Linguistics within a humanities modular programme

Author: Marjolein Groefsema


This article addresses how Linguistics can be taught as part of a humanities modular programme in such a way that there is flexibility and choice whilst coherent routes through the different years is provided and progression is ensured.

Table of contents


A Humanities modular programme such as the one at the University of Hertfordshire ( aims to provide a flexible framework within which students can study a range of Humanities disciplines, with the choice to specialise to a smaller or larger extent in particular subjects. What distinguishes such programmes from traditional courses is that they consist of a range of modules, where each module is a self-contained unit of learning. Students construct their own courses by choosing a combination of modules to study from the range on offer. Each module has its own unique set of learning outcomes. On completion of the module, students are immediately assessed on whether they have satisfied these, and they will not be reassessed on these later on in their studies.

The challenge faced in designing the linguistics curriculum within such a modular programme is to provide coherent routes through the different levels (years) for students taking Linguistics as a Minor, a Joint Major, a Major within a Major/Minor pattern or as a Single Subject, depending on the number of modules taken (at the University of Hertfordshire this is two, four, six and eight modules at levels two and three respectively).

To achieve this and ensure that there is progression through the different levels of study, it should be spelled out what the aims are for linguistics as a Single Subject, Major or Minor, as well as what the anticipated learning outcomes are for the different levels of study. Doing this will have as a consequence that constraints can be built into the programme, for example where successful completion of a specified number of modules in Linguistics at levels one and two are required for study of linguistics modules at levels two and three respectively. For example, at the University of Hertfordshire all students who want to continue with linguistics at level two need to take a minimum of two modules at level one. However, the flexibility and choice of the modular scheme is maintained in that there is a choice of four modules at level one. These have been developed in such a way that the different possible combinations all reflect the learning outcomes formulated for level one.

In addition, particular modules may be identified as prerequisites for other modules. For example, at the University of Hertfordshire, all students who want to study linguistics at level three have to take a module on introductory syntax as well as a module on phonetics and phonology at level two. An understanding of these aspects of language is seen as necessary as a foundation for the study of other sub-fields of linguistics. This means that students taking Linguistics as a Minor are restricted to these two particular modules, while Major and Single Subject students can in addition choose modules in subjects such as semantics, pragmatics and discourse, lexicology, intermediate syntax and approaches to linguistic analysis. At level three students can choose from a number of modules on a range of sub-fields of linguistics, such as first and second language acquisition, current theories of pragmatics, sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics and history of English. Because certain level three modules have prerequisites (such as a module on advanced syntax) this again differentiates between the Minor and Major/Single Subjects routes.


Badley, G and S. Marshall (1995). 53 Questions and Answers about Modules and Semesters. Bristol: Technical and Educational Services Ltd.

Coffield, F. and B. Williamson (Eds.)(1997) Repositioning Higher education. Buckingham: SRHE and Open University Press.

Jenkins, A and L. Walker (eds.)(1994). Developing student capability through modular courses. London: Kogan Page.

Related links

University of Hertfordshire Department of Humanities Home Page

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