69318 - General Linguistics

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course, the students will be familiar with the history of linguistics as a discipline and with the main theoretical models in modern linguistics. The course will provide the students with the basic notions and procedures for linguistic analysis, as well as with the appropriate terminology for the study and description of the main levels of analysis (phonetics and phonology, morphology and the lexicon, syntax, semantics, pragmatics) from a basically synchronic perspective. At the end of the course, the students will know how to classify the languages of the world genealogically into language families and groups; they will also acquire basic notions in the field of linguistic typology, including the search for language universals. Finally, the students will be acquainted with the different subdisciplines of linguistics and the most recent developments in the field.

Course contents

Since this is an introductory course, it is not required to have prior knowledge on the subject.

The course is designed to provide students with the theoretical and methodological tools to understand and analyze human language in its complexity and in its various manifestations, i.e. languages. At first, human language will be contextualized within the larger set of semiotic phenomena, and the main models of linguistic and non-linguistic communication will be compared. We will then define the concept of 'natural language', within a broader perspective taking into account the world's languages and their variation in time and space, and will focus on the concept of 'linguistic diversity'.

The diversity of languages will be the background during the middle part of the course, where various levels of linguistic analysis will be explained and demonstrated using examples from Italian and other European and non-European languages. We will address phonetics, phonology, morphology, vocabulary, syntax, semantics and pragmatics. In light of the different levels of analysis addressed, we will propose possible typologies and taxonomies with which to organize linguistic diversity, and we will conclude by discussing the concept of linguistic 'universals'.



  • G. Berruto, M. Cerruti (2011). La linguistica. Un corso introduttivo. Torino: UTET Università.
  • G.F Arcodia, C. Mauri (2016). La diversità linguistica. Roma: Carocci.
  • N. Grandi (2014). Fondamenti di tipologia linguistica. Nuova edizione. Roma: Carocci.

Students who are not attending classes should also read the following book (recommended for all students, but optional for those attending classes):

  • Masini, Francesca & Nicola Grandi (2017). Tutto ciò che hai sempre voluto sapere sul linguaggio e sulle lingue . Bologna: Caissa Italia.

Further resources

• The slides will be published every week on the e-learning website. It is highly recommended to read them - both for those who attend the class and for those who cannot attend.

• Further references on specific topics will be provided during the lessons.

Teaching methods

The course is mainly based on lectures . The topics will be explained by referring to real use examples in Italian and other languages. The theoretical discussion will be systematically accompanied by empirical data analysis.

Teaching tools

The exam is designed to assess the level achieved by the student in the understanding of the theoretical tools provided during the course and their application to real language data.

The assessment of the knowledge and skills acquired will be done through a written test consisting of 30 questions, to be carried out within 2 hours, followed by an optional oral exam. The written questions consist of definitions, closed questions, open questions, exercises based on the analysis of data from different languages. The oral exam consists of the correction of the written exam plus an additional question.

The topics will cover the course topics: phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics, the general notions concerning languages, their relevant variations, the theoretical reflections on linguistic diversity, linguistic typology and universals.

The evaluation will be based on:

  • the number of correct responses, making it possible to partially correct answers
  • formal and exhibition adequacy
  • expressive clarity and the ability to organize the argumentation

An excellent rating will be given to those who show that they have a thorough knowledge of the program, expressive and expository mastery, precision in data analysis and in the use of specialist terminology, critical thinking skills.

Intermediate evaluations will be given to those who show that they have studied, but will restrict to a partial knowledge of the issues addressed, will use the terminology loosely, and will show themselves insecure in the data analysis.

Sufficiency will be given in the presence of a mnemonic studio, partially incomplete, that reveals a poor command of the terminology and basic concepts of the language, along with an imprecise and inaccurate analysis of data.

The assessment will be insufficient in the presence of significant deficiencies, inability to argue a theoretical discussion and / or properly analyze the data.

Office hours

See the website of Caterina Mauri