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Introduction to Linguistics

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

This course will provide an overview of the scientific study of language: its components, its origins and its uses. It will cover a wide variety of topics including human speech sounds, the structure of sentences, how we learn to talk, and what makes human language different from the communication systems of animals.

This course will be co-taught by James Donaldson and Manuela Rocchi.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

The course requires an advanced level of English.

Content of Course

Linguistics is the systematic, scientific study of language. This course will offer an overview of the main subfields of linguistic analysis: phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics. It will also acquaint you with the main theories of acquisition and development of language in children, and explore how language is used to express identity. Examples will be taken mainly from English, but also other languages.

The course is organised in two halves. In the first, we will look at the building blocks of language and learn about some of the main concepts and tools of linguistic description. In the second half, we will look at how language is acquired and how it is used in society.


Topics covered may include:

- Language as an object of scientific study

- Language and animal communication

- Phonetics and phonology (sounds and sound systems)

- Morphology and syntax (word and sentence structure)

- Semantics (meaning at the level of the word and sentence)

- Theories of language acquisition

- Sociolinguistics (language and society)

- Sign languages

Teaching method(s)

The course is organised in 10 classes of 2 hours. Classes will involve a mixture of lecture-based teaching, tutorials, exercises, videos and discussions. Each week you will be assigned reading from the textbook and sometimes exercises. You will also be provided with links to blogs, open access articles, videos and other material for further optional reading.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this course, students will be able to:

1. demonstrate an awareness of the difference between prescriptive and descriptive approaches to language;

2. analyse simple linguistic data;

3. explain how language compares to animal communication;

4. articulate the ideas behind both sides of some of the major debates within the field;

5. consider everyday language use from a critical perspective.


Core Readings


Pinker, S., 1994. The Language Instinct: The New Science of Language and Mind. New York: William Morrow.

Pullum, G.K., 2018. Linguistics: Why it Matters. Cambridge: Polity.


O'Grady, W., Dobrovolsky, M. and Katamba, F., 2011. Contemporary Linguistics: An Introduction. London: Longman.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.