Natalie Operstein
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Teaching Interests


    My teaching interests lie in the areas of comparative and historical linguistics, phonology, language contact (including areal linguistics, contact languages, and contact-induced language change), and linguistic field methods, as well as the design of courses and programs with customized curricula. I also draw on cutting-edge research in my areas of expertise when teaching standard linguistics courses. Regardless of the teaching area, my approach to teaching is flexible in that I adjust the format of the course and teaching style to meet the needs of each specific audience.

Undergraduate courses


    In my courses directed at undergraduates, I strive for clarity, introducing the linguistic concepts and methods through meaningful examples, and teaching students how to analyze a rich assortment of data. The material presented and discussed in class is reinforced by specially prepared exercises and tests, tailored for this particular audience. I also include elements of independent work in the form of students' research projects.

Graduate courses


    In the graduate courses, I follow a hands-on approach by teaching primarily through students' own research efforts appropriately directed and stimulated. I first introduce the general approach to solving problems in that particular area of linguistics, acquaint the students with standard research tools in the area, such as printed and online works of reference including dictionaries, textbooks, monographs and major periodicals, and demonstrate how the established research methodology and reasoning may be applied to solving research problems. The students are offered a variety of research topics to choose from and are also encouraged to come up with their own research topics based on their particular cultural and linguistic background and interests. Part of each class is spent on short presentations reflecting students' progress, as well as on discussion and brainstorming; the goal here is to walk each student through the whole research process from choosing the topic to presenting research results, giving them both orientation and a flavor of their own research in the field.

General Education courses


    I design such courses around interesting and unexpected facts and examples, which pique students' curiosity and stimulate their independent thinking. My purpose here is to draw students' interest toward a study of languages and linguistics as a field while employing an interdisciplinary approach and drawing freely on different subfields of linguistics and adjacent disciplines.

    In my teaching, I rely on my intimate acquaintance with and active research in languages and linguistic traditions of several genetically and typologically distinct language families, drawing parallels and examples from a variety of linguistic areas and presenting students with convincing conclusions based on a wide range of factual material. This resonates especially well with students' backgrounds in multicultural classes, and also allows me to expose my students to interesting and unexpected phenomena and stimulating open problems. In addition to rich and deep examples from a variety of linguistic and cultural areas of the world, I also introduce students to the most recent research and open problems in the respective areas of linguistics, appropriately adapted for the undergraduates, and encourage reading both secondary literature and the original sources. I also encourage students to choose challenging problems for their individual work, which is especially important for gifted and motivated students. I give students sufficient opportunity to present their work in class for critical discussion, providing ample support for their work during my office hours and by e-mail.