BA Arabic and a Modern European Language / Course details

Year of entry: 2022

Course unit details:
Introduction to German Linguistics

Unit code GERM10040
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Full year
Offered by German Studies
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The first part of this course unit (taking up all of Semester 1) provides an introduction to the sounds and sound structure of German, i.e. its phonetics and phonology. We begin by considering how speech sounds are made, and how they can be described and written down. This provides us with an opportunity to explore in what ways the sounds of German differ from those we find in English. In particular, we ask what difficulties English-speaking learners of German face in achieving a good accent and how to overcome them. The final part of the semester is taken up with an introduction to some basic concepts of phonology and a discussion of the relationship between phonetics and phonology. 

In Semester 2 we focus on other key aspects of the German language. Our first topic here is sentence structure, and we will look at different ways of describing the patterns of German. This leads on to a discussion of word structure, helping us to untangle the sometimes bewildering array of forms and endings. How we make sense of individual words and how their meanings relate to each other, i.e. the study of semantics is the third major topic. We conclude the course unit with an investigation of register in German, exploring how we adapt our use of the language depending on whether we are speaking or writing, what we are communicating about, who we are communicating with and under what circumstances communication takes place. 


Pre/Co/Antirequisite units

A-level pass in German or equivalent (except for students taking GERM51011 German Language 1 and GERM51022 German Language 2  at the same time)



The first half of this course unit is designed to introduce students to basic concepts in phonetics and phonology, and to enable them to apply these in practical work on German and English. In the second semester we investigate word and sentence structure in German, as well as some aspects of word meaning and the major stylistic choices made by speakers and writers of the language. No prior knowledge of phonetics or linguistics is required. 

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the first part of this course unit, students will be able to:  

  • Explain how speech sounds are produced  

  • Describe the CONSONANTS and VOWELS of English and German by giving them phonetic descriptions and discuss the differences between the SOUND INVENTORIES of the two languages as well as the differences in the DISTRIBUTION of these sounds  

  • Produce the sounds of German accurately and with confidence 

  • Use the IPA SYMBOLS for the sounds of English and German and transcribe individual German words by means of IPA symbols  



On successful completion of the second part of this course unit, students will be able to:  

  • Analyse German sentences in terms of PHRASE STRUCTURE and write the PHRASE STRUCTURE RULES necessary to generate such sentences  

  • Define VALENCY and identify the valency of common verbs  

  • Describe the major syntactic functions, e.g. SUBJECT, ACCUSATIVE OBJECT and DATIVE OBJECT and how these relate to CASE in German  

  • Explain the principles of word order in German and define central concepts such as SATZRAHMEN, VORFELD, MITTELFELD and NACHFELD  

  • Define the concepts of MORPH, MORPHEME and ALLOMORPH and describe how words may be analysed in terms of their grammatical structu

Employability skills

On successful completion of this course unit, students will be able to: Manage their time and work to deadlines; Gather and present evidence to support a particular argument; Participate critically and constructively in discussions; Express their views clearly and with due regard to the target audience, both orally and in writing.

Assessment methods

Assessment of Tutorial Contributions (Semester 1) - 15%

Written Examination (Semester 2) - 35%

Assessment of Tutorial Contributions (Semester 2) - 15%

Written Examination (Semester 2) - 35%


Feedback methods

Feedback Method Formative and Summative 
Individual feedback on tutorial submissions to students who ask questions about their particular solutions during tutorials  Formative and summative 
Individual (automated) feedback to students who complete mock exam questions and quizzes on Blackboard (Semester 1 only)  Formative 
Individual feedback on exam technique and subject competence to students who send in their answer to up to a previous years’ exam question at least three working days before the exam (Semester 2 only)  Formative 
Individual feedback to students who arrange to discuss their exam paper with the Course Unit Director (both semesters)  Formative 


Recommended reading

For Semester 1: 

Set text:  

Hall, Christopher. 2003. Modern German pronunciation: an introduction for speakers of English. 2nd edn. Manchester: Manchester University Press.  
Further reading:  

Collins, Beverley & Inger M. Mees. 2008. Practical phonetics and phonology: a resource book for students. 2nd edn. London: Routledge.  

Crystal, David. 2008. A dictionary of linguistics and phonetics. 6th edn. Oxford: Blackwell.  

Knight, Rachael-Anne. 2012. Phonetics: a coursebook. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. For

Semester 2: 

Further reading:  

Aitchison, Jean. 2010. Aitchison’s Linguistics. 7th edn. London: Hodder Education. 

Crystal, David. 2008. A dictionary of linguistics and phonetics. 6th edn. Oxford: Blackwell. 

Durrell, Martin. 2017. Hammer’s German grammar and usage. 6th edn. London and New York: Routledge. 

Durrell, Martin, Katrin Kohl, Claudia Kaiser & Gudrun Loftus. 2015. Essential German Grammar. 2nd edn. Abingdon and New York: Routledge. 

Fox, Anthony. 2005. The structure of German. 2nd edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Fromkin, Victoria A., Robert Rodman & Nina Hyams. 2007. An introduction to language. 8th edn. Boston, MA: Thomson Wadsworth. 

Gross, Harro. 1998. Einführung in die germanistische Linguistik. 3rd edn. revised by Klaus Fischer. Munich: iudicium-Verlag. 

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Tutorials 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 168

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Wiebke Brockhaus-Grand Unit coordinator

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