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<General information>

The aim of this course is to familiarise students with the basic concepts and methods of linguistics as well as the most important general features of natural language. The course is, therefore, not on English grammar, even though most linguistic phenomena will be illustrated using English examples if possible. Great emphasis will be laid on comparison with Hungarian as well as with some other, well known languages (such as German, French, etc.). Occasionally, data from other, more “exotic” languages will be examined, too. By the end of the course, students should have a basic aquaintance with the most important properties of human languages and the concepts of current linguistic science. I will try to make the course easily understandable and not much technical, but of course it must be borne in mind that no serious science can be done without getting to know some terminology and theory.

            The main topics to be dealt with are:

F     The wonderful gift of humans: language. What makes human language(s) special? What is it for?

F     Attitudes to language: prescriptivism vs. descriptivism. What is science and what does this mean for linguistics?

F     Languages of the world: unity and diversity. What do languages differ in, and in what ways are they similar?

F     Language is structure, i.e., grammar. The meaning of the word “grammar” in linguistics as opposed to other senses. What, after all, is grammar (and what it is not)?

F     Basics of grammatical structure: how are grammars organised? Levels of grammatical analysis: phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics.

F     The lexicon, i.e., the word stock. Lexical knowledge vs. grammatical knowledge. The concept of arbitrariness.

F     Variation in language: social and geographical differences. The concept “standard”. Prescriptivism vs. descriptivism revisited: what is “correct”?

F     Language in time: how and why do languages change? Is language change good or bad?

F     “Similarity”: typological similarity is not the same as similarity due to relatedness. What is relatedness, by the way?

F     Some similarities and differences between English and Hungarian — and some surprises...

F     Language and thought: some views



<Requirements and grading policy>

This is a lecture course, which means that evaluation will be based on a written examination during the exam period (May — June). No in-class tests will be written during the study period. The written exam will be a test, consisting of (i) Fill-in questions, (ii) Multiple choice questions. Grading is usually based on the following point brackets (but I reserve the right to modify them for any particular exam): 0-50 % = 1, 51-60 % = 2, 61-70 % = 3, 71-80 % = 4, 81-100 % = 5.

            There will be 2 exam dates, one in May (probably May 23)  and one in mid-June (probably June 15) . I will let you know the exact dates in due course.

            Required reading:

F     FR6 = Fromkin, Victoria – Rodman, Robert, An Introduction to Language, 6th edition: Chapters 1, 3-5; OR: FR5 = FR 5th edition: Chapters 1-4 (both available in the library in multiple copies)

F     Reading package (available at the photocopier’s) including RABClaSp = Radford et al (1999) Linguistics: An introduction. Cambridge: CUP. Chapters 2, 5, and Trask = Trask, R.L. (1999) Language: The Basics. Second edition. London and New York: Routledge. Chapters 4-5