Describing Language

Module code: EN1037
module co-ordinator: Dr Chryso Hadjidemetriou

This module explores the building blocks of language: what is language made of, and what are the different ways in which it can be described? Describing Language complements and develops the topics introduced in Studying Language, by looking in more detail at the systems of language. We consider different facets of language, for instance their sounds (phonology) and their grammatical structure (syntax), and apply frameworks that have been developed to identify and describe the different linguistic properties in present-day varieties of language. The module weekly readings are drawn from specialist textbooks on language and linguistics, and we explore the descriptive frameworks using a combination of fabricated and authentic language examples.

The module provides you with an essential ‘toolkit’ for detailed language analysis. You will be able to transcribe spoken data phonetically, using the IPA, and undertake systematic analysis of word formation and grammatical properties of both spoken and written language. The skills acquired will enable you to undertake more complex and sophisticated analysis of language data. 

Topics covered

  • The phonemes (meaningful sounds) of English, and those of other languages
  • How to transcribe language phonetically, using the International Phonetic Alphabet
  • Word formation in English and other languages
  • Syntax (word classes and arrangement) in Present-Day English and other languages


  • 10 one-hour lectures
    10 one-hour seminars


  • Online tests linked to the module topics.