Introduction to Linguistics

Introduction to Linguistics

Language is fundamental to our everyday social interactions, our politics and culture, and our thoughts. We all have ideas about how language works, but what separates our own intuitions from linguistic knowledge? 

On this course, you will:

  • Get an introduction to the main approaches used in linguistic research, including linguistic experiments and discourse analysis.
  • Find out about the key methods used in linguistic descriptions, and some of the everyday ‘myths’ about language.
  • Discover how linguistic researchers turn our ideas about language into linguistic knowledge.

What is a MOOC?

A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course - these are free, open, online courses designed to offer a taste of higher education to learners from across the UK and the world. The University of Birmingham is delivering new MOOCs in partnership with Futurelearn, the UK’s first MOOCs provider established by the Open University.

Delivered by world-class academics from the University of Birmingham, the courses enable learners worldwide to sample high-quality academic content via a interactive web-based platform from a leading global University, increasing access to higher education for a whole new cohort of learners.

The courses have been developed by senior academic staff and their content is quality-assured in line with our other programmes. The courses do not offer credits towards admission to the University of Birmingham.

Course knowledge requirements

This course is aimed at anyone interested in language and linguistics, but may be of particular interest to students looking to study English language or linguistics at university, or to those working in language education.

Course duration and content

This course is three weeks long, and the following topics will be covered in each week:

Week 1: How human beings make meaning with our voices and with our hands

We cover:

  • Some fundamental concepts in the study of language and communication
  • Language and gesture
  • Sign languages
  • Relations between human languages and other animal communication. 

Week 2: Methods used in the contemporary study of language

We cover:

  • The use of grammar experiments to investigate language learning
  • The use of eye-tracking technology to investigate language processing
  • Big data dialectology.

Week 3: How linguistic concepts and methods can be applied to a range of problems

We cover:

  • How metaphor and metonymy can shed light on communication in everyday and educational contexts;
  • The stories we tell about social and political events;
  • The language of literature.

Lead academic

Dr Joe Bennett is Director of Undergraduate Programmes in English Language and Linguistics at the University of Birmingham. His research focuses on the social and political life of language.

How to apply

This free online course is currently running. You can join now at the FutureLearn website.