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Rhodes > English Language and Linguistics > Studying > Postgrad Module Descriptions

Postgraduate Module Descriptions

Our department offers the following list of modules. Which modules are available in any given year depends on staff availability and other factors. Please confirm with the lecturer concerned or the postgraduate coordinator that a module is available before assuming that you can do it.

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Module 1: Introduction to Linguistics at Rhodes

Not offered in 2019.


Module 2: Optimality Theory

Not offered in 2019.


Module 3: Introduction to Minimalist Syntax

Lecturer: Mark de Vos

If you are interested in the mechanics of how languages actually work at the level of the sentence, then
this module is for you. At first glance, the languages of the world seem chaotic and random, filled with
exceptions. So an important question to ask is whether there is anything in common between them all.
After all, the entire human species has the same brain, so surely languages should have something in
common? Minimalism offers a way of dealing with this problem, focusing on what all languages have in
common and deriving the immense diversity from simple, elegant principles that all human languages
share. As such, in a world where language is often used to differentiate people and to exclude outsiders,
Minimalism is an exploration of what unites us. The module focuses on analytical skills, puzzle solving,
theory formation, testing of hypotheses and argumentation skills.


Module 4: Debates in Language Change

Not offered in 2019. Lecturer: Mark de Vos

This module explores some of the implications of Minimalism for the study of language, mind and
biolinguistics. The specific topics covered are tailored to the needs of students, but topics covered may
include the following: (a) The evolution of language: when did early hominids start to speak?; what did
they sound like?; what were the biological prerequisites for this communicative leap?; what aspects of
language are innate, and what aspects are socially learned?; what aspects of language are shared by
other species? (b) The Minimalism wars: Is Minimalism a better theory?; Why do so many people
disagree with it?; Is linguistics `scientific'?; what is `science'? (c) Diachronic change: Is English really just
"French with a bad accent?" How similar or different is English from the languages that were important
in its development, Old French and Old Norse? How do languages change and why? Are there
constraints on the ways languages change or is change simply random?

Module 5: The Acquisition of Grammar

Lecturer: Ron Simango

This module explores the language acquisition process in normal children, including the development of
morphology, syntax, and phonology. The module explores the universal characteristics which underlie
the grammar of human language(s) as reflected in child language development. We will examine a
variety of topics ranging from the Boot-Strapping Hypothesis, argument structure, through Structure-
Dependency to the Poverty of the Stimulus (i.e. the Input Problem); and the debate surrounding the
acquisition of grammatical categories in natural language.


Module 6: Ethnographic Investigation of Language Practices

May be offered in 2018, subject to numbers. Lecturer: Ralph Adendorff

Ethnography focuses on the daily lives of sets of people who associate regularly together (in local
networks, institutions, or communities), on what their everyday experience means to them, and on
what connections there are between such locally situated, daily activity and broader realms of symbolic
meaning and social organization. Ethnography, as Erickson (1992) explains, “makes visible the ordinary
and taken-for-granted details of what particular people do together”. This module is intended for
students interested in doing research of the above kind and for those with a more general interest in the
theoretical assumptions, developments within, procedures of and examples of ethnographic research
into language practices. The module is theoretical and practical. From a theoretical perspective,
ethnography is understood, firstly, in relation to other, contrasting research paradigms; secondly, in
terms of developments within ethnography itself – ‘traditional’ ethnography; the ethnography of
communication; micro-ethnography; linguistic ethnography; critical ethnography – and, thirdly, with
reference to research studies of specific literacy practices. From a practical point of view, students are
introduced to and get experience in methods of data collection and analysis and, among other practical
tasks, they are also expected to design a proposal for an ethnographic study of their own.


Module 7: Language and Gender

Not offered in 2019. Lecturer: Sally Hunt

The interface between language and gender has two facets, both of which are investigated in this
module: the way language portrays men and women and the way in which men and women use
language. These aspects are contextualized within an examination of the role of language in the creation
and perpetuation of worldview and from the perspective of language and power. Some of the topics
covered include an introduction to research perspectives, an overview of the different approaches to
the analysis of language and gender, and speculation around the origins of the differences between
women’s and men’s language. Other possible topics include women’s language versus men’s language
(and whether we should be focussing on difference); language and power (e.g. the power of naming);
language and the construction of identity; language about women and men; the language of
transsexuals, gay men and lesbians, as well as debates about linguistic change and linguistic

Module 8: Contact Linguistics: Bilingualism and Related Phenomena

May be offered in 2019, subject to numbers. Lecturer: Ron Simango

This module, designed around Myers-Scotton’s (2006) Multiple Voices, provides students with an
overview of bilingualism, first as a linguistic phenomenon and, second, as a socio-political phenomenon
impacting on language policy, language in education, and language and identity. The module also
explores cognitive aspects of bilingualism such as bilingual language processing, development of
bilingualism in individuals (children and adults), bilingual speech production and code-switching. It also
explores the wider linguistic issues such as borrowing, language attrition and language shift.

