69318 - General Linguistics (B)

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2020/2021

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

The course aims at providing the students with basic tools for the scientific study of human language and natural languages. Being an introductory course to general linguistics, it does not require any previous knowledge. First of all, the course introduces the semiotic basis of language, together with the notions of “human language” (which has special properties that takes it apart from other kinds of artificial languages) and of “natural languages” (which can vary across space and society, and which can be classified from a genealogical viewpoint). Secondly, the key moments of the history of linguistics will be illustrated, with special reference to modern linguistics (XIX and XX century). The core of the course will focus of the different levels of linguistics analysis and the relevant research methodologies: phonetics and phonology (including the description and use of the International Phonetic Alphabet); morphology and the lexicon; syntax; semantics and pragmatics. Finally, the course will describe how and to which extent the languages of the world may vary and may be classified from a typological point of view.


• Graffi, Giorgio & Sergio Scalise (2013). Le lingue e il linguaggio. Introduzione alla linguistica. Third edition. Bologna: Il Mulino.
• Grandi, Nicola (2014). Fondamenti di tipologia linguistica. New edition. Roma: Carocci. [previous editions are also fine]
• Berruto, Gaetano & Massimo Cerruti (2011). La linguistica. Un corso introduttivo. Torino: Utet. [Chapter 1: Il linguaggio verbale; Chapter 5: Semantica; Chapter 8: Cenni di storia della disciplina]

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.
Finally, it is highly recommended (mandatory for students who are not attending classes) to read the slides that will be published every week on Insegnamenti Online.

Teaching methods

The course is mainly based on traditional lectures. Data from different languages will be presented in both a theoretical and an empirical perspective.

NOTA BENE – The first part of the course will be taught online via Teams. Later, we will move to face-to-face lessons. Students will be informed in due time.

Assessment methods

The final exam aims at assessing the theoretical knowledge acquired by the students during the course, as well as their ability to apply this knowledge to concrete cases of linguistic analysis. 

The assessment is carried out by means of a written examination, which lasts 2 hours and consists of 30 questions (1 point for each question).
The questions are of different nature: there are both open and multiple choice questions, which may deal with both theoretical and practical aspects of the program. The latter are exercises where the students should analyze data (from different languages): these are aimed at assessing their ability to apply the acquired theoretical notions to concrete cases.
The questions refer to all the topics mentioned in the program (see description and textbooks sections), both those addressed during the classes and those that are studied autonomously by the students. Topics include: basic notions and concepts of general linguistics, history of linguistics, phonetics and phonology, morphology and the lexicon, syntax, semantics, pragmatics, linguistic typology, etc.
The final grade is given by counting the number of correct answers: each correct answer corresponds to 1 point, incorrect answers to 0 points, partially correct answers are also taken into account. Criteria for assessing the correctness of the answers include: qualitative precision, formal accuracy, clarity of writing.
High grades are therefore given to those students who demonstrate to have a global and harmonious knowledge of the subject and its specific language/terminology, to communicate ideas in a proper and clear way and to have acquired adequate analysis skills. A partial knowledge of the subject and its specific language/terminology, an overall fair but not perfect way of communicating, and less refined analysis skills imply average grades. A limited knowledge of the subject and its specific language/terminology, poor communication and analysis skills imply low grades. Those students who prove to have an inadequate and/or insufficient knowledge of the subject (in both its theoretical and practical parts) and its specific language/terminology will fail the exam.

NOTA BENE – The exam might turn to an "oral exam" depending on the (COVID-related) situation. Type of questions and assessment criteria remain unchanged.

Teaching tools

PowerPoint slides and other IT and web resourses will be used in order to illustrate the contents and to provide examples and schemas.

Office hours

See the website of Francesca Masini