrast the major changes from Indo-European to Modern English
  10. Present ways in which language varies by regional, social, and cultural influences
  11. Identify the cognitive abilities which led to the development of human language
  12. Discuss the distinctions between communicative and informative signals in human and animal language
  13. Explain what verbal and nonverbal clues listeners use for understanding
  14. Use concrete examples to demonstrate the etymology of how language evolves into Common usage
  15. Use examples to demonstrate the differences between the language disorders of Broca’s, Wernicke’s, and Conduction aphasia
  16. Discuss the impact that culture plays in Linguistic Determinism


You will need the following materials to do the work of the course. The required textbook is available from the College’s textbook supplier, MBS Direct.

Required Textbook

  1. Yule, George, The Study of Language, 4th edition, 2010, (Cambridge University Press, New York, NY)   ISBN:9780521749220


The Story of Human Language is a three-credit online course, consisting of four (4) modules. Modules include an overview, topics, learning objectives, study materials, and assignments. Module titles are listed below.

  1. Module 1: Origin and Creation of Language
  2. Module 2: Acquisition of Language in Children and Adults
  3. Module 3: Non-Verbal, Verbal and Written Language Development
  4. Module 4: Variation of Language


For your formal work in the course, you are required to participate in online discussion forums, complete written assignments, take a proctored midterm examination, and complete a final project. See below for details.

Consult the course Calendar for assignment due dates.

Discussion Forums

The Story of Human Language requires you to participate in four (4) graded discussion forums worth 5 points each, or for a total of 20 percent of your course grade. Communication among fellow students and with the mentor is a critical component of online learning. Participation in online discussions involves two distinct activities: an initial response to a posted question (discussion thread) and subsequent comments on classmates' responses. Meaningful participation is relevant to the content, adds value, and advances the discussion. Comments such as "I agree" and "ditto" are not considered value-adding participation.

Therefore, when you agree or disagree with a classmate, the reading, or your mentor, state and support your agreement or disagreement. You will be evaluated on the quality and quantity of your participation. Responses and comments should be properly proofread and edited, professional, and respectful. Deadlines for posting discussion threads on the class Discussion Board are given in the course Calendar.

Written Assignments

You are required to complete a total of seven (7) written assignments on a variety of topics associated with the course modules.  Your written assignments for this course consist of:

  1. Four (4) sets of study questions based on your modular readings.
  2. Two (2) short essay questions of about 250-300 words each.
  3. A Final Project in the form of a research paper.

Details about the study questions and short essays are contained in the modules of which they are part.  Details about the research paper can be found in the Final Project area of the course. Due dates for all of these assignments can be found in the Course Calendar.  

Midterm Examination

You are required to take a proctored midterm examination. See the Calendar for the official dates for

your midterm exam week.

The midterm exam is two hours long and covers all topics and material from modules 1–2 of the course. It consists of  twenty-six (26) multiple choice questions and four (4) essay questions based on the textbook readings. The midterm exam is valued at 15 percent of your final grade.

For the midterm, you are required to use the College's Online Proctor Service (OPS). Please refer to the

"Examinations and Proctors" section of the Online Student Handbook (see General Information area of

the course Web site) for further information about scheduling and taking online exams and for all exam

policies and procedures.

Exams are administered with the course website. Consult the course Calendar for the official dates of your midterm and final exam weeks.

Statement about Cheating

You are on your honor not to cheat during the exam. Cheating means:

  1. Looking up any answer or part of an answer in an unauthorized textbook or on the Internet, or using any other source to find the answer.

  1. Copying and pasting or in any way copying responses or parts of responses from any other source into your online test. This includes but is not limited to copying and pasting from other documents or spreadsheets, whether written by yourself or anyone else.
  1. Plagiarizing answers.
  2. Asking anyone else to assist you by whatever means available while you take the exam.
  3. Copying any part of the exam to share with other students.
  4. Telling your mentor that you need another attempt and the exam because your connection to the Internet was interrupted when that is not true.

If there is evidence that you have cheated or plagiarized in your exam, the exam will be declared invalid, and you will fail the course.

Final Project

You are required to produce a Final Project in the form of a research paper and submit it at the end of the semester.  This paper, which you will  put together in three stages, should examine an aspect or theory of Human Language that you will cover in this course.

Details about your research paper can be found in the Final Project area of the course Website. Due dates associated with this assignment can be found in the course Calendar.  


Your grade in the course will be determined as follows:

  1. Study Questions (4)—20%
  2. Short Essay Questions (2)—20%
  3. Online discussions (4)—20%
  4. Midterm exam (proctored, Modules 1–2)— 15%
  5. Final project—25%

All activities will receive a numerical grade of 0–100. You will receive a score of 0 for any work not submitted. Your final grade in the course will be a letter grade. Letter grade equivalents for numerical grades are as follows:






























Below 60

To receive credit for the course, you must earn a letter grade of C or better (for an area of study course) or D or better (for a nonarea of study course), based on the weighted average of all assigned course work (e.g., exams, assignments, discussion postings, etc.).


