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Module QXL-1116:
Introduction to Meaning

Module Facts

Run by School of Languages, Literatures, Linguistics and Media

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Alan Wallington

Overall aims and purpose

This module introduces students to the basic concepts of meaning, also referred to as semantics and pragmatics, which attempt to capture how words and speakers achieve ‘meaning’. The module provides an introductory overview of a range of topics and subjects in the study of word meaning (Semantics) and meaning in context (Pragmatics). In this module students will explore how meaning is created (concepts) and expressed in words and discourse, how people make sense of each other linguistically, and power and politeness in discourse. The language used for the purpose of exemplification in this modules is primarily English; however other languages may also be referred to in the practice data sets and examples.

1. To introduce students to different approaches to how words and speakers ‘mean’.
2. To provide students with a working understanding of the key terms, ideas and concepts dealt with in Semantics and Pragmatics.
3. To introduce students to basic forms of classification and analysis of the properties and phenomena of word, sentence and utterance levels of ‘meaning’ and ‘use’.
4. To enable students to apply technical concepts and terminology to the analysis of language data and data sets.

Course content

The course will cover topics such as the following, in a foundational manner:
- What is semantics?
- Word meaning and sentence meaning.
- Literal versus non literal meaning.
- Mental representations.
- Linguistic Relativity: Thought & Reality.
- Semantic Description and Lexical relations (homonymy, polysemy, synonymy, antonymy, hyponymy, meronymy).
- Sentence Relations, Truth and Logic.
- Pragmatics
- Speech Act Theory & the Cooperative Principle
- Politeness Theories - Critical Discourse Analysis - Intercultural Pragmatics

Assessment Criteria


Student has achieved the minimum acceptable standard of understanding and/or knowledge in all the learning outcomes. Student can demonstrate a minimum level of understanding of the basic concepts and be able to apply them to data with some degree of accuracy.


Student has achieved a better-than-average standard of understanding and/or knowledge in all learning outcomes, and has a clear and accurate understanding of concepts; ability to apply concepts to data critically and thoughtfully; evidence of wide reading and clear and accurate reference to source materials; free from misunderstanding and errors of content; free from irrelevant material.


Student has achieved a thorough standard of understanding and/or knowledge in all learning outcomes; or student has demonstrated an exceptional level of achievement in one or more learning outcomes together with a good overall standard: student has achieved a thorough understanding of the subject, both in terms of content and theory; student is able to apply concepts clearly and accurately; substantial evidence of critical and original thought and analysis; clear, logical argument; high level of communicative competence; free from irrelevant material and errors of spelling and punctuation; evidence of extensive reading beyond basic texts and clear and accurate references to source material.

Learning outcomes

  1. Students will know basic terminology, concepts and techniques for the semantic and pragmatic analysis of language.

  2. Students will understand at a basic level a wide range of phenomena studied by those language scientists working in the sub-fields of semantic and pragmatics.

  3. Students will be able to do basic analysis of language data for semantic content, functions and relationships.

  4. Students will be able to do basic analysis of language data for pragmatic content, functions and strategic goals/objectives.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Take Home Data Analysis Exercise 1 20
Take Home Data Analysis Exercise 2 20
Take home assignment 60

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Private study

In their own time, students will be expected to do further reading, go through materials covered in class and do further research on the topics, and prepare assignments.


2 hour lectures, every week for 11 teaching weeks and tutorials. Lectures will include in-class discussion of practical applications of the materials considered in this module.


Five 1 hour seminars over the 11 teaching weeks, with additional exercises to be done in the students' own time.


Students are encouraged to see the lecturer on a one-to-one basis during published office hours (or by appointment) to discuss issues with the module content, seek clarification on topics and discussions, and discuss feedback on assessments and class exercises.

Private study

Directed Reading - students are given required reading each week (of about 2 hours) on the topic of that week's lecture.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • Writing & scholarly conventions - students will be able to present data, argumentation, findings and references in written form in keeping with the conventions current in language science and English language studies.
  • Analysis & interpretation skills - students will be able to analyse, interpret data accurately, and draw appropriate conclusions based on the application of appropriate analytic and theoretical frameworks available in linguistics and English language studies.
  • Evaluation & reflection - students will be able to critically evaluate a particular position, viewpoint or argument in relation to a specific area of investigation. They will be able to reflect on the efficacy of a particular approach, practice or performance, and moderate these as a consequence in order to achieve specific goals.
  • Fluency, confidence and proficiency in the use of English -students will demonstrate their ability and proficiency to use and understand and instruct others in English in a range of academic and classroom contexts.
  • Effective communication - students will develop the ability to communicate effectively, appropriately and confidently, in a range of contexts, to different audience types, and making use of a range of supporting materials
  • Learning to learn - students will learn to reflect, modify and improve their learning strategies
  • Awareness of and appreciation for linguistic and cultural differences - students will develop an awareness of and an appreciation for the range and nature of linguistic and cultural diversity
  • Knowledge of the nature of language origins, change and use - students will demonstrate familiarity with phenomena and findings relating to the nature of language origins, the way language changes, and factors involved in and affecting language use.
  • Proficiency in the use of English in reading, writing, speaking and/or listening - students will demonstrate proficiency in their ability to use and understand English in a range of different contexts and via different media.
  • Understanding the nature of commonalities and differences across languages - students will demonstrate familiarity with phenomena and findings relating to universals and diversity exhibited by and across languages.


Resource implications for students


Talis Reading list

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: