Notable proponents of generative linguistics have argued, not uncontroversially, that the ability to acquire language is the defining characteristic of the human species. Yet the human is not only Homo orator, but also Homo faber: we are further distinguished from non-human animals by our tool use and the complex technologies that have thence emerged. In this course, we will discuss the relationship between language and technology—and between linguistic change and technological innovation. We will take as a point of departure the history of writing, before moving on to important case studies at the language-technology interface, including the typewriter and cochlear implant. In the latter half of the course, we will shift our focus to computer-mediated communication, with an eye on how technology is simultaneously positioned as a force that creates and forecloses certain possibilities for linguistic expression and metalinguistic reflection.
Tran Truong -- Winter 2021