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Elective: Languages of the World

Vak
2014-2015

Admission requirements

This course is open for students of BA International Studies only. The number of participants is limited to 25.

Description

Language is one of the defining characteristics of what makes us human. While animals have developed forms of communication (such as bees dancing to indicate sources of honey), these systems come in no way close to the communicative and structural complexity of human language. Current estimates suggest that there are around 6,000 languages spoken (and signed) on the planet, some of which may be grouped together (in families) and others which are totally unrelated (language isolates). Each language serves to communicate the thoughts and intentions of a speaker (or signer) to one or more interlocutors and it has even been argued that we may think in language. Pushing this a step further, some have argued that the language we speak in fact determines not only how we think but how we perceive the world (linguistic relativity). Language is thus integral to how we interact with each other and to how we interact with the world.

This course expands upon issues covered in the course ‘Communicating Power’ and looks in depth into language and the languages of the world. Drawing upon key concepts and hot topics in linguistics, we will examine the similarities and differences between a wide variety of related and unrelated languages. We will look globally at what language is (language and the language faculty), how language is used (language and interaction), and the relation between language and culture (languages and communities). We will also specifically look at the building blocks of language such as sentence structure (sentences and their meaning), word choice and formation (words and their meaning), and the sounds of language (speech sounds). Students will hereby actively relate and apply the content of the course to their chosen foreign language on the basis of weekly assignments and a term paper. In this way they will gain further insight not only into the nature of their chosen language but also into the relation between the language and the minds and culture of the speakers.

Course objectives

The elective courses for International Studies are designed to teach students how to deal with state-of-the-art literature and research questions. They are chosen to enhance the students’ learning experience by building on the interdisciplinary perspectives they have developed so far, and to introduce them to the art of academic research. They are characterised by an international or comparative approach.

Academic skills that are trained include:

Oral presentation skills:
1. to explain clear and substantiated research results;
2. to provide an answer to questions concerning (a subject) in the field covered by the course
a. in the form of a clear and well-structured oral presentation;
b. in agreement with the appropriate disciplinary criteria;
c. using up-to-date presentation techniques;
d. aimed at a specific audience;
3. to actively participate in a discussion following the presentation.

Collaboration skills:
1. to be socio-communicative in collaborative situations;
2. to provide and receive constructive criticism, and incorporate justified criticism by revising one’s own position;
3. adhere to agreed schedules and priorities.

Basic research skills, including heuristic skills:
1. to collect and select academic literature using traditional and digital methods and techniques;
2. to analyze and assess this literature with regard to quality and reliability;
3. to formulate on this basis a sound research question;
4. to design under supervision a research plan of limited scope, and implement it using the methods and techniques that are appropriate within the discipline involved;
5. to formulate a substantiated conclusion.

Written presentation skills:
1. to explain clear and substantiated research results;
2. to provide an answer to questions concerning (a subject) in the field covered by the course
a. in the form of a clear and well-structured oral presentation;
b. in agreement with the appropriate disciplinary criteria;
c. using relevant illustration or multimedia techniques;
d. aimed at a specific audience.

Timetable

The timetable is available on the BA International Studies website.

Mode of instruction

Seminar involving interactive participation and discussion with supervised research.

Course load

Total course load for the course: 10 EC x 28 hours = 280 hours:

  • Hours spent on attending lectures: 12 lectures x 2 hours = 24 hours

  • Time for reading the literature: 12 lectures x 6 hours = 72 hours

  • Time for completing assignments: 12 lectures x 6 hours = 72 hours

  • Time to research/write term paper: 112 hours

Assessment method

The course will be assessed on the basis of: – weekly readings and assignments (must be a pass) – a presentation and discussion (must be a pass) – a multiple-choice exam (50% of the final grade) – a term paper on the chosen foreign language (50% of the final grade).

Note: The maximum possible grade to be obtained for re-submission of the final essay is a 6.0

Blackboard

Blackboard will be used. For tutorial groups: please enroll in blackboard after your enrollment in uSis
Students are requested to register on Blackboard for this course.

Reading list

  • Baker, Anne & Kees Hengeveld (editors) (2012) Linguistics. West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell.

  • Booth, W.C., G.G. Colomb, J.W. Williams, The Craft of Research, third edition, Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 2008.

Additional course readings will be announced on Blackboard .

Registration

Students are requested to register through uSis, the registration system of Leiden University for this course.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.

Contact

G.T. O’Neill, MA, email g.t.oneill@hum.leidenuniv.nl