English and drama

Great Ideas about Language

Module code: Q1084
Level 5
15 credits in autumn teaching
Teaching method: Seminar, Lecture
Assessment modes: Coursework, Take away paper

This module explores the history of ideas about language from the Enlightenment to the present. Through lectures and seminars we will explore the answers to the following: what questions have propelled linguists and philosophers at different points in history? How have the attempts to answer them influenced and been influenced by the intellectual milieu of the day? How do our assumptions about what language is affect what counts as evidence in investigating it? How have these ideas fared through the decades? Key topics that we will consider include: the birth of linguistics in the shift from diachronic to synchronic studies, Chomskyan rationalism and innatism, the linguistic turn in philosophy, the relation between language and thought, European structuralism and functionalism, and the cognitive turn.

Module learning outcomes

  • Identify and explain key ways in which theories of language can differ.
  • Trace a broad history of modern linguistics, from the seeds present in the 18th century to current theories in the 21st.
  • Synthesise material from seminar discussions into cogent reports.
  • Apply critical thinking skills in order to assess the relevance of different types of linguistic phenomena to particular theoretical approaches.