Programme And Module Handbook
Course Details in 2018/19 Session

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Module Title LC The Science of Language
SchoolLan, Cult, Art Hist & Music
Department Modern Languages
Module Code 09 30756
Module Lead Alice Corr
Level Certificate Level
Credits 20
Semester Semester 1 or 2
Restrictions None
Contact Hours Lecture-15 hours
Seminar-15 hours
Guided independent study-170 hours
Total: 200 hours
Description Where do languages come from, and how many are there in the world today? How much diversity exists across different languages, and how can we measure this if languages are constantly changing? What differentiates human communication systems from dolphin, parrot or even bee communication? How do babies acquire language, and why is it so much more difficult for adults to learn another language? What happens to children if they are raised by animals, or in captivity, isolated from the rest of human society? And what happens to people when they are forcibly isolated from their linguistic community and forced into a new one where few people share a common tongue (historically, often in the context of slavery)? What is going on the brain of bilinguals, and what happens if they have a stroke and lose their speech? And can we ever separate language from thought?

This module will focus on debating and answering these questions by adopting a scientific approach to the study of the human language ability and human languages themselves. Taking English and other familiar languages as a starting point, students will analyse and compare a variety of languages from around the world, identifying similarity and difference across their linguistic systems. Through studying language acquisition, change, animal communication and the human mind/brain, students will encounter linguistic facts which challenge our common perceptions of ‘language’ and ‘languages’. Having developed so-called ‘STEM’ skills through the comparative analysis of the world’s languages and related topics, students will use the scientific method to debunk language myths. By the end of the module, students will be able to articulate the significance of the languages they know, as well as those they do not, for our understanding of the human mind, human interaction, and our linguistic past and future.
Learning Outcomes By the end of the module students should be able to:
  • identify the key characteristics of the human language ability, as distinct from other (animal) communication systems.
  • show comprehension of basic similarities and differences between languages from different parts of the world.
  • identify and analyse misconceptions regarding language (‘language myths’), using an evidence-based (‘STEM’ skills) approach.
  • discuss orally and in writing the different ways in which language manifests itself in everyday life and the students’ own interactions and experiences in particular.
Assessment 30756-01 : Portfolio of Evidence : Coursework (30%)
30756-02 : Language observations : Coursework (30%)
30756-03 : Digital project : Coursework (40%)
Assessment Methods & Exceptions Assessment:

1 x portfolio of evidence, 1500 equivalent divided over weekly entries (30%, in English).
1 x language observations log, 1500 words divided over weekly entries (30%, in English).
1 x digital project with an oral presentation (5-10 mins) component, 1500 words equivalent (40%, in English).


Re-submission of failed component
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