SEL1007 : The Nature of Language

  • Module Leader(s): Dr Joel Wallenberg
  • Owning School: English Lit, Language & Linguistics
Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0


1. Investigate the nature of language
2. Come to an understanding of the various areas within the field of linguistics
3. Learn how the study of linguistics relates to other sciences, particularly neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and computation

Outline Of Syllabus

Topics will be drawn from the following:
1. How to think about language scientifically
2. Computation, mind, and language
3. Thinking about Language : Chomsky
4. Language Acquisition
5. Writing a Language/Linguistics Essay
6. Meaning and Communication
7. Language Change
8. Language and Society
9. Humans, animals, and language
10. Language and Populations (Creoles and Viruses)
11. What it's all for: language in broader scientific perspective

Seminars will involve group discussion of issues raised in lectures.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture111:0011:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching81:008:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

1. Lectures introduce students to knowledge outcomes.
2. Seminars develop these skills of analysis in greater depth.
3. Private study is an important part of the programme, requiring close reading of the materials both in advance of lectures and as a follow up to them.
4. Students will be expected to do regular assignments intended to probe and expand the students' understanding of the concepts covered in lectures.
5. Three written assignments are intended to teach scienfitic writing, progressively working up to longer and more complex pieces of writing throughout the semester.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise1M10Short example of hypothesis-formulation and hypothesis-testing.
Essay1M30To learn how to structure a linguistics essay.
Essay1A50Final essay assessed both for structure and content.
Written exercise1M10Short example of hypothesis-formulation and hypothesis-testing.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The written exercises motivate students to think in terms of the scientific method, i.e. forming a hypothesis and designing and experiment to test it. The two essays teach how longer scientific essays are structured, and encourage students to creatively engage with the module material. Assessment by essay allows to students to develop formal argumentation and presentation skills relative to the topics covered in the module.

Reading Lists


Disclaimer: The University will use all reasonable endeavours to deliver modules in accordance with the descriptions set out in this catalogue. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, however, the University reserves the right to introduce changes to the information given including the addition, withdrawal or restructuring of modules if it considers such action to be necessary.