Undergraduate Course: LEL2D: Cross-linguistic Variation: Limits and Theories (LASC08020)
|School||School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences
||College||College of Humanities and Social Science
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 8 (Year 2 Undergraduate)
||Availability||Available to all students
|Summary||The course introduces students to the variation observed in the languages of the world, to the analytical and theoretical challenges that such variation poses, and to responses that have been given to these challenges. The issues are first introduced from a "bird's eye" view; then actual examples are given and explored in detail in the areas of (morpho)syntax and phonology; and finally the course concludes with a module on the implications of cross-linguistic variation for our understanding of how language is acquired (and vice versa).
There are four blocks of teaching:
1. The implications of variation (6 lectures): This block introduces the issue of cross-linguistic variation, shows why it is fundamental to our understanding of language, and presents and explores the responses that have been given by linguists, often from very different points of view.
2. Grammars and syntax (11 lectures): This block presents case-studies of cross-linguistic differences in syntax and explores how the syntactic theory that the students have already learned can account for these differences, and where it has to be extended or adapted. Students will both become familiar with a wider range of linguistics phenomena, and develop their understanding of the theoretical tools for explaining them.
3. Phonology (10 lectures): This block explores universals and variation in the module of phonology, covering phenomena from segmental phonology, tonal phonology, syllable structure, and stress. As in the previous segment, students will both be exposed to some important points of variation, and develop their understanding of the theories that have been developed to account for the topography of this variation. A theme that recurs throughout this and the previous segment is the constant tension in theory building between descriptive coverage and predictive power.
4. Language acquisition (6 lectures):
Languages can vary from each other because some aspects at least of linguistic knowledge are not genetically determined; what is not genetically determined has to be learned. This final block sets out how the question of possible limits to variation have, in modern linguistic theory, become intimately intertwined with the question of how language is acquired, and explores how language acquisition has become central to linguistic theory. It will also look at how language development is shaped by the interaction of internal factors (language-specific and domain-general predispositions), external factors (quantity and quality of input), and children's developing processing abilities.
Information for Visiting Students
|Pre-requisites||Visiting students should usually have at least 1 introductory level Language Science course at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this) for entry to this course. We will only consider University/College level courses.
Course Delivery Information
|Academic year 2014/15, Available to all students (SV1)
|Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info)
Lecture Hours 33,
Seminar/Tutorial Hours 10,
Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4,
Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours
|Assessment (Further Info)
|Additional Information (Assessment)
||Essay on grammatical/syntactic variation and/or the theoretical responses to it (40%).
Written exam (2 hours) with questions on all aspects of the course (60%)
||Hours & Minutes
|Main Exam Diet S2 (April/May)||LEL2D||2:00|
|Resit Exam Diet (August)||LEL2D||2:00|
| After taking this course, students should:
- Have an in-depth, technical knowledge of some important ways in which the phonological and syntactic systems of different languages differ from each other;
- Understand how these different systems have been analysed within current linguistic theory;
- Have an appreciation of how crosslinguistic data can be used to test theories;
- Have an appreciation of the relation between the nature of crosslinguistic variation and the nature of language acquisition
- Be able to analyse data from unfamiliar languages using the theoretical tools presented;
- Understand the role that crosslinguistic variation has played in major developments in linguistic theory, and be familiar with the major issues and controversies concerning the limits of linguistic variation
|Here is a selection of relevant readings. A more extensive list can be found in the course handbook.|
Croft, W. (2003). "The Problem of Cross-Linguistic Comparability" and "Language Sampling for Cross-Linguistic Research", Chaps. 1.4 and 1.5 in Typology and Universals (2nd ed). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 13-28.
Greenberg, J.H. (1963). Some universals of grammar with particular reference to the order of meaningful elements. In J.H. Greenberg (ed.) Universals of Language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 73-113. [Paperback edition published in 1966; page references to this edition.]
Hyman, L. (2008) Universals in phonology. The Linguistic Review 25(1-2), 83-137.
Fodor, J. & Crowther, C. (2002). Understanding stimulus poverty arguments. The Linguistic Review 19: 105-145.
|Graduate Attributes and Skills
|Additional Class Delivery Information
||All students will also attend a one-hour tutorial on Thursday (several slots will be available).
|Course organiser||Dr Albert Remijsen
Tel: (0131 6)50 6657
|Course secretary||Ms Paula Philip
Tel: (0131 6)50 3602
© Copyright 2014 The University of Edinburgh - 12 January 2015 4:12 am