SOAS University of London

Department of Linguistics, School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics

General Linguistics: Understanding Language

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 1
Taught in:
Full Year
Students are introduced to the main range of subjects covered by general linguistics: levels of language, synchrony and diachrony, theory and description, phonetics, historical linguistics, dialectology, typology and universals, structuralism, generative grammar.



Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

The aim of this module is to introduce students to a wide range of topics in linguistic analysis and linguistic theory, based on different languages including English, and to provide some sense of the ways in which knowledge and understanding develops in this field.  

By the end of this module students:

  • will have a sound foundation in many aspects of linguistic study
  • will be able to comprehend and deal with a variety of linguistic topics in different languages  


1 x 2 hr lecture and 1 x 1hr tutorial per week for 20 weeks, plus 2 x 2hr revision classes in the summer term.

Scope and syllabus

This module covers a selection of topics in theoretical linguistics and its applications.   In the sections focusing on the theoretical aspects of language structure we look at sounds, how they are made and how they pattern together in speech (phonetics and phonology); we look at how words are constructed from smaller parts (morphology); and we consider the construction of sentences (syntax) and sentence meaning (semantics). Finally, we consider how language is structured in conversation (pragmatics).  

Placing the study of language in a broader context, we look at language production, comprehension and acquisition (Psycholinguistics), the relation between language and society (sociolinguistics) and some developments on language processing by computers (computational linguistics).

Method of assessment

One three-hour written examination taken in May/June (80%); an essay of 1,500 words to be submitted on day 5, week 5, term 1 (5%); an essay of 1,500 words to be submitted on day 5, week 10 (of 11), term 1 (5%); an essay of 1,500 words to be submitted on day 5, week 7, term 2 (5%); an essay of 1,500 words to be submitted on day 5, week 11, term 2 (5%).

Suggested reading

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


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules