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SEL3349 : The History of Linguistic Ideas

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Geoffrey Poole
  • Owning School: English Lit, Language & Linguistics
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


1. Familiarize the student with different approaches to the study of human language from antiquity to the present.
2. Examine the major intellectual and cultural trends of the societies in which these approaches were formulated.
3. Enable the student to appreciate both the role that intellectual and cultural contexts play in the development of theories of language and the impact that theories of language can have on intellectual and cultural trends.

Original Summary:
This module explores different theoretical approaches to 'language' and 'languages' from antiquity to the present. In addition to discussing the content of the approaches themselves, however, the module will also examine the intellectual environment, history and culture in which these theories arose. The goal will be to appreciate both the role that intellectual and cultural contexts play in the development of theories of language and the impact that theories of language can have on intellectual and cultural trends.

Outline Of Syllabus

Week 1: Module Introduction
Weeks 1-4: The Ancient World (Plato, Aristotle and Roman Grammarians)
Weeks 5-6: The Middle Ages and Renaissance (St. Augustine, Scholasticism, Descartes and the First Cognitive Revolution)
Weeks 6-8: The 19th Century (Indo-European, The Rise of the 'Social' Sciences)
Weeks 9-12: The 20th Century (Ordinary Language Philosophy, Soviet Linguistics, Behaviorist Linguistics, Chomsky and the Second Cognitive Revolution)

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion140:0040:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture241:0024:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading160:0060:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching121:0012:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyReflective learning activity15:005:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery121:0012:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity121:0012:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study135:0035:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures introduce students to the knowledge and skill outcomes by providing contextual information and demonstrating close reading of scientific/philosophical texts. Seminars consolidate the skill outcomes through conceptual questions distributed for discussion and develop practical skills in essay writing, including a reflective 'peer essay feedback' exercise. Private study is an important part of the programme, requiring both directed reading of the material in advance of lectures and as a follow-up to them, and also independently for planning and completing the extended final piece of work, which is on a topic of the student's choice.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise1M251000 word mid-term essay
Written exercise1A753000 word final essay on a topic of the student's choice
Zero Weighted Pass/Fail Assessments
Description When Set Comment
EssayM500 word brief essay
EssayM250 word peer feedback exercise
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The (early) mid-module zero-weighted essay checks initial understanding of the knowledge and (particularly) skill outcomes, and provides the material for a seminar-based group feedback exercise. The summative mid-module 1000 word essay follows on from the formative essay, and, after the essays have been anonymized, provides the material for the reflective 'peer feedback' exercise. Both of these essays are on specific topics provided by the module leader. Failure to pass either zero-weighted pass/fail assessment will result in failure in the module as a whole.

The end of semester essay, by contrast, has very open-ended titles, allowing the student to pursue a topic of personal interest in depth. Building on the feedback from the module leader and from peers on the previous exercises, it allows them to demonstrate their capacity to apply knowledge to new problems as well as to write clearly and concisely.

Reading Lists