BA English Language and French

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Cognitive Linguistics

Unit code LELA20311
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Linguistics & English Language
Available as a free choice unit? Yes

Overview

This course will introduce students to cognitive approaches to the study of language.  Some central assumptions of such approaches are that:

  • meaning is at the core of language, and can be associated both with lexical items and with grammatical constructions;
  • linguistic meaning is often based on prototypes rather than hard-and-fast categories, and cannot be neatly distinguished from general knowledge;
  • extensions of semantic categories by processes such as metaphor and metonymy are an important aspect of linguistic productivity and language change;
  • grammar is shaped by the interactional needs of speakers, as well as by general cognitive constraints on attention and memory;
  • grammar is, moreover, shaped by frequency of use.

Consideration of foundational issues in the debate between cognitive and formalist approaches to language will be a focal point throughout.

While English will be the main language of study, data from other languages may be included to highlight cross-linguistic variation.

Pre/co-requisites

Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
English Word and Sentence Structure LELA10301 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Study of Meaning LELA10332 Pre-Requisite Compulsory

Aims

 The principal aims of the course unit are as follows:

  • Introducing students to cognitive approaches to the study of language;
  • Familiarizing students with the foundational issues in the debate between cognitive and formalist approaches to language;
  • Providing students with the opportunity of analysing new language data within a cognitive approach.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will:

  • Understand the fundamental assumptions, concepts, and methodologies that are central to cognitive linguistics, and apply them to the analysis of new data, using a precisely defined metalinguistic vocabulary;
  • Be able to account for the central differences between cognitive and formalist approaches to the study of language;
  • Have some understanding of the main theoretical approaches within cognitive linguistics, and the relations that obtain between those approaches.

Syllabus

Core topics to be covered include:  Conceptualization and construal; Symbolization, coding, and constructions; Categorization; Usage-based linguistics; Linguistic vs encyclopedic knowledge; Frames; Polysemy; Metaphor and metonymy; Iconicity; Subjectivity and subjectification. 

In addition, some consideration may be given to quantitative approaches in cognitive linguistics, to the relation between synchrony and diachrony, and/or to language acquisition.

Teaching and learning methods

22 hours of lectures, 11 hours of seminars featuring a variety of tutor-led and student-led activities, including regular practice exercises.

The unit will have a Blackboard page.

Knowledge and understanding

 By the end of this course students will:

  • Understand the fundamental assumptions, concepts, and methodologies that are central to cognitive linguistics;
  • Have some understanding of the main theoretical approaches within cognitive linguistics, and the relations that obtain between those approaches.

Intellectual skills

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

  • Account for the central differences between cognitive and formalist approaches to the study of language;
  • Use a precisely defined metalinguistic vocabulary when discussing cognitive studies and when analysing their own data.

Practical skills

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

  • Apply the fundamental assumptions, concepts, and methodologies that are central to cognitive linguistics to new data.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this course students will have improved their ability to:

  • critically review different analyses of and approaches to specific phenomena
  • analyse data using clearly defined terms and providing coherent argumentation
  • study independently and manage their time
  • successfully work in a team
  • clearly communicate in speaking and writing

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Many of the theoretical ideas posited in Cognitive Linguistics and Usage-based Linguistics have found their way into practical applications in for instance Artificial Intelligence. At the same time, students will learn how to process and analyse natural language data, how to do (basic) quantitative analyses, how to appropriately interpret their findings, and, finally, how to present such complex data in a clear and neatly structured argumentation.
Problem solving
These abstract theoretical, analytical, and practical skills will be valuable to students in their future academic or non-academic career.
Other
The course content and coursework project directly aim to advance the student¿s understanding of ¿ and practical skills in ¿ information processing. By the end of this course, students will have a thorough understanding of how social dynamics and cognitive or mental constraints on attention and memory shape our language, i.e. how we produce and process, and memorize linguistic information.

Assessment methods

  

Assessment task

Formative or summative

Length

Weighting within unit

(if summative)

Mid-term examination (50%)

Formative and summative

1hr

25%

Essay (to be completed individually)

Summative

3,500-4,000 words

75%

Regular practice exercises

Formative

 

 

 

 

 

Feedback methods

 

 

Feedback method

Formative or summative

Comments made during class discussion regarding the relevance and coherence of student responses to practice exercises and their participation in discussion.

Formative

Global feedback on examination, plus face-to-face discussion if desired (in the knowledge that this de-anonymizes the student).

Formative and summative

Written comments on essays, plus face-to-face discussion if desired.

Summative

 

Recommended reading

Croft, William & D. Alan Cruse. 2004. Cognitive Linguistics. Cambridge: CUP.

Dabrowska, Ewa and Dagmar Divjak. 2015. Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics. Berlin: de Gruyter.

Evans, Vyvyan & Melanie Green. 2006. Cognitive Linguistics: An Introduction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP.

Geeraerts, Dirk & Hubert Cuyckens, eds. 2010. The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics. Oxford: OUP.

Taylor, John R. 2003. Linguistic Categorization. Oxford: OUP.

Ungerer, Friedrich & Hans-Jörg Schmid.  2006. An Introduction to Cognitive Linguistics. London: Routledge.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 1
Lectures 22
Project supervision 11
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 155

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Christopher Hicks Unit coordinator

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