SOAS University of London

Department of Linguistics

Linguistic Typology

Module Code:
Unit value:
Taught in:
Term 2
Introduces aspects of structural diversity among the languages of the world, and examines the common features and trends which limit this diversity. The following issues are addressed: the typology of phonological systems, semantic roles, grammatical relations and morphological structures.


Introduction to Phonology and Introduction to Grammatical Structure

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

This course is an introduction to the principles and practices of linguistic typology, i.e. the cross-linguistic comparison of formal features of languages independent of their historical and geographical connections. Typologists examine variation between languages in terms of their structural characteristics, attempt to account for the distribution of the variation encountered and provide explanations for the patterns uncovered. At the conclusion of the course students will be familiar with the main trends in 20th and 21st century language typology in terms of phonology, morphology and syntax. They will understand the key methodological principles of typology and have a greater understanding of the ways in which languages are similar (linguistic universals) and different (linguistic diversity).


Total of 10 weeks teaching with 3 hours classroom contact per week.

Scope and syllabus

The syllabus provides students with the materials to build on their existing knowledge of diversity in language. It begins with the introduction of core notions in typology including the empirical underpinnings of typological research and the role of language universals and implicational statements in typology. This is followed by overviews of phonological typology, morphological typology and constituent order typology. The second part of the course builds on this knowledge to examine specific areas of variation across languages in terms of their grammatical relations, word classes and morphosyntactic characteristics.

Method of assessment

This course is assessed by 2 x 2,500 – 3,000 word essays (50% each) to be submitted at the end of Term 2 and week 1, Term 3.

Suggested reading

The reading list for this course will be made available from the convenor at the beginning of the course.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules