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BA English Language and French

Year of entry: 2020

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Course unit details:

Unit code LELA20031
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Linguistics & English Language
Available as a free choice unit? No


This module provides a hands-on and yet theoretically informed introduction to the study of linguistic typology. We will examine variation and recurring patterns in different areas of the grammar of natural languages. We will also discuss methods of collecting data for typological research and their limitations, and critically review some of the explanations proposed for highly frequent or universal properties across languages. This module is essential for students interested in pursuing research in language variation or language documentation, and also highly recommended for students with an interest in grammatical theory.


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
LELA10071 Pre-Requisite Recommended
English Word and Sentence Structure LELA10301 Pre-Requisite Compulsory


LELA10301 English word and sentence structure (or equivalent);

recommended: LELA10071 Languages of the world


  • Students will obtain an overview of the degree of variation, and limits to variation, in selected grammatical characteristics of the languages of the world.
  • Students will acquire the ability to apply grammatical and comparative concepts to a language unfamiliar to them.
  • Students will critically evaluate typological generalisations and test their applicability to specific languages. 

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course unit, students will:

  • understand the role of some key conceptual notions in linguistic typology,
  • be able to identify the cross-linguistically most frequent strategies of marking of selected grammatical constructions,
  • be able to evaluate explanations that have been proposed for the prevalence of certain construction types, and
  • appreciate the methodological issues that arise in cross-linguistic, typological research. 


PART I: Introduction

PART II-VI: Case Studies
Representative case studies in linguistic typology relating to the major sub-fields of grammar
(syntax and morphology, semantics and pragmatics, phonetics and phonology)


Teaching and learning methods

  • Lectures that include in-class exercises
  • Seminars that discuss the analysis of a data set from an unfamiliar language and that reflect on the assigned readings
  • One-on-one consultation and feedback on course content and coursework
  • Two 1hr drop-in consultation hours per week.

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • understand the role of some key conceptual notions in typology such as animacy or inalienable possession
  • identify the cross-linguistically most frequent strategies of marking of selected grammatical constructions
  • critically evaluate explanations that have been proposed for the prevalence of certain construction types
  • appreciate the methodological issues that arise in making generalisations about languages

Intellectual skills

  • Identifying patterns in sets of data.
  • Identifying key points in the literature relevant to a given topic.
  • Critically evaluating a model against new data.
  • Evaluating the validity of a generalisation from a sample. 

Practical skills

  • Using different strategies for locating relevant information.
  • Glossing and translating data from an unfamiliar language.
  • Eliciting data from speakers of an unfamiliar language. 

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Tackling complex and unfamiliar tasks by completing several steps, following guidelines, taking into account feedback, and asking for assistance in case of difficulties.
  • Interacting and communicating in intercultural settings and an awareness for linguistic and cultural diversity.
  • Offering precise argumentation in written work that is backed by empirical evidence.

Employability skills

Students will benefit from this course on the job market from their ability to handle and analyse unfamiliar data sets. Awareness of cross-linguistic differences (and the absence thereof) will be of use in the cross-cultural work place and in the interaction with second language speakers. The different components of the adopt-a-language project also allow students to enhance their team-working skills, gain confidence in speaking in front of a group of people, and to structure an argument and present it in a clear and concise manner.

Assessment methods

Assessment task

Formative or Summative


Weighting within unit (if summative)

Multiple-choice quizzes on Blackboard
on the assigned readings
(3 quizzes with 15 questions each)




Midterm exam (with
definition questions and problem sets)




Progress report on language projects
(in the form of group presentations)


5-10 minutes


(exploring typological generalisations
in an under-studied language)


3,000 words




Assessment task


Written assignment

5,000 words


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Oral feedback on weekly exercise sheets


Oral feedback on progress report


Written feedback on essay on Turnitin


Additional one-to-one feedback during office hours


General feedback on exam



Recommended reading

William Croft (2003), Typology and Universals (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

Veveka Velupillai (2012), An Introduction to Linguistic Typology (Amsterdam: John Benjamins).

Lindsay J. Whaley (1997), Introduction to Typology: The Unity and Diversity of Language (London: Sage Publications).

Joseph Greenberg (1963), “Some Universals of Grammar with Particular Reference to the Order of Meaningful Elements,” in Joseph Greenberg (ed.), Universals of Language (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1963), pp. 58-90.

Jae J. Song (2018), Linguistic Typology (Oxford: Oxford University Press)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 1
Demonstration 1
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 165

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Eva Schultze-Berndt Unit coordinator

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