GM2LWF-The World of Words: Lexicology and Word Formation

Module Provider: Modern Languages
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn / Spring term module
Pre-requisites: GM1L2 Intermediate German Language or GM1L3 Advanced German Language I
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2017/8

Module Convenor: Dr Melani Schroeter


Summary module description:

The module aims to provide students with an in-depth understanding of a range of aspects concerning the lexicon – including word formation patterns and their productivity, semantic relations between words, processes of borrowing from other languages, collocations and idioms, word frequency and variety in the lexicon, including specialist vocabulary and regional variation.

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of the module it is expected that students will be able to:
- analyse a variety of linguistic aspects concerning words in given examples
- use dictionaries more critically and effectively
- consult corpora to gain insights into the use and frequency of words
- understand the importance of context in order to identify meaning and/or make the right choice of word(s) especially when using a foreign language

Additional outcomes:
Students will have the opportunity to further develop their research skills as well as their skills of linguistic analysis. This module will also contribute to the effective organisation of ideas and to an increased consciousness in handling lexical choice, especially when using a foreign language. Finally, it will contribute to an appreciation of language contrast and language contact.

Outline content:
The amount of words available for use in a certain language – the lexicon – is more than an endless alphabetical list that even native speakers will never know by heart. The lexicon and individual words can be investigated from a range of perspectives:
- Chronology: there are obsolescent and archaic words that go out of fashion and out of use, and new words enter the lexicon all the time, mostly with the help of word formation or borrowing. We will look at how and why new words enter the lexicon, including word formation patterns and their productivity in the creation of new words, but also metaphorical use of existing words (computer virus or computer mouse);
- Contact: new words also enter the lexicon and sometimes replace existing words as a result of language contact; we will look at different types of borrowing and at factors that determine which languages are favoured for borrowing;
- Semantic relations: no word is unrelated to others; a lot of words share similar meaning and have more than one meaning to complicate matters. Opposition, i.e. semantic antonymy, is also one of such relations, as is hyponymy – i.e. some words refer to a class of entities which are implied as subordinate (animals – birds – crow, robin);
- Company: words also have the tendency to combine with certain other words in most contexts, for no apparent reason; we will look at collocations – frequent co-occurrence of some words – and idioms – when a combination of words creates a meaning beyond the literal meaning of its components;
- Variety: some words are used in some places rather than others (regional variety and lexical variants in UK/US English or between Germany and Austria), and some words are used only in specific contexts (subject specific terminology).

We will use examples from English and German (with translations) when discussing these aspects, and we will focus our discussion of language contact on lexical transfer between English and German, including German loan words such as 'Schadenfreude' and 'Zeitgeist' and the very large extent to which German borrows from English, often replacing existing words (Team, Job) and including fake Anglicisms like ‘Handy’ (mobile phone). When discussing word formation, the contrast between English and German will be enlightening as to how and why these rather closely related languages use different structures and why German is renowned for its endlessly long compounds.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
A series of seminars in both Autumn and Spring Term. Students will be required to read chapters from the relevant secondary literature in preparation of classes. Students will also be required, in small groups or pairs, to carry out analyses of examples and to discuss them in class.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Seminars 18 10 2
Guided independent study 100 60 10
Total hours by term 118.00 70.00 12.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 50
Set exercise 30
Class test administered by School 20

Other information on summative assessment:

Students will complete one set exercise - writing a dictionary entry with a commentary - at the end of AT (30%) and one class test (20%) at the end of ST. One written exam at the beginning of Summer Term will account for 50% of the module mark.

Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at:
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Length of examination:
    2 hours

    Requirements for a pass:

    Reassessment arrangements:
    Resit exam if overall failure at Part 2.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
    1) Required text books:
    2) Specialist equipment or materials:
    3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
    4) Printing and binding:
    5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
    6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

    Last updated: 21 April 2017

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