This course examines the work of various individuals (philosophers as well as linguists) and schools of thought which have played an important role in the development of thinking about language and communication in the Western intellectual tradition, from the Classical Period to the present day. The course aims to stimulate reflection on the merits and shortcomings inherent in the various models of verbal communication proposed, and encourages students to think of them as often historically and ideologically connected. What basic questions have preoccupied linguists and philosophers of language over the centuries? What have been the major revolutions in Western linguistic thought and what is their intellectual lineage? Some of the key thinkers covered in this course include Aristotle, Locke, Bloomfield, Saussure, Labov, Harris, Chomsky, Gumperz, Malinowski, as well as the movements which some of them helped to inspire such as Logical Positivism, Behaviourism, Structuralism, Postmodernism, Poststructuralism, Semiotics and Integrationism.




Students will study a selection of influential Western theories of language and communication, as proposed by semioticians, linguists, sociologists and communication scholars. The emphasis will be on a critical reflection of what (often unstated) assumptions underlie these theories (i.e. their philosophies of language), and how the theories came into being at all. At the end of this course students will able to assess the merits and shortcomings of thinking about language and (verbal) communication in a variety of ways.




The primary requirements for this course are an in-class test (30%) covering the contents of the lectures and an individual research paper (70%).



Last updated: 3 July 2019