BA Politics and German

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Introduction to German Linguistics

Course unit fact file
Unit code GERM10040
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Full year
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course unit is all about how the German language “works” and how its sounds, structures, meanings and stylistic features can be studied using the tools provided by linguistics. These aspects of German are investigated taking a hands-on approach, so that students have an opportunity not only to get to know some key concepts and techniques in linguistics but also to improve their own command of German. We begin with a discussion of speech sounds (consonants and vowels), focussing on the differences between English and German, and working towards good pronunciation of even the most challenging German sounds. Sentence and word structure feature in the second semester, as well as word meaning and register variation, i.e. the stylistic choices users of German make, depending on the circumstances of a particular communicative event (spoken or written, formal or informal etc.)


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)

Available to all programmes that include German.


  • To introduce students to basic concepts and techniques of linguistics and phonetic
  • To highlight the similarities of, and differences between, English and German with regard to speech sounds, sentence and word structures, word meaning and stylistic variation
  • To take advantage of linguistics and phonetics in supplementing students’ learning of the German language and enhancing their appreciation of key aspects of English

Knowledge and understanding

On successful completion of this course unit, students will have gained knowledge and understanding enabling them to (among other things):

  • Describe the consonants and vowels of German (and English, where relevant) 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
  • Define and discuss basic phonological concepts such as phone, phoneme, allophone, phonemic vs. (broad) phonetic transcription, complementary distribution and free variation
  • 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 structure
  • Explain what is meant by lexical semantics, semantic/lexical field, sense relations, synonymy, hyponymy, polysemy and homonymy
  • Define the three main registers of German and describe them in terms of their linguistic features

Intellectual skills

On successful completion of this course unit, students will have developed and/or honed their ability to: 

  • Formulate testable hypotheses and identify relevant evidence to support or refute these 
  • Recognise patterns in linguistic data and state generalisations to capture these patterns

Practical skills

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

  • Produce the sounds of German accurately and with confidence 
  • Use the IPA symbols for the sounds of German, for the purpose of both producing and reading broad phonetic transcriptions of German words 
  • Analyse German sentences in terms of phrase structure and write the phrase structure rules necessary to generate such sentences  
  • Identify the morpheme structure of a given German word, providing evidence from both meaning and distribution of the relevant morphological material 
  • Identify the register(s) represented by a given German text, providing evidence from lexis, morpho-syntax and, where appropriate, phonetics/phonology 

Transferable skills and personal qualities

On successful completion of this course unit, students will have developed and/or honed their ability to: 

  • Use suitable tools for phonetic transcription, either as installed on their computer or available online 
  • Improve their own learning through planning, monitoring, critical reflection, evaluation and adaptation of their strategies for learning 
  • Extract information from a range of resources, organise and structure the material, and reproduce it in a clear and focussed manner under time pressure  

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

Assesment task Formative or Summative Weighting within unit (if summative)
Continuous assessment of pre-seminar submissions (Semester 1) Formative and summative 15%
Written examination at the end of Semester 1 Summative 35%
Continuous assessments of pre-seminar submissions (Semester2) Formative and summative 15%
Written examination at the end of Semester 2 Summative 35%


Resit Assessment

Assessment task
Written examination


Feedback methods


Global feedback on issues arising from pre-seminar submissions

Individual feedback on students' verbal seminar contributions 

Individual feedback on pre-seminar submissions, focussing on the specific content, to students who ask questions about their particular solutions during seminars

Individual (automated) feedback to students who complete mock exam questions and quizzes on Blackboard (Semester 1 only)

Individual feedback on exam technique and subject competence to students who send in their answer to up to two previous years' exam questions two clear working days before the exam 


Individual written feedback on completed seminar tasks submitted prior to each seminar, focussing on the extent to which the task was completed

Individual feedback to students who arrange to discuss their exam paper with the Course Unit Director (both semesters)


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:  

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.  

Durrell, Martin. 2021. Hammer’s German grammar and usage. 7th edn. London and New York: Routledge. 

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

Fromkin, Victoria A., Robert Rodman & Nina Hyams. 2017. An introduction to language. 11th 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
Seminars 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 168

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Wiebke Brockhaus-Grand Unit coordinator

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