Aaron & Graham
  • Associate Professor, Linguistics

Current Courses

Fall 2020

  • LING 3950-005
    Service Learning
  • LING 3955-005
    Internship in Ling

Summer 2020

Spring 2020

Teaching Philosophy

A teacher’s job is to show students the interest and importance of thematerial at hand, give them the tools to investigate and evaluate the material on their own, and invite them to think critically about the material. Throughout my career, I have worked to improve my talents in these areas.

I have a wide variety of teaching experiences to draw from. I have taught many undergraduate and graduate courses at UC Santa Cruz, UCLA, and the University of Utah with topics ranging from advanced phonology to general introductions to linguistics. Enrollments in these courses have been as low as four and as great as 86 students. I also advised two undergraduate independent studies at UCLA, and I am serving on two dissertation committees at the University of Utah. As a teaching assistant at UCSC, I led small discussion sections for undergraduate classes such
as phonology courses, introductory syntax for non-linguists, a comparative course on Romance languages, and a course on language, society, and culture. I also served as a teaching assistant for Prof. Joe Pater at the 2007 Linguistic Society of America Summer Institute at Stanford University. Furthermore, I am actively developing new courses at Utah aimed primarily at attracting students to the linguistics major: a course titled Language and Authority, and another that examines the linguistic concepts that underlie the construction and solving of crossword puzzles.

I have learned much by observing professors’ strategies and participating in the UCSC Linguistics Department’s Teaching Assistant Training course. I am comfortable teaching many subjects in different classroom situations, from small groups to large lectures. I constantly seek new ways to present material and evaluate students. At Utah I have had the chance to shape the content of graduate and undergraduate courses to better serve students’ needs, and I have consequently experimented with new ways to organize and present material. I had a similar opportunity as a graduate student at UCSC, where the department’s ongoing revisions to the introductory course meant that
I could try new approaches and techniques each time I taught the course.

As a teacher, my goal is always to show students why linguists find the subject matter interesting and present the material as an intellectual challenge: my teaching evaluations invariably remark on my enthusiasm for the material, and I try to foster similar enthusiasm in my students. When students are interested in the material, they think about it more deeply. Their questions become more insightful and challenging, and this leads to higher-quality assignments and discussions, with students arriving at core insights on their own rather than with explicit instruction. More broadly, students should become aware of how language affects their daily lives, and I encourage students to think more carefully about the role language plays in social and political issues.

Judging from my teaching evaluations, students have positive experiences in my classes. Many have personally thanked me for the care I put into pedagogy. Some have even asked to continue their studies with me outside the classroom, or they have sought my advice on projects they began in my class as they developed these projects in subsequent classes. Others have expressed appreciation in subtler ways: At the end of one phonology course, a student presented me with an eraser that she had relabeled “stray eraser!”

I have come to view teaching as an indispensable part of a linguist’s career. It has improved my research by requiring me to revisit old assumptions. In every class, students’ questions and my own preparatory work challenge me to think more clearly and creatively about issues I take for granted, and this in turn encourages better thinking in my research. I always look forward to and learn from courses I teach, at least as much as the ideal student.

Courses I Teach

  • LING 3480 - Language and Authority
    This course explores the connections between language and the development and maintenance of positions of authority. Topics include language standardization, language and thought, multilingualism, pidgins and creoles, signed languages, and language endangerment.
  • LING 4010/6010 - Introduction to Phonetics and Phonology
    Analysis of speech sounds of the world's languages, with a focus on both their articulatory and acoustic properties. An introduction to phonetic alphabets, including practice in transcribing a variety of language samples. Analysis of the systematic organization of speech sounds in the worlds languages, with reference to features and rule-based explanations of phonological phenomena.
  • LING 4011/6011 - Intermediate Phonetics and Phonology
    An introduction to subcomponents of nonlinear phonology: syllable phonology, prosodic and metrical phonology, autosegmental phonology, and feature geometry. Also treated are phonological interfaces with morphology and syntax, and preliminary comparisons between rule-based and constraint-based models of phonology. Includes an exploration of the phonetic bases for phonological generalizations, as well as the phonetic detail of their expression.

Teaching Projects

  • Cruciverbalism. Project Lead: Aaron Kaplan. U of U Teaching Committee 02/01/2011 - 12/2011. Total Budget: $1,999.95.
  • Language and Authority. Project Lead: Aaron Kaplan, Abby Kaplan. 08/01/2010 - 09/16/2011.