Words and Dictionaries

Module code: EN7240

Module coordinator: Professor Julie Coleman

This module explores where words come from, how we can pinpoint their meanings, and why their meanings change. The language we use shapes the way we view the world around us, and examining the meaning of individual words or groups of words enables us to identify these processes in action. Although we tend to see dictionaries as objective and authoritative works, this module encourages students to use dictionaries critically, with reference both to the methodology with which they were compiled and the ideologies underlying that methodology. Students' projects are varied expressions of their individual interests and experiences, often drawing on their knowledge in other fields or of other languages.

The module will equip you to...

  • Analyse and discuss the vocabulary of English and its dictionaries
  • Explore interrelationships between words
  • Become a critical user of dictionaries


This module is taught by a flipped classroom method: students undertake preparation before seminars rather than follow-up work afterwards. The tutor-led sessions explore the strengths and limitations of the research tools available for various types of lexical study. Seminar topics will include lexicology, lexicography, lexical semantics, semantic change, morphology, and metaphor and idiom.

The module is usually taught in four two-hour seminars, with an optional fifth seminar, supported by a coursebook and material on Blackboard.


  • A 3,000-word assignment on a topic relating to the module but arising out of your own interests