English Language and Applied Linguistics modules

Autumn term modules

Discourse, Culture and Communication

This module explores the interaction between discourse and ‘culture’. Various definitions of ‘culture’ are outlined in relation to other theoretical concepts (e.g. ideology), and you will be introduced to models of analysis for spoken and written discourse. These models are applied to sample texts, with a view to examining issues and problems of communication within and across cultural boundaries. You will be encouraged to explore the relevance of approaches to discourse and ‘culture’ to professional contexts.

Exploring English Grammar

In this module, you gain a deeper understanding of the workings of English grammar. The module is informed by a usage-based, constructional approach to language. It highlights variation and gradience in the English grammatical system and provides you with the skills and knowledge to analyse and discuss “problematic” data. You learn diagnostics for grammatical categorisation which can be applied to authentic data, drawn from electronic corpora. We also discuss how categories and constructions emerge and change (i.e. where gradience comes from). The module addresses how these ideas might feed into the classroom context, and provides you with transferable skills in using corpora in grammar teaching.

Psychological and Multimodal Aspects of Communication

The aim of this module is to provide an overview of major issues in the areas of Psycholinguistics and Multimodal Communication One half of the course will introduce and discuss concepts and issues in the field of Psycholinguistics, looking at relationship between language and the mind, categorization and construal, embodied cognition, first and second language acquisition, and language development; the other will explore new ways of understanding and analysing multimodal communication, with reference to new theories that take into consideration a diversity of communicative modes – language, image, music, sound texture and gesture.

Social and Multimodal Aspects of Communication

The aim of this module is to provide an overview of major issues in the areas of Sociolinguistics and Multimodal Communication, with reference to new theories that take into consideration a diversity of communicative modes – language, image, music, sound texture and gesture. One half of the course will introduce and discuss concepts and issues in the field of Sociolinguistics; the other will explore new ways of understanding and analysing multimodal communication.

Social and Psychological Aspects of Language

This module provides an introduction to the main sociological and psychological aspects of language use and language development. One half of the course will introduce and discuss concepts and issues in the field of Sociolinguistics; the other will explore issues in Psycholinguistics. Sociolinguistic topics will include: ‘standard’ language and dialectal variety, linguistic variation by social context / purpose, language and social class, language policy and planning. Psycholinguistic topics will include: Universal Grammar, the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, 1st and 2nd language acquisition, language development.

Syllabus and Materials Design

This module considers the problems involved in reconciling syllabus and materials design with what is known about the process of language learning and the attempts of established approaches to language syllabus design to solve such problems. The module examines a variety of approaches, including some relatively radical solutions, e.g. the establishment of a pedagogic corpus, the use of a task-based methodology, and the development of analytical exercises.

Spring term modules

Cognitive Linguistics and Language Learning

A key tenet of cognitive linguistics is that the language we use does not represent a universal, objective view of the world. We can only witness phenomena subjectively through our own perspectives, using what we already know in order to find meaning in what we perceive. Because these perspectives are never neutral, the language we use is not neutral, but reflects the way we perceive the world.

In this module, we focus on those areas of cognitive linguistics that are most likely to be of particular relevance to second language acquisition (SLA).  These areas are: radial categories, prototypes and ‘fuzzy boundaries’; encyclopaedic knowledge; construal; metaphor; metonymy; embodiment; and construction grammars. We look at each of these areas, outline what it means for a cognitive linguist, discuss the implications that cognitive linguistic theory might have for second language learning, and where relevant, review research that has been carried out in the area. We consider how work in the area fits in with current theories of language learning.

Corpus Assisted Language Learning (CALL)

This module has a practical and a theoretical component. In practical terms, it gives you experience of using the corpus in the language classroom, and looks at the concept of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ use of the corpus and corpus data. The theoretical component covers pedagogical considerations, such as the philosophy of data-driven learning and the role of CALL within the curriculum.