Module 9: The Psycholinguistics and Linguistics of Literacy

Lecturers: Mark de Vos and Tracy Probert

Reading and literacies are essential in negotiating the complexities of modern life and integrating
oneself in the economy. Regrettably, the continuing crisis in South African education has impacted
negatively on reading proficiency levels. In a recent study on literacy, South Africa came last out of all
countries polled – and not only last but very badly last. One problem is that there are no established
reading norms for languages other than English. A teacher can refer to established norms to see if a
child reads the required number of words per minute in English. However, no such standard exists for
the indigenous languages. Part of the issue is that the notion of what constitutes a “word” in an
agglutinating language like Zulu or Xhosa does not correspond to a “word” in English. To complicate the
matter still further, some languages, like Venda, use a disjunctive orthography while others, like Xhosa,
use a conjunctive orthography. The purpose of this course will be to explore these issues in more detail
and consider how linguists could provide solutions. Other topics will be considered as they arise and
students are welcome to contribute issues for discussion.


Module 10: The Investigation of Interpersonal Meaning

May be offered in 2019, subject to numbers. Lecturer: Ralph Adendorff

This module concentrates on Systemic Functional Linguistic accounts of interpersonal meaning. After
first exploring the Interpersonal Metafunction (and associated resources) outlined in Halliday &
Matthiessen (1999), it moves on to the APPRAISAL framework and its various systems as described in
Martin and White (2005). Apart from ‘core’ reading there is a focus on recent APPRAISAL research studies
and on publications that prompt critical reflection on the APPRAISAL framework itself. Students work
consistently with data, so developing skills in coding and interpreting data of different kinds, they write
three syntheses and produce a research proposal.


Module 11: Research Report

Lecturer: All staff members

This module applies to all Honours students, all Master’s students and all PhD students. The main output
of Module 11 is the research report or thesis which fulfils different criteria at the various levels, and at
each an appropriate length, depth and scope is specified. There are more details supplied below in
Section 6. Students' progress in this module is also supported through, for example, sessions in the PG O
Week on the writing of literature reviews, the design of research questions and so on, the feedback
received during the Postgrad Conference in September, and close collaboration with their supervisor(s)
throughout the course of their studies.

For MA and PhD students, a pilot project in the proposed area of study is required in the first year. The
purpose of this task, which takes the form of a research report, is to test the feasibility of the project, to
provide a degree of formative assessment and to allow students to engage with research in a low-stakes
pilot project. In addition, this pilot project serves as an excellent basis on which to prepare a research
proposal for the larger project. Students conduct small scale research, typically on some aspect of the
envisaged thesis topic, and write a research paper on it. It should be no more than 10 000 words (i.e.
around 30-35 pages) and is equivalent to an Honours level research report. You need to consult with
your supervisor prior to embarking on your research project.


Module 12: Corpus Linguistics

Not offered in 2018. Lecturer: Sally Hunt

Corpus linguistics is a field of study which is rapidly increasing in scope and importance. As computing
power becomes more and more readily available and digital storage cheaper, so more applications are
found which benefit from the computer-assisted analysis of language. This paper traces the
development of corpus linguistics, offers tasters of various applications of the method (e.g.
lexicography, diachronic analysis, CDA), covers the various decisions facing corpus builders and affords
students the opportunity to develop their own corpus, and analyse it, using a variety of software for a
purpose of their choice. Please note that computer literacy is essential if you are considering this


Module 13: Sign Language Linguistics

Lecturer: Ian Siebörger

This module is for students who would like a deeper understanding of the structure of sign languages, as
well as those who are interested in further research or work in Deaf communities. Sign languages have
expanded our knowledge of the structure of language by showing how language can work in a modality
other than the vocal-auditory modality of spoken language. We explore sign language phonology,
morphology, and syntax as well as other similarities and differences between signed and spoken
languages. While research on a variety of sign languages will be studied, students will investigate
to what extent the findings of these studies apply to South African Sign Language (SASL) in their main
assignment for the module. 


