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									Department of English Language and Literature                                         June 2005



                 The English Language Undergraduate Curriculum
                           Core Knowledge and Abilities

What follows is a broad statement of the core knowledge and abilities that we expect an EL
major to have at the end of the program. For students, this statement provides a general
outline, as well as the specifics that they should expect from modules dealing with different
aspects of language, guiding them in the learning outcomes they should aim at. For teachers,
it guides the design of the curriculum, including syllabi, teaching materials, classroom
activities, and assessment tasks, particularly for the core modules.



Overall knowledge and abilities
Core knowledge:
We expect an English Language graduate to have:
 a) a broad familiarity with the core phenomena in the structural, social, historical,
    political, psychological, and computational aspects of the English Language in a
    multicultural and international context;
 b) a deeper understanding of some of these aspects, with a theoretically informed
    analysis of the phenomena in terms of the leading ideas and theoretical constructs
    shared across major frameworks and theories;
 c)   an understanding of the evidence and arguments that bear on these ideas and
      constructs.
Core abilities
We expect an English Language graduate to be able to:
 a) identify the main/subsidiary claims in a lecture/article; unearth arguments and identify
    their structure; summarize the substance of a lecture/article (comprehension);
 b) critically evaluate claims of data, generalizations, and analyses, as well as the theoretical
    assumptions that shape the analyses (critical thinking);
 c)   construct and defend analyses/interpretations of core information and phenomena in one
      or more of the various aspects of the study of language in a multicultural and
      international context (creative thinking); and
 d) use academic discourse to communicate language-related ideas with clarity and precision
    in grammatical and idiomatic English (expression).
Department of English Language and Literature                                                       June 2005



Area-specific knowledge and abilities


xx01-05 series: Structural aspects of language
Core knowledge: the structure of English
Students should get a broad understanding of the concepts of language structure like those
below (not exhaustive list), as well as the evidence and arguments that bear on them:
 a) lexical categories (noun, verb, adjective, adverb, preposition, determiner, conjunction, …);
    phrasal categories (noun phrase, verb phrase, adjectival phrase, prepositional phrase, ...)
 b) grammatical functions (subject, predicate, object, adjunct, ...)
 c)    semantic roles (agent/actor, causer, goal, beneficiary, instrument, patient/undergoer, ...)
       event types (state, process, action,...)
 d) finiteness: past vs. present tenses, non-finite verbs (infinitival, present participial, past
    participial); agreement; case; number, gender, person.
 e) subordination and coordination;
       constructions: active vs. passive; interrogatives (wh-, yes-no, tag), imperatives, and
       declaratives; cleft and topic constructions; relative clauses, adjunct clauses, nominal
       clauses;...
 f)    correspondences between morphology-syntax and semantics: declarative, interrogative,
       and imperative vs. statement, question, and request; time vs. tense; masculine/feminine
       gender vs. male and female organisms; singular/plural vs. one and more than one;
 g) assertion, entailment, presupposition; focus;
 h) sense vs. reference; identity of reference vs. identity of sense; ambiguity vs. vagueness;
 i)    word, morpheme, and morph; inflectional and derivational affixes; compounding, internal
       structure of words (word internal syntax and semantics).
 j)    phoneme, syllable, foot, word stress, intonational phrase;
 k) organs of speech; description of speech sounds; classification of speech sounds
    (voiced/voiceless, nasal/oral; ...),
 l)    dictionary symbols used in the transcription of the pronunciation of English words.
Core abilities
Students should expect to develop the ability to:
 – represent the phonological, morphological, syntactic and semantic structure of English
   words and sentences in terms of the concepts above;
 – choose between alternative representations, and evaluate the evidence and arguments for
   or against a representation;
 – explain structural phenomena based on an appreciation of the regularities governing the
   structure of English;
 – articulate generalizations, claims, analyses, and arguments with clarity, precision and
   effectiveness in grammatical English.
 [For instance, an Honours graduate should be able to respond satisfactorily to questions of like those
      below, regardless of his/her choice of electives in the four years of study:
     Provide structural representations for the sentence Last night, my brother promised to clean up the
      mess in his bedroom in terms of grammatical categories and grammatical functions.
     What is the meaning difference between Bill rearranged the books and Bill arranged the books again?
     What is the evidence to believe that there are such things as morphemes? or syllables?
     Should the prepositional phrase in Bill put the book on the shelf be analyzed as part of the noun
      phrase ([put] [the book on the shelf]) or as a separate unit by itself ([put] [the book] [in the shelf])?
      State your reasons.]
Department of English Language and Literature                                        June 2005



