Module Catalogue 2023/24

SEL1032 : Language Variation and Change: Dealing with Data

  • Offered for Year: 2023/24
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Daniel Duncan
  • Lecturer: Dr William van der Wurff, Professor Karen Corrigan
  • Owning School: English Lit, Language & Linguistics
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Code Title
SEL1027Introduction to the Structure of Language 1: Syntax and Phonology
Pre Requisite Comment

For incoming exchange students: basic introductory course(s) in syntax and phonetics/phonology.

Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



The module aims to:
o Introduce the basic terms, concepts and premises underlying the study of language variation and change.
o Provide an understanding of key techniques used in sociolinguistic fieldwork and in collecting and examining data from synchronic and diachronic linguistic corpora / databases.
o Introduce and develop the skills required for the analysis, visualization and interpretation of language variation and change data.
o Apply and extend syntactic and phonological theory from SEL1027 in examining language variation and change data.

Outline Of Syllabus

This module will cover the following:
1. The key terms and concepts in language variation and change research
2. The practical techniques involved in conducting empirical research in language variation and change (sociolinguistic fieldwork and the interrogation of linguistic corpora and databases)
3. The implications for syntactic and phonological theory of language variation and change research, and the societal applications of such research.
4. The nature of linguistic data itself, with particular reference to the material studied in SEL1027.

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

On successful completion of this module, students will:
1. be able to define and use correctly key terms and concepts associated with language variation and change research
2. be able to describe and apply techniques used in sociolinguistic fieldwork and the analysis of linguistic corpora, and with their advantages/disadvantages
3. be able to locate and correctly reference reliable digital and non-digital resources relevant to language variation and change research
4. understand (a) the practical and theoretical implications of language variation and change data for research in theoretical linguistics, and (b) the societal applications of research in language variation and change
5. be able to produce effective and convincing academic writing

Intended Skill Outcomes

On successful completion of this module, students will have developed transferable skills in the following areas:
1. problem-solving skills (formulating appropriate and feasible research questions; identifying methods suitable for addressing a variety of research questions in language variation and change)
2. analytical and numerical skills (identifying and interpreting patterns of variation and change in quantitative linguistic data; evaluating the results of earlier studies; analysing texts from different historical periods and varieties of English at the orthographic, lexical, morphological, phonological and syntactic levels)
3. communication and writing skills (summarizing and paraphrasing secondary sources; writing effectively and coherently to develop convincing arguments)

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture181:0018:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion155:0055:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading133:0033:00N/A
Guided Independent StudySkills practice135:0035:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching151:0015:00a mix of seminars and skills workshops
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study144:0044:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

LECTURES: Will be used, primarily, to introduce the key concepts and terms associated with research in language variation and change, and to provide overall coherence for the module.

SMALL GROUP SESSIONS: Will be used, primarily, to introduce and build skills related to research in language variation and change, focusing in particular on: (a) research methods and techniques; (b) issues in and approaches to data collection and preparation, corpus linguistic analysis, and the visualization of quantitative linguistic data; (c) the analysis and interpretation of linguistic data; and (d) the theoretical implications and societal applications of research in language variation and change. They also aim to enhance general presentation skills and build team-work.

Guided independent study will involve: (a) following up on reading and other resources identified in the lecture materials; and (b) practising the skills introduced in the small group sessions using materials provided.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M30Approx. 1250 words
Essay2A70Approx. 2500 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The mid-module essay assesses the students' practical abilities to present and interpret data, as well as giving them the opportunity to practise and get feedback on their academic writing. The end-of-semester essay focuses on the students' discursive writing skills and their ability to integrate data into an analytical framework and to discuss its implications.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2023/24 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2024/25 entry will be published here in early-April 2024. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.