Module 14: Psycho- and Neurolinguistics

Not offered in 2019.


Module 15: External Language Credit

Lecturers: Outside the department

It is acknowledged that linguistics students at postgraduate level may be enriched by appropriate
modules in language offered by other departments. Ideally the language in question must be one which
the student has not studied before and in which she or he is not already fluent. The content language
course in question should also be amenable to linguistic analysis appropriate to the level of proficiency
of the student. For these reasons, students may do a language credit at the discretion of their
supervisor. This decision must be ratified by the HOD at a subsequent staff meeting. A student will not
be allowed to do a language credit if by so doing, their Honours degree is “taken out" of the department
(i.e. if it results in a joint Honours as opposed to a Linguistics Honours). It is incumbent on the
supervisor to ensure this in advance. The language credit will count as a postgraduate module in
Linguistics and cannot count toward credit in another degree. The language credit must be focused on
the learning/mastery of a language. The language-oriented part of the credit must not be less than 34
contact hours (i.e. equivalent to the teaching contact hours for an Honours degree). Topics in literature,
culture, translation etc. do not count toward this total. The language credit could indeed be a first year
credit but doesn't have to be. At Rhodes, this means a student may do French 1P, German 1, Greek and
Latin 1, Xhosa 1 (Non-Mother Tongue) or Mandarin. Students may not study English 1 because this is a
literary subject at Rhodes. If a student wants to study a language at second or third-year levels then they
must provide a course outline (or communication from the relevant HOD) which indicates that the
student will have at least 34 contact hours of language/grammar lessons (i.e. equivalent to the teaching
contact hours for an Honours degree); there is no upper limit specified. The language credit should be
supplemented in the department by having the student write additional, linguistically oriented
assignments. The student should do one additional assignment per term or alternatively, one, slightly
larger, assignment per semester, subject to negotiation with the supervisor. The length of the
assignments may not be cumulatively greater than for any other postgraduate module. The staff
members responsible for these should be nominated in consultation with the supervisor before the
student commences study. The assignments will necessarily cover areas covered in the language course
focusing on linguistic analysis. Staff members should be allocated accordingly. Care should be taken to
ensure critical alignment of the objectives of the language course in question and the linguistic assignments.


Module 16: Language and Knowledge

Lecturer: Ian Siebörger

In recent years, knowledge has become a buzzword. We speak about “the knowledge economy” and
“knowledge workers”, but surprisingly little research focuses on knowledge itself: how it is structured
and transmitted, and how it relates to knowers. Language is the primary means by which knowledge is
built and shared, but few people have studied the relationship between language and knowledge. This
module is a basic introduction to Legitimation Code Theory (LCT), a rapidly developing theoretical
framework based on Bernstein’s sociology of education which is increasingly being used in linguistic
study (particularly with Systemic Functional Linguistics) to investigate how language is used to build and
share knowledge. This module will be particularly helpful for those interested in educational linguistics
and analysing classroom discourse. It will also be valuable for those interested in analysing discourses in
any context to understand how texts are used to build and package knowledge in ideologically-biased
ways. The emphasis will be on how LCT can be combined with linguistic study to offer a new perspective
on students’ research areas, and students will be introduced to many examples of LCT in action in
linguistic research.


Module 17: Critical Discourse Analysis 

Facilitator: Tracy Kitchen

This unique course is designed to equip you with the theoretical and practical knowledge and skills to use Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) effectively in your postgraduate work and is currently the only linguistic postgraduate course to be offered entirely online. Through weekly facilitated online group discussions, this interdisciplinary course encourages theoretical debate on the underpinnings of CDA and a range of approaches to ideology, language and power, while also providing a structured programme of practical critical discourse analysis: the nitty gritty of how language choices reflect and perpetuate ideological meaning. Throughout the course, students are required to make constant links back to their home department and their own research, and will engage with exciting Southern African research in the field (especially research from Rhodes). While this course is extensive and requires a significant commitment, it will ensure a deep and well-theorised understanding of the use of Critical Discourse Analysis and its application to your own research.


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Last Modified: Fri, 11 Jan 2019 15:22:34 SAST