xx06-09: Psychological aspects of language
Core knowledge
Students should expect familiarity with the following basic concepts and important issues:
    That studying the psychology of language means exploring those mental/cognitive
     processes that underlie the use of language;
    How theoretical aspects of Linguistics are related to psychological aspects of language
     (indeed Psycholinguistics was born out of attempts to test whether people really used a
     transformational grammar when comprehending and producing speech)
    That researchers interested in the psychological aspects of language study language from
     a variety of perspectives. Students should know that these perspectives include
     studying:
      how a child acquires his/her first language, and subsequent languages;
      how humans understand language; [Because this is such a complex skill,
        psycholinguists break it up into smaller areas of study – speech perception, spoken
        word recognition, sentence processing, text and discourse processing.]
      how humans plan and produce language — how a concept is transformed into a
        spoken/signed/written piece of language;
      the interface between language and other cognitive mechanisms, like memory and
        planning;
      language when it goes wrong due to atypical development or acquired impairment.
    There are several important, often related issues that drive research on the psychological
     aspects of language:
      The nature-nurture debate: understanding how child language acquisition informs
       research on the psychological aspects of language. By studying how children acquire
       language, psycholinguists are able to start answering the question of how much of
       language is ‗genetically endowed‘ and how much of it depends on the environment.
       Related questions include how children acquire their language so quickly without any
       apparent effort, and whether language is a uniquely human skill.
      The modularity debate: is language a specialized module, or is it simply part of more
       generalized processes? Students must have at least the beginnings of an
       understanding of this very important question.
      The bottom-up vs. top-down debate: closely related to the modularity debate, this is
       concerned with the ‗modules‘ within language processing – whether these modules are
       independent or influence one another.
Core Abilities
Students should develop the ability to:
  critically evaluate evidence and arguments presented by different schools of thought;
  form a hypothesis, and test it;
  produce coherent arguments for or against a particular theory;
  make connections between what is known about psychological aspects of language with
   other areas of Linguistics, and beyond it.
Department of English Language and Literature                                           June 2005



xx11-15: Historical/Typological aspects of language:
Core knowledge: English from a typological and historical perspective
Students should get some understanding of English in terms of the concepts related to
Linguistic Diversity:
     Syntax, morphology and phonology of English and those of
       other Germanic languages;
       other Indo-European languages;
       languages in other language families.
     Synchronic variation within English
       dialects, registers, and style
       dialects as varieties of a language (as opposed to the language vs. dialect dichotomy)
       standard and non-standard dialects and norms; the socio-cultural aspect of the
        standard variety; standards, language pedagogy and language planning.
     Language change
       internal and comparative reconstruction;
       evolution of the syntax, morphology and phonology of modern English;
       language contact, pidgins and creoles; evolution of areal properties;
       emergence and evolution of ―new‖ varieties
       describing the structure and evolution of new varieties
Core abilities
 We expect students to be able to:
      describe the syntactic, morphological and phonological patterns/phenomena of a non-
       native variety without referring to the standard variety
      construct and critically evaluate analyses of the syntactic, morphological and
       phonological phenomena, and investigate their historical sources
      compare the structure and use of different languages or different varieties of a language




xx16-19: Corpus- and Computer-Related aspects of language
Core knowledge
We expect students to:
  appreciate the kinds of questions that computer corpus-based research can help to
   answer, including those of sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, lexis and grammar;
  reflect on the corpus as a source of linguistic evidence that complements other sources
   such as experimental data (including informant judgments) and casual citations;
  understand the considerations required in the construction and use of corpora and so
   similarly assemble such datasets, especially from the World Wide Web;
  examine newer modes of language and electronic communication engendered by the
   Internet.


Core abilities
Students should be able to:
  propose and justify linguistic claims based on (maximally) representative collections of
   texts stored in electronic databases(corpora);
  reconcile corpus-based claims with those from other sources of linguistic evidence;
  have a 'hands-on' understanding of the computer and its central role in corpus-based
   research.
Department of English Language and Literature                                            June 2005



xx21-25: Literary aspects of language
Core knowledge
We expect students to
  have a keen understanding of aspects of literary production including the key concepts of
   author, narrator, (intended) reader/audience.
  be familiar with some of the constraints of genre: poetry, prose and drama.
  be able to recall and use linguistic categories picked up in earlier modules, supplemented
   with further linguistic frameworks that will help in analysing texts.
Core abilities
Students should be able to make reasoned, logical connections between linguistic choices,
predilections or tendencies in literary texts and their (intended or unintended) effect.


xx51-59: Socio-Political-Cultural aspects of language
Caveat
It is not possible to exhaustively list a delimited set of core knowledge and abilities, given the
highly diverse orientations that actually fall under the rubric ‗socio-political-cultural approaches
to language‘. Hence, we wish to emphasize that any specification we give below is necessarily
incomplete. That is, the ‗etcetera‘ principle should be understood to be in operation here. (This
in fact holds for the entire document.)
Core knowledge
We expect students to
  have an understanding of how social values and categories (e.g. prestige, educatedness,
   gender, ethnicity) come to be attached to particular languages/ linguistic features;
  be able to articulate the key differences between a variationist and a critical/ constructivist
   view of language;
  have a critical appreciation of concepts such as language proficiency, literacy, mother
   tongue, native-speaker, standard language, dialect, speech community, diglossia, as well
   as the ideological motivations for particular linguistic choices in formulating texts.
Core abilities
We expect students, by adopting either a variationist or critical/constructivist orientation, to be
able to understand and analyze the language behavior of individuals and communities. They
should be able to demonstrate how language is implicated in specific issues such as the
maintenance of group boundaries, the negotiation of conflict and identity, and how it can serve
a gate-keeping function in society. Students should be able to provide such demonstrations by
critiquing texts in themselves or by analyzing the situatedness of language data.

								
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