Study Abroad and Exchanges



SEL3005 : Language Origins and Evolution

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


Aims: To examine recent theories of language origins and evolution from a linguistic perspective; to examine work on the physical evidence concerning the origins of language, especially from a linguistic perspective; to consider additional evidence from a biological, anthropological, neurological and palaeontological perspective.

Outline Of Syllabus

i.       Human evolution and phylogeny in relation to language (weeks 1 – 4)
ii.       Language-relevant changes to the brain and cognition in hominins (week 5)
iii.       Communication and relevant cognitive skills in other species (week 6)      
iv.       The human speech modality and the development of sound systems (weeks 7 – 8)
v.       The transition to language: Protolanguage and the evolution of syntax and morphology (weeks 9 – 11)
vi. Surgery on essay writing (week 12)

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture112:0022:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion147:0047:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading165:0065:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching121:0012:00N/A
Guided Independent StudySkills practice110:0010:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops21:002:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity120:0020:00inc. 10 hours directed groupwork
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study122:0022:00N/A
Jointly Taught With
Code Title
SEL8033Evolutionary Linguistics
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures introduce the relevant points of evolutionary biology as it pertains to language evolution, outline the main concepts and topics in evolutionary linguistics, give definitions and explanations, and discuss the primary hypotheses found in the evolutionary linguistics literature.

Seminars read and digest primary literature, outline the structure of arguments, allow student feedback, and discuss issues arising from the lectures, in smaller groups. Assignments will also be planned and developed in seminars.

Essay writing workshops give practical advice about presenting and constructing an argument, and writing cogently in a scientific discipline.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1A1004000 words
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Essay1MShort formative essay of no more than two sides of typescript, taken from one of previous year's titles.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The written assignment allows assessment of a student’s understanding of the concepts and issues covered, their grasp of the major hypotheses in the field, and their ability to argue cogently, clearly and concisely, including their ability to use correctly the technical terminology required in an evolutionary science.

Reading Lists