Great Ideas about Language (Q1084)

15 credits, Level 5

Autumn teaching

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 one's 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.


50%: Lecture
50%: Seminar


30%: Coursework (Group submission (written))
70%: Examination (Unseen examination)

Contact hours and workload

This module is 150 hours of work. This breaks down into 22 hours of contact time and 128 hours of independent study.

This module is running in the academic year 2019/20. We also plan to offer it in future academic years. It may become unavailable due to staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let our applicants know of such changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.