PHIL 390
Discourse Dynamics Spring 2023
Division II Writing Skills
Cross-listed COGS 390
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Class Details

It’d be perfectly natural to say “I might’ve left the stove on”, then check the stove, then say “I didn’t leave the stove on”. But perform those exact same steps in a different order–check the stove, say “I didn’t leave the stove on”, then say “I might’ve left the stove on”–and something’s gone quite wrong. Conversation is dynamic–the back and forth exchange of information is a process that grows and adapts to the surrounding context. The order in which you say things matters, and it matters for what you communicate what actions you take and what events happen around you. In this course, we will investigate dynamic communicative phenomena and discuss competing theoretical explanations about how they’re interpreted. Of particular interest will be the extent to which discourse dynamics are built into the meanings of linguistic expressions vs. the extent to which they’re consequences of our rational cognition. Is a sentence’s relation to previously uttered sentences similar to its relation to extra-linguistic events? How much inference goes into interpreting what’s said? In pursuing the answers to these questions, we will discuss both classic and contemporary theories from philosophy and linguistics.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 19
Expected: 19
Class#: 3948
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Four short papers (3-4 pages), take-home midterm paper (5-7) pages, take-home final paper (6-8 pages)
Prerequisites: At least one philosophy or cognitive science course (any level), or permission of instructor.
Enrollment Preferences: Preference given to seniors and philosophy/cognitive science majors, then to students who have taken 200-Level Intro to Formal Linguistics
Distributions: Division II Writing Skills
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
PHIL 390 Division II COGS 390 Division II
WS Notes: There will be four short papers (3-4 pages each) that will receive written comments on substance, argument structure, and writing style. These will be designed to include sections that, upon revision in light of comments, can be incorporated into the longer midterm and final papers (5-7 pages and 6-8 pages respectively). Students will be required to meet with the instructor before the midterm and final papers to discuss outlines and revisions of short papers.
Attributes: COGS Interdepartmental Electives
COGS Related Courses
PHIL Contemp Metaphysics + Epistemology Courses

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