Corpus Linguistics 

This module offers advanced studies in a specialist area of Applied English Linguistics: Corpus Linguistics. A number of issues in corpus linguistics are considered, including the compilation of a corpus; the information to be gained from concordance lines and collocational information, and how this can be interpreted; the implications for theories of language of observations made from a corpus; contrasting approaches to corpora, and the theoretical assumptions behind each; current applications of corpora, mainly language teaching and/or translation, but also stylistics, ideology and forensic linguistics; possible future directions in corpus linguistics.

English as a Global Language

This module will to introduce participants to problematic issues in English as a global language. It will: present an overview of the issues; consider how English and globalisation are inter-linked; show how the spread of English can be viewed as hindrance or facilitator; investigate the uses of English in different domains; investigate the development of new Englishes; and present arguments for / against attempts to control the spread of English.

By the end of the module, you will be able to: argue the case for and against the status of English as a global language; read an academic article on any aspect of the issues and evaluate it; and evaluate data related to at least one of the issues raised.

Issues and Approaches in English for Academic Purposes

The course will cover a number of key theoretical and practical issues in the teaching and learning of English for Academic Purposes (EAP). Topics will include: EAP and its place in English for Specific Purposes (ESP); analysing needs for EAP; describing language for EAP; EAP methodology; designing and choosing materials for EAP; investigating disciplinary differences in EAP; issues in EAP course design; EAP today.

Intercultural Communication

In today’s ‘global world’, it is necessary to communicate successfully across cultural boundaries of languages, styles and values. The aim of this course is to provide an overview of the major issues in the area of Intercultural Communication, with particular reference to developments in the last 25 years. In attempting to address such questions, we will hope to draw upon the variety of students’ cultural backgrounds as a basis for discussion and contrastive analysis. There will be some scope for negotiating content in response to students’ interests, but some of the topics we might explore include: culture: definitions and dimensions; stereotyping the other (and the self?); culture and communication; identity and ‘cultures within cultures’; intercultural mediation; and language(s), discourse(s) and globalisation(s).

Language and Gesture

This new module will focus on a growing new subfield in linguistics: the study of gesture and its relationship to spoken language. Themodule introducesstudents tothe studyof language and gesture,focusing onthe use of gesture in face-to-faceinteraction, drawingmainly onthe analysisof spokencommunication (especiallyeveryday conversationsand narratives)to demonstrategesture’s varied communicative role. Thecourse willbegin witha discussionof thehistory ofthe studyof gesture,exploring therelationship betweengesture andsign languages,and howthe useof gesturevaries accordingto culturaland languagedifferences. Theemphasis willbe onthe semiotic,linguistic andcultural aspects of gesturalcommunication, butwe willalso touchon theneurological foundationsof gesture,its developmentalcourse ininfants andchildren, andits possiblerole inthe evolutionof language.

Language and New Media

Since the end of the twentieth century, new media have transformed our lives and the way we communicate. However, for many people – teachers, parents, politicians – new communications technology also sparks serious concerns and raises troubling questions. Should we worry about ‘txtspk’ and the effect it has on children’s literacy? What impact is the internet having on traditional community networks? How are Wikipedia, websites and blogs altering ideas about what it means to be an author? And is the internet bolstering the global dominance of English at the expense of other languages?

This module looks at how these public concerns can be addressed using tools and theories of applied linguistics, through their application in seminars to naturally-occurring online texts. By the end of this module, you will have studied a range of current online contexts – from websites and wikis to texting and Twitter – and will be equipped to consider the implications and issues that arise within the rapidly-changing virtual world. In particular, you will have an understanding of: the contextual factors motivating linguistic features in online contexts; the use and significance of multimodal resources; the nature and function of online communities; what it means to be a reader and a writer of new media texts; the role and status of English and other languages online; how online data can be collected and exploited, and whether existing frameworks of analysis can be transferred online.

