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This subject takes a broad and historically based view of some of the great topics that have preoccupied thinkers in linguistics, and how they interrelate, by juxtaposing the history of ideas on each of a dozen topics with relevant contemporary debates. Topics to be covered include defining properties of language, sign and system, arbitrariness versus constraints on the system, the role of typology, the role of formal modelling of language systems, linguistic relativity, synchrony versus diachrony, linguistics as a science, the linguistic system and the community of usersm, the boundaries of the language system, functionalism, adaptation and evolution of language systems, categories, classical and otherwise, and language, mind and brain.
Intended learning outcomes
On successful completion of this subject, students should:
- appreciate how the great questions and puzzles of the present are shaped by the historical concerns of the past;
- understand how developments in one field are built on those of another;
- read and understand ideas as formulated by their original discoverers sympathetically, but critically;
- have a broad overview of, and be able to articulate, the great questions in the field of linguistics.
At the completion of this subject, students should:
- have developed their skills in research;
- have developed their skills in critical thinking and analysis.
Last updated: 3 November 2022