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Faculty of Humanities and Education

Department of Language, Linguistics and Literature

Descriptive Linguistics

Phonetics – What exactly is it about an ‘o’ sound that makes it different from an ‘oo’ sound? Phonetics will teach you to characterise this and other differences by showing you the acoustic and articulatory properties of speech sounds.

File:English vowel chart.png - Wikimedia CommonsPhonology – Why are ving and blort possible English words but ngiv and tlorb aren’t? How is the n in nap different from the one in snap? Phonology studies sound inventories, patterns and distributions, allowing you to go beyond the descriptions of phonetics and to explain and analyse the sounds. Understanding phonetics and phonology is at the heart of teaching literacy.

Morphology – Why do we say innate and illogical but unnecessary and ulloved unloved? How do we know a blackbird is different from a black bird, but a shoebox and a shoe box are the same? Morphology teaches you about the building blocks of words, and how they come together in fascinating ways.

Syntax – Why can we say, What did the man who John met sell?, but not What did John say he met a man who sold? Syntax is at the core of understanding the human language ability, because it studies how words can (and cannot!) be arranged into phrases, clauses and sentences. This capacity allows us to express our deepest emotions and most crucial information in a variety of different ways.File:Major levels of linguistic structure.svg - Wikimedia Commons

Semantics – If Clark Kent and Superman refer to the same person, do they mean the exact same thing? Why is it unfair for a lawyer to ask a witness a leading question like When did you stop beating your wife? Semantics is the study of meaning in language. By studying semantics, you will develop a keen understanding of how meaning, the core of human communication, is constructed and manipulated.
Studying syntax and semantics helps you to identify logical structure in language, as well as to avoid the various forms of ambiguity, enabling you to greatly improve your writing and presentation skills.
 

Department of Language, Linguistics and Literature
Telephone: (246) 417-4402/4/5 Fax:(246) 424-0634 Email: lllhead@cavehill.uwi.edu