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Semester 2

LEL2D: Cross-linguistic Variation: Limits and Theories (LASC08020)


Language Sciences and Linguistics





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Visiting students should have passed at least 1 introductory level Language Science course at grade B or above for entry to this course. We will only consider University/College level courses. Relevant courses will be courses in Linguistics as an academic discipline. Courses that describe aspects of a given language as part of a Modern Foreign Languages degree will typically not provide students with an adequate background. **This course cannot be taken alongside Linguistics and English Language 1A/1B**

Course Summary

The course introduces students to the range and limits of variation observed in the languages of the world, to the analytical and theoretical challenges that they pose, and to responses that have been given to these challenges. The issues are considered both from a theoretical perspective, considering different approaches to the study of the human language faculty, and with a starting point in the analysis of specific phenomena.

Course Description

The course focuses on variation in grammatical systems in the world's languages, particularly in the areas of morphosyntax and phonology, on its importance for linguistic analysis and theory, and the responses given by linguistic theory to these challenges. The course aims to develop students' awareness of the diversity of linguistic phenomena and restrictions on it, their skills in analysing a diverse range of data, and their theoretical understanding of the sources of linguistic variation and different approaches to explaining its range and limits. The course gives an introduction to the study of linguistic typology and the issue of linguistic universals. It addresses issues of theory construction more broadly and in linguistics specifically, methods in the study of typological variation, and approaches to explanation. In particular, the course considers the tension between 'grammar-internal' and 'grammar-external' explanations in linguistic theory, with reference to questions of innateness, emergence of linguistic structure, domain-specificity of linguistic knowledge, the role of processing ease and other psycholinguistic factors, the importance of developmental data, and diachronic/historical explanations for patterns of linguistic diversity. In addition to these overarching questions, the course also equips students with knowledge and skills related to the description and theoretical analysis of specific phenomena in a diverse range of languages.

Assessment Information

Written Exam 0%, Coursework 100%, Practical Exam 0%

view the timetable and further details for this course

Related Courses

LEL2A: Linguistic Theory and the Structure of English LEL2B: Phonetic Analysis and Empirical Methods LEL2C: English in Time and Space


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