European Studies

Writing 39C and European Studies 12 Combo-Credit Course, Spring 2020

Section SS of Writing 39 C is offered only in combination with Lecture B of European Studies 12, “What is the Origin of Language?” Students must enroll in both Writing 39C, Section SS, and European Studies 12, Lecture B. Neither of these courses can be taken separately. For enrollment information please email

The Writing 39C/European Studies 12 combo-credit course is a total of 8 units and simultaneously fulfills the second course (Writing 39C) of the Lower-Division Writing Requirement, the GE Vb Requirement, and your choice of either the GE III or the GE IV requirement.
European Studies 12: What is the Origin of Language?

This course will survey a centuries-old debate about whether language was invented by humans on their own or was granted to them. If humans cannot reason without language, how would a human ever be able to invent language? On the other hand, if language were granted to humans as a gift, how would humans be able to receive this gift without already possessing some faculty of reason and thus linguistic ability? In the 18th century, this debate centered around whether humans invented language or whether it was granted by God. In the 20th and 21st centuries, a similar debate considers whether language arose as a spontaneous mutation or as something that was gradually learned. In this course, you will learn methods of symbol-based logic and universal grammar as techniques for understanding the functioning of human language and apply these methods to answer the question of the origin of language. In reading works of philosophy, linguistics, biology, and literature, you will also learn how different disciplines approach the question of the origin of language.