Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Hands-on Language

LEVEL 01 - Year 1 in Modular Undergraduate Course


DEPARTMENT Institute of Linguistics and Language Technology

DESCRIPTION As users of language, in fact as users of one or more specific languages, we have various preconceptions about what is possible in the language/s we speak and what is not, what should and should not be, what may be but is unlikely. In this study-unit we will look at various examples of language in use but will do so using a bottom-up approach which will serve to complement the top-down approach which is the prevalent one in other areas of the programme of studies in Linguistics.

A large part of this study-unit will deal with samples of language involving speech although a number of sessions will look at language at levels of structure such as those of word and sentence formation, specifically using both native speaker intuitions and dictionaries and corpora as sources of data. What is more, an exploration of the ways in which communicated linguistic meaning is not always as straightforward to account for as one would think will pave the way for the investigation of how our communicative needs and discourse strategies affect our linguistic choices.

The study-unit will also include a brief examination of language involving modalities other than the spoken one. Students will therefore get some insight into the fact that speech can be analysed together with the non-verbal behaviour that accompanies it. The specific instantiation of use of the visual-gestural modality in Sign Languages will also be briefly explored.

Study-unit Aims:

The study-unit aims to give students the opportunity to work with samples of real-life language in order to examine how such samples differ from preconceived notions. Students will be given the opportunity to experiment with available recording and analytical tools in order to see how these can be fruitfully used as a means of collecting data, and in the case of spoken data, as a means to transcribing the data orthographically in the first instance. They will also be introduced to the idea of making grammaticality and acceptability judgements on the basis of both native speaker intuitions and controlled recordings. They will be encouraged to make observations and to begin to detect patterns and regularities in data, a practice that has largely shaped contemporary theorising about linguistic structure at different levels of structure: sound, grammar and meaning. The study-unit also aims to encourage students to think about the multimodal nature of communication and to start to get an understanding of the specific characteristics of each modality. Furthermore, an examination of some of the shortcomings of existing conversational systems will be carried out with the aim of getting students to recognise the superiority of real human-human communication where knowledge of language, knowledge of the world and common ground play very important roles.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- demonstrate that language in use differs from our preconceived ideas of it by examining samples of language involving media of different sorts;
- recognise the need to account for regularities in linguistic structure, sound and grammar as well as meaning, both in isolation and in conjunction with one another;
- exemplify the multimodal nature of communication;
- identify the specific characteristics of each modality.

2. Skills
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- make recordings for the purpose of analysis and think in a structured way about what data is required and how it should be collected;
- use available recording and analytical tools for the purpose of working with linguistic data;
- experiment with these to find out how these can best be used to pre-process data in such a way as to start making observations on patterns in it;
- use inductive reasoning to come to conclusions about observable patterns in these data.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

This study-unit is a hands-on one. Students may however be referred to (specific chapters) in the following texts:

- Bowern, C. (2015). Linguistic fieldwork: A practical guide (2nd edition). Hampshire & NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
- Clark, H. (1996). "Signaling". In Using language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Ladefoged, P. (2003). Phonetic data analysis. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
- Larson, R. K. (2010). Grammar as science. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
- Vaux, B., Cooper, J., & Tucker, E. (2007). Introduction to linguistic field methods. Munich: Lincom Europa.
- Wray, A., & Bloomer, A. (2012). Projects in linguistics and language studies (3rd edition). Abingdon & NY: Routledge.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Fieldwork and Practical

Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Workshop SEM1 No 5%
Portfolio SEM1 Yes 45%
Examination (1 Hour) SEM2 Yes 50%

Paul A. Falzon
Sarah Grech
Patrizia Paggio
Michel Spagnol
Stavros Assimakopoulos
Alexandra Vella (Co-ord.)

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2021/2. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.