Linguistic Typology

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 3
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Linguistics

Module overview

This module 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 module 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 module students will:

  1. be familiar with and understand the main trends in 20th and 21st century research in language typology in terms of phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics and pragmatics;
  2. understand the key methodological principles of typology;
  3. have a greater understanding of the extent to which human languages are similar (linguistic universals) and the extent to which they differ (linguistic diversity);
  4. understand and be able to critically assess current explanations for linguistic universals;
  5. be familiar with the range of available typological databases and corpora;
  6. be able to perform typological research.


Total of 10 weeks teaching with 2 hours contact per week consisting of a 2 hour lecture.

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 module 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

  • 40% - Case study or academic review, 1000 words, due in Term 2.
  • 60% - Case study essay, 1500 words, due in Term 3.
  • The exact assessment deadline dates are published on the relevant module Moodle/BLE page

Suggested reading

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


Dr Aicha Belkadi


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules