Introduction to Language Studies

Course Description

Language is central to human experience. This course provides a comprehensive overview of language origin, evolution of language as human faculty, and traces the history of English language in order to provide an idea how languages developed. The part on the history of the English language covers story of English language from beginning to the present. The course also includes a brief introduction of the history of linguistics with special reference to various schools of thought that have contributed significantly to the development of Linguistics.

Course Objectives

This course aims to:

  • Give students a comprehensive overview of language as human faculty.
  • Familiarize students with different stories about the origin of language.
  • Provide students an overview of how a language develops through a comprehensive exposure to English language development.
  • Enable students to identify major theoretical formulations in the development of linguistics.

Course Contents

  1. Language Origin
  2. Language as a divine gift
  3. Natural sound source theories
  4. Social interaction source theories
  5. The Physical adaptation sources
  6. The genetic source
  7. Speech vs Writing
  8. Primacy of speech
  9. Speech vs. Writing
  10. Origin of writing
  11. Types of writing systems
  12. Language as Human Faculty
  13. Human Language vs animal communication
  14. Characteristics of Language: Design features
  15. Animals lack language: A controversy
  16. Language Families
  17. What is a language family?
  18. Language Families in the World: A Brief Overview
  19. Historical Linguistics
  20. What is linguistics?
  21. What is historical linguistics?
  22. What does historical linguistics study? (phonological, morphological, syntactic, and semantic changes)
  23. Methods of Language reconstruction

Evolution of English Language

  • Old & Middle English Periods
  • Grammatical categories
  • Inflections
  • Grammatical gender
  • Renaissance
  • Old, Middle, and Modern English (grammatical categories)
  • Shakespeare
  • 18th Century
  • Major characteristics of the age
  • Problem of refining and fixing the language
  • Swift’s proposal
  • Johnson’s Dictionary
  • Grammarians
  • Vocabulary formation
  • Introduction of passives
  • 19th Century
  • Important events and influences
  • Sources of new words
  • Pidgins   and Creoles
  • Spelling reforms
  • Development of Dictionary
  • Verb-adverb combination
  • English Language in America
  • Americanism
  • Archive Features
  • Difference between the British and American English

Development of Modern Linguistics

  1. Modern Linguistics
    1. Emergence of Modern Linguistics: Saussure
    1. Structuralism
    1. American Structuralism
  2. The Prague School
  3. Contemporary Approaches to Linguistics
  4. Functional Linguistics

Recommended Readings

  • Bough, A.C. & Cable, T. (2002). A History of English Language. London: Prentice Hall, Inc.
  • Campbell, L. (2001), ‘The history of linguistics’, in M. Aronoff and J. Rees-Miller (eds),The  Handbook of Linguistics. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, pp. 81-104. 
  • Joseph, J.E. (2002), From Whitney to Chomsky: essays in the history of American linguistics
    Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
  • Yule, George. (2006). The Study of Language: 4th/ 5th Edition, Cambridge University Press.