First Steps to Success

To succeed in this course, take the following first steps:

  1. Read carefully the entire Syllabus, making sure that all aspects of the course are clear to you and that you have all the materials required for the course.
  2. Take time to read the entire Online Student Handbook. The Handbook answers many questions about how to proceed through the course, how to schedule your midterm exam, and how to get the most from your educational experience at Thomas Edison State College.
  3. Arrange to take your midterm examination by following the instructions in this Syllabus and the Online Student Handbook.
  4. Familiarize yourself with the learning management systems environment—how to navigate it and what the various course areas contain. If you know what to expect as you navigate the course, you can better pace yourself and complete the work on time.
  5. If you are not familiar with Web-based learning be sure to review the processes for posting responses online and submitting assignments before class begins.

Study Tips

Consider the following study tips for success:

  1. To stay on track throughout the course, begin each week by consulting the course Calendar. The Calendar provides an overview of the course and indicates due dates for submitting assignments, posting discussions, and scheduling and taking examinations.
  2. Check Announcements regularly for new course information.


Students at Thomas Edison State College are expected to exhibit the highest level of academic citizenship. In particular, students are expected to read and follow all policies, procedures, and program information guidelines contained in publications; pursue their learning goals with honesty and integrity; demonstrate that they are progressing satisfactorily and in a timely fashion by meeting course deadlines and following outlined procedures; observe a code of mutual respect in dealing with mentors, staff, and other students; behave in a manner consistent with the standards and codes of the profession in which they are practicing; keep official records updated regarding changes in name, address, telephone number, or e-mail address; and meet financial obligations in a timely manner. Students not practicing good academic citizenship may be subject to disciplinary action including suspension, dismissal, or financial holds on records.

Academic Dishonesty

Thomas Edison State College expects all of its students to approach their education with academic integrity—the pursuit of scholarly activity free from fraud and deception. All mentors and administrative staff members at the College insist on strict standards of academic honesty in all courses. Academic dishonesty undermines this objective. Academic dishonesty takes the following forms:

  1. Cheating
  2. Plagiarizing (including copying and pasting from the Internet without using quotation marks and without acknowledging sources)
  3. Fabricating information or citations
  4. Facilitating acts of dishonesty by others
  5. Unauthorized access to examinations or the use of unauthorized materials during exam administration
  6. Submitting the work of another person or work previously used without informing the mentor
  7. Tampering with the academic work of other students

Academic dishonesty will result in disciplinary action and possible dismissal from the College. Students who submit papers that are found to be plagiarized will receive an F on the plagiarized assignment, may receive a grade of F for the course, and may face dismissal from the College.

A student who is charged with academic dishonesty will be given oral or written notice of the charge. If a mentor or the College official believes the infraction is serious enough to warrant referral of the case to the academic dean, or if the mentor awards a final grade of F in the course because of the infraction, the student and the mentor will be afforded formal due process.

If a student is found cheating or using unauthorized materials on an examination, he or she will automatically receive a grade of F on that examination. Students who believe they have been falsely accused of academic dishonesty should seek redress through informal discussions with the mentor, through the office of the dean, or through an executive officer of Thomas Edison State College.


Using someone else’s work as your own is plagiarism. Although it may seem like simple dishonesty, plagiarism is against the law. Thomas Edison State College takes a strong stance against plagiarism, and students found to be plagiarizing will be severely penalized. If you copy phrases, sentences, paragraphs, or whole documents word-for-word—or if you paraphrase by changing a word here and there—without identifying the author, then you are plagiarizing. Please keep in mind that this type of identification applies to Internet sources as well as to print-based sources. Copying and pasting from the Internet, without using quotation marks and without acknowledging sources, constitutes plagiarism. (For information about how to cite Internet sources, see Online Student Handbook > Academic Standards > “Citing Sources.”)

Accidentally copying the words and ideas of another writer does not excuse the charge of plagiarism. It is easy to jot down notes and ideas from many sources and then write your own paper without knowing which words are your own and which are someone else’s. It is more difficult to keep track of each and every source. However, the conscientious writer who wishes to avoid plagiarizing never fails to keep careful track of sources.

Always be aware that if you write without acknowledging the sources of your ideas, you run the risk of being charged with plagiarism.

Clearly, plagiarism, no matter the degree of the intent to deceive, defeats the purpose of education. If you plagiarize deliberately, you are not educating yourself, and you are wasting your time on courses meant to improve your skills. If you plagiarize through carelessness, you are deceiving yourself.

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