Language and the Senses

This module introduces you to key ideas in cognitive linguistics and psycholinguistics as they relate to language and perception. It deals with the basic question of how people use language to express sensory information, such as tastes, smells and sounds. A key topic will be sensory metaphors, where one sensory modality is used to talk about impressions from another sensory modality, as in the expressions “smooth taste” (touch to taste) or “sweet melody” (taste to sound). The module also examines sound symbolism, the study of how words directly translate meaning to sound, as in onomatopoetic words such as “squealing”, “beep” and “bang”. The module addresses how these ideas feed into such applied domains as advertising and name branding.

Language, Gender and Identity

This module explores the relationship between linguistic form and speaker identity. Drawing on diverse work in the fields of stylistics, sociolinguistics and language and gender studies, we explore how “identity” can be understood as a theoretical concept and an object of study, and at the complex relationship between identity language and power.

The module is centred on the concept of the ‘idiolect’ - the language of the individual. We consider how individuals utilise linguistic resources for their self-representation, looking at particular aspects of identity (power, social class, ethnicity and particularly gender), assessing how a speaker’s choices may differ or develop in reflection of their social experiences, and how the same choices intersect with the socio-cultural norms (register, genre, sociolect) of their speech community.

The module explores the topics using texts from different historical periods and different genres (including political speeches, private letters, news and social media texts), combining both quantitative and qualitative analytic methods.

 

 

Language Teaching Observation and Practice

This module is designed for those who are at the early stages of a teaching career (i.e. with little or no teaching experience).  We will look at a number of different aspects of current TEFL methodology through classroom observation and mini-group teaching/presentations. We will be focusing on: planning and delivering a lesson; stages of a lesson and lesson progression; different types of lesson and their format; ways of exploiting published classroom materials; different ways of presenting and practicing new language; what is meant by a learner-centered approach; ways of catering for different types of learner; classroom management and structuring the learning environment; and learners’ errors and different correction techniques.

The module will be taught through a combination of face-to-face teaching, classroom observation and mini-group teaching/presentations. You will be expected to prepare and teach part of a lesson to a small group of EFL students from the university.

Psycholinguistics in TESOL

In this module we have a closer look at language, its production,  how it is acquired/ learned, and its representation in the brain, among other core issues. Then we draw a connection between these language-immanent topics and their relevance for language teaching, in our case English language teaching to speakers of other languages. We will investigate issues that are vital for teaching, such as error correction, language testing, speech selection and production, explanatory frameworks offered by linguistic theories and teaching approaches arising from them.

Teacher Training

The development of ELT as a profession over the last twenty years, with teachers who require training and development opportunities throughout their professional lives, has led to a demand for teacher trainers with sound training skills who are able to tackle a variety of training needs at a range of different levels.

This option is intended for those of you who are interested in becoming involved in working with teachers in a supervisory or managerial role. The module is designed to help you develop some of the skills which are necessary in order to manage, supervise and develop teachers who are at different stages of their career.

In this module we will be looking at how you should carry out classroom observation and the challenges of giving feedback and evaluating a teacher’s performance. Get it right and you’ll find that you have a loyal colleague and supporter, get it wrong and you will have created an enemy who can make your life a lot more difficult.

Pre-requisite:This module is for those with two or more years teaching experience.

Vocabulary and Phraseology

This module will introduce you to key ideas in the study of vocabulary and phraseology. It will combine psycholinguistic and Cognitive Linguistic approaches to how we conceptualise the link between form and meaning, and how we account for patterns of polysemy within and between languages. A key part will be to introduce how the concept of what makes a “word” is less straightforward then we might think, considering how concepts such as compound words, collocations, lexical bundles and idioms fit into the mental lexicon. The module will also address how these ideas feed into the classroom and syllabus, and how we can use techniques such as corpus linguistics to augment identification and teaching of formulaic language.

Disclaimer

Modules and courses are constantly updated and under review. As with most academic programmes, please remember that it is possible that a module may not be offered in any particular year, for instance because a member of staff is on study leave or too few students opt for it. The University of Birmingham reserves the right to vary or withdraw any course or module.