SOAS University of London

Department of Linguistics, School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics

Introduction to Linguistics

Module Code:
152900116
Credits:
15

This module opens up discussions about what it means to know, use and understand language, and introduces key academic tools which can be used to investigate these questions.

We will address fundamental questions about human language, which have exercised inquiring minds for millennia, and which lie at the heart of our understanding of ourselves as a species and as a society. One such question concerns, for example, the relation between language and thought. Is our understanding of the world around us determined by the language(s) we speak or sign? Another concerns the nature of languages as discrete entities. Are all human beings in fact fundamentally multilingual? And we investigate the tension between literacy and orality. What explains the widespread conception of the superiority of the written word?

In order to develop more sophisticated approaches to fundamental questions of this sort, we introduce the key conceptual and methodological tools of the academic study of language. In so doing, the module also serves as an introduction to the traditional discipline of linguistics and its sub-disciplines, including phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. We also discuss non-European approaches to the study of language, looking both at well-known grammatical traditions of Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and contemporary approaches.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

Learning Outcomes

Students completing this module will:

  1. Critically reflect on the nature of human language.
  2. Understand, compare and analyse various formal expressions of language.
  3. Understand, compare and analyse various functions of language.
  4. Develop an explicit awareness of the conceptual and methodological tools of the academic study of language.
  5. Develop an understanding of the subdisciplines of traditional linguistic theory.
  6. Develop an understanding of different academic approaches to the study of language.

Workload

Two hours' contact time each week

Scope and syllabus

  • Language and thought
  • Multilingualism
  • Writing and orality
  • Standard languages, dialects, and prescriptivism
  • Sounds and sound patterns
  • The structure of words and sentences
  • Meaning, information and communication
  • Approaches to the study of language

Method of assessment

  • Written exam (2 hours), worth 50% of the total mark for the module
  • Data exercise (500 words), worth 20% of the total mark for the module
  • Essay (750 words), worth 15% of the total mark for the module
  • Essay (750 words), worth 15% of the total mark for the module

Disclaimer

Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules