Language Histories

Universidade Católica Portuguesa

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Language Histories

  • Host University

    Universidade Católica Portuguesa

  • Location

    Lisbon, Portugal

  • Area of Study

    History, Linguistics

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Course Level Recommendations


    ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.

    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    Course description:

    This course aims to stimulate reflection on language as a ubiquitous and symbolic system of representation and communication, based on 10 stories or questions: some of them are more familiar and close to the daily experience of speakers and are subjected to analysis, while others open the study of language to broader frameworks, such as the cultural origin of human language, the stages of language development or the ways in which language is realized. The exploration of these situations will also provide an introduction to the main areas of linguistic study: phonetics, morphology, lexicology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics, sociolinguistics, and psycholinguistics. By the end of the semester, participants should be able to recognize and formulate a linguistic problem, proposing an analysis based on the most appropriate linguistic concepts and theories. Through the study of different problems, it is intended to stimulate the capacity for meta-linguistic analysis and sensitivity to the cognitive, expressive and interactive limits and potentialities of language. 

    Course content:

    Language is ubiquitous. Whatever the geography and however adverse the circumstances, human beings create and use language. It is a sophisticated symbolic system, which, along with other symbolic systems such as mathematical numbering and musical notation, allows the representation of present, distant, or imagined realities by combining a small number of signs into an infinite possibility of utterances. Language also allows us to communicate efficiently, by directing our shared attention towards a common object or intention.  This course will address several problems or questions about language, which will be analyzed based on the concepts and theories proposed by the various disciplines of linguistics.

    1. Cultural origins of human language: language in evolution.

    2. Embodiment and multimodality: from gestures accompanying speech to sign language.  

    3. Sound, music and language: prosody and pronunciation.

    4. New words for new realities: closed-class words, open-class words. Categorization and schematization.

    5. Reality in pictures: metaphors, from everyday life to politics, from science to literature.

    6. Propaganda and 'fakespeak’: saying, meaning, and acting through language.

    7. The importance of courtesy for communication in the age of social media.

    8. Language, identity and representation.

    9. Glocal languages? Lingua franca, globalization and power. Language policies. The importance of translation: from the right to translation to the right to translate.

    10.  Language histories: language families, evolution and linguistic change. 


    The UC intends to use narrative as a method of initiation to each of the proposed themes. Starting with the reading and discussion of a story, we will try to identify and formulate the linguistic problem it illustrates. The problem will then be framed within the discipline of linguistics that studies it: concepts and theoretical proposals of this field of study will be addressed, supported by a selection of relevant and current bibliography. Language plays a double role in this approach, being simultaneously object and instrument of study. The aim is to develop in the participants an attention to the linguistic dimension of reality and a sensitivity to the way language is used in everyday life. Evaluation is continuous and includes the following components, with respective weightings: 

    Participation in class: preparation of readings, participation in the discussion of proposed topics, reaction to work presented by classmates 20%

    Presentation of a story (a language problem, a communication situation, an experience); framing and formulation of the language problem; proposal for analysis, based on relevant literature - presentation in class and written work 30%

    Midterm quiz 20%

    Final written test 30% 

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Eligibility for courses may be subject to a placement exam and/or pre-requisites.

Some courses may require additional fees.

Credits earned vary according to the policies of the students' home institutions. According to ISA policy and possible visa requirements, students must maintain full-time enrollment status, as determined by their home institutions, for the duration of the program.

ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System) credits are converted to semester credits/quarter units differently among U.S. universities. Students should confirm the conversion scale used at their home university when determining credit transfer.


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