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SEL3440 : Philosophy of Linguistics

  • Offered for Year: 2023/24
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Geoffrey Poole
  • Owning School: English Lit, Language & Linguistics
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
  • Capacity limit: 60 student places

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


To familiarize students with key issues in the philosophy of science, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language and to illustrate how these foundational questions arise in individual sub-fields of linguistics (e.g. syntax, phonology, semantics, sociolinguistics, etc.)

To introduce students to past and present controversies in the study of language and mind and how various foundational/philosophical questions apply to them

Outline Of Syllabus

The course is divided into two parts, corresponding to the periods before the Easter break and after the Easter break. The pre-Easter period, which forms the bulk of the course, considers various sub-fields of linguistics week-by-week. The first lecture in the week will provide general philosophical background while the second will show how those foundational questions affect that particular sub-field.

The post-Easter weeks will apply the pre-Easter foundational/philosophical discussion to various past and present controversies in language and linguistics (e.g., linguistic determinism, language policy, ableism in linguistics, etc.)

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture221:0022:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion125:0025:00Preparation for Essay no. 2
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion144:0044:00Preparation for Essay no. 1
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities198:0098:00Weekly reading for lectures and seminars, seminar preparation
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching111:0011:00N/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. 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 two summative pieces of work.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M752500-word essay
Essay2A251000-word blog entry
Formative Assessments

Formative Assessment is an assessment which develops your skills in being assessed, allows for you to receive feedback, and prepares you for being assessed. However, it does not count to your final mark.

Description Semester When Set Comment
Essay2M500-word formative essay
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The formative essay provides the students with a sense of their progress in preparation for the first summative assignment. This is particularly important given the 'flipped' nature of the assessments, in which the higher value one comes earlier.

Summative Essay no. 1 tests the knowledge and skill outcomes in the context of the pre-Easter portion of the module, specifically centered around the connection between specific issues in the philosophy of science, mind and language and specific sub-fields of linguistics.

Summative Essay no. 2 provides a counterpoint to Essay no. 1 by testing these outcomes in the context of the historical and current controversies in language and linguistics (which are covered during the post-Easter portion of the module). The task itself also provides a counterpoint, being focused on engagement with and presentation of the issues in a rigorous, but less formally academic context.

Reading Lists