78672 - English Linguistics 1 (LM)

Academic Year 2023/2024

  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Language, Society and Communication (cod. 8874)

Learning outcomes

The global aim of this course - which includes lectures and language classes - is to provide students with an expert knowledge of a number of aspects of English linguistics, enabling them not only to communicate effectively in English, but also to think critically about and describe the metalinguistic factors at play in language use. This aim will be achieved by providing students with theoretical knowledge related to one or more of the following areas of English linguistics: phonology, morphology, syntax, lexicology, semantics, pragmatics, sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, stylistics and corpus linguistics. The focus of the course will be on real language use, with authentic texts (written and/ or spoken, belonging to different registers) and electronic language corpora used as examples. Language classes aim to improve students’ linguistic competence; over the two-year period, students’ knowledge of English should reach level C2 according to the European framework in all four abilities. These classes will work in connection with the lectures to improve students’ writing skills in particular.

Course contents


Lectures (60 hours, held by Dr Fusari) aim to develop the knowledge of the fundamental principles of corpus linguistics, as well as the practical skills needed to put these principles to work. They are divided into three parts:

1. introduction to the fundamental concepts of corpus linguistics;

2. hands-on activities with corpus concordancers;

3. individual or group corpus analysis/ corpus design practice, guided by the teacher with specific computer programs (Sketch Engine and Antconc; TagAnt will also be used if time allows).

After a brief introduction to some fundamental metalinguistic notions (e.g. paradigms and syntagms; idiom vs. open choice principle; parts of speech; lexicogrammar; register; sociolinguistic variation), the concepts of corpus, corpus linguistics, corpus based linguistics, corpus driven linguistics, concordance, collocation, colligation, semantic prosody and semantic preference are explained in detail, based on practical examples taken from some reference corpora (e.g. British National Corpus, TenTen 'family' of corpora), with a view to developing active (=language use) and passive (=language understanding) skills. The lectures include practical activities focusing on the use of corpus concordancers and the design of small corpora on specific domains/ registers of the English language.

A research seminar on critical discourse analysis (CDA) will also be offered during class time. This will allow students to see how corpora are used in a real research environment. Another seminar is being programmed (not yet confirmed) to introduce students to the domain of digital humanities.

Language Classes

The language classes (36 hours, held by Nigel James) aim to consolidate and expand students' language skills, with particular emphasis on oral and writing skills, and to broaden critical reading skills. Language classes will train students in argumentative and expository academic writing, and they will involve class discussion on notions presented in written work. For exam preparation, emphasis will be placed on writing extended essays and academic essays in English, especially on the issue of diastratic variation. This topic will be analyzed during language classes, through the use of a class materials booklet ("dispensa") assembled by Nigel James, and entitled "Variation in English: Society, Culture and Gender”. Prof. James will make the dispensa available online for students to download. The issue of diastratic (social) variation cuts across theory and practice in this course, as it is also analyzed with language corpora during Prof. Fusari's lectures.



Required readings:

1) McEnery, T., & Hardie, A. (2012). Corpus Linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

2) Lindquist, H. (2009). Corpus Linguistics and the Description of English. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Critical Discourse Analysis seminar textbook

1) Combei, R. & Reggi, V. (2024). Appraisal, Sentiment and Emotion Analysis in Political Discourse. A Multimodal, Multi-method Approach. New York and London: Routledge.

Optional readings:

1) Stewart, D. (2010). Semantic Prosody. A Critical Evaluation. London: Routledge.

2) Friginal, E., & Hardy, J. A. (2014). Corpus-Based Sociolinguistics. A Guide for Students. New York: Routledge.

3) Partington, A. (2017). "Varieties of non-obvious meaning in CL and CADS: from 'hindsight post-dictability' to sweet serendipity". Corpora 12(3), pp. 339–367.

4) Butler, C. S. (2004). “Corpus studies and functional linguistic theories”, in Functions of Language 11(2), pp. 147-186.

5) Tognini Bonelli, E. (2001). Corpus Linguistics at Work. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

6) Thompson, G. & Hunston, S. 2006 (eds). System and Corpus: Exploring Connections. London: Equinox.

7) Cermáková, A. & Mahlberg, M. 2018 (eds.). The Corpus Linguistics Discourse: In honour of Wolfgang Teubert. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

The preferred grammar reference book is

Leech, G., Hundt, M., Mair, C. & Smith, N. (2009). Change in Contemporary English: A Grammatical Study. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Teaching methods


PPT-enhanced lectures; handouts (especially corpus concordances) will also be distributed and/ or made available in electronic format on Virtuale; practical computer work. Students who own a laptop computer are welcome to bring it to class. It is not obligatory to own a computer.

Language classes

PPT-enhanced practical activities on the use of written and spoken English at an advanced level. A ‘dispensa' will also be made available on-line.

Assessment methods


The examination relating to the lectures accounts for 2/3 of the final grade.

For Prof. Fusari's lectures, students may choose continuous assessment. This consists of two tasks, one at the middle of the course and one at the end, respectively on corpus theory and practice. Students may choose to write an essay about Critical Discourse Analysis, related to the corresponding seminar, instead of either Task 1 or 2.

For students not participating in continuous assessment, the lectures exam is a theoretical and practical task, administered orally, of a duration of around 20-30 minutes. Oral exams are held twice for each session.

The exam is the same for attenders and non-attenders, and it tests that students:

1. have understood the fundamental concepts of corpus linguistics.

2. know how to apply the fundamental concepts of corpus linguistics.

Students opting to write an essay on Critical Discourse Analysis have to show they have understood its theory and applications to the English language.

Students who use theory coherently and systematically for their textual analysis, use corpora independently, and speak/ write in good, fluent English (C2 of the Common European Framework for Languages) obtain an excellent mark. Students who, despite some gaps in their corpus skills, can still use corpora effectively obtain a good mark. Students who have understood the theory and can use corpora, but cannot make a clear connection between theory and practice may still pass the exam, but with a lower mark. Students who show serious gaps in their theoretical knowledge and/ or in their use of corpora do not pass the exam.

Language classes

The examination relating to Prof. James' language classes accounts for 1/3 of the final grade. For all students, both attenders and non-attenders, the written exam will consist of a 500-word essay on a theme connected to topics dealt with during the course. The written exam lasts 90 minutes and is held once for each exam session. Students have to pass the exam before they can register their overall final mark on Alma Esami. The essay will be assessed at level C2 of the Common European Framework from various aspects: appropriateness of argumentation relating to the topic; presentation (layout, spelling, punctuation); structure/organization (application of academic writing criteria, cohesion/coherence), and lexicogrammatical and discursive accuracy of the standard academic English required. 

Written exams may not be repeated if the student has obtained a score of at least 18/30. Marks obtained remain valid for 4 exam sessions.

Written exams take place once in each exam session. Orals take place twice for each exam session. It is not obligatory to pass the two exam components (lectures and language classes) in the same exam session, but it is not possible to register the final mark for the course until all exam components have been passed.

Erasmus students are required to read the Department's guide for language courses.

Teaching tools


PPT, corpus concordancer (students can use Antconc in the lab or they can install it on their PCs), Sketch Engine.

Language Classes

PPT and Nigel James' ‘dispensa'.



Office hours

See the website of Sabrina Fusari


Gender equality Reduced inequalities

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.