Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2007-2008 (archived)


Department: Language Centre


Type Open Level 4 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2007/08 Module Cap None.


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • This module aims to provide students with information about the study of linguistics, with particular focus on the interaction between linguistic theory and the complex relationship between English and BSL. Past and current research will be examined, to allow students to make linguistic comparisons between signed, spoken and written forms of language in their own research, and to be able to critically review the theoretical base in this specialised area of linguistics.
  • The module forms the first module in the Postgraduate Certificate 'Advanced BSL and Related Studies', and is designed for students which have at least a conversational command of BSL (at the level specified in the pre-requisites), but who will further develop their fluency and knowledge of BSL from linguistic perspectives.


  • This module introduces the linguistic criteria that define a language and how these criteria apply to spoken and signed languages.
  • It will provide a descriptive and comparative account of key elements of the structure and functions of British Sign Language and examine some of the major differences between a language produced in the visual-gestural modality and one expressed primarily within the oral-aural modality. These differences will be explored within the areas of phonology/cherology, morphology, syntax and semantics. Particular focus will be given to such aspects of BSL as the use of classifiers, the productive lexicon, noun and verb morphology, the use of space and referencing and the complex relationship between form and meaning in BSL.
  • The student will be encouraged throughout to become more aware of the communicative and linguistic resources of the language which will serve to complement their own increasing fluency.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Understand the study of linguistics and the interaction between linguistic theory and the complex relationship between English and BSL
  • Develop the ability to discuss the usefulness and limitations of linguistic concepts (such as word /sign order, phonology, morphology, lexicography, prouctivity, semantics, aspect and tense) in terms of a linguistic analysis of BSL
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Produce and receive BSL with greater and increasing fluency
Key Skills:
  • Apply the above knowledge to understanding and exploring sign language linguistics
  • Critically evaluate past and current theoretical accounts about the linguistics of signed langauges

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Small-class teaching: Improved skills in BSL (through input), all subject specific knowledge.
  • Group activities and discussions: Improved skills in BSL (through interaction), subject specific knowledge.
  • Peer Presentations: Improved skills in BSL (through performance), subject specific knowledge.
  • Classes will be conducted in BSL to enhance students' language learning.
  • Lectures will be delivered using power-point and video.
  • BSL does not have a written form, has regional variations, and each signer has their own personal style. Therefore extensive use will be made of videoed examples of Deaf people using BSL in different situations to demonstrate subject specific knowledge.
  • All group activities, discussions and peer presentations will be conducted in BSL to constantly enhance students' productive and receptive skills in the language. Activities will allow students to analyse examples of BSL, including their own performance, according to the socio-linguistic criteria they are learning about.
  • Formative assessment will be by students presentations to the class (3). These will be assessed by the tutors and feedback given in tutorial sessions. There will also be opportunities for peer feedback. Presentations will be videoed so students can critically evaluate their own work in terms of BSL and content.
  • Summative assessment will be by take home exam (exam questions must be answered in BSL recorded on video), and by a live conversation with a native BSL user (recorded on video for marking).

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 7 Twice a month approx 2 hours 14
Tutorials 7 Twice a month approx 1 hour 7
Practicals 7 Twice a month approx variable duration 10
Other (student presentations) 3 Twice a month approx 3 hours approx 9
Preparation and Reading 160
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Take Home Exam Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Take home exam (ten short answer questions) 100%
Component: Live Conversation in BSL Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Live conversation in BSL 100%

Formative Assessment:

Presentations in BSL to the class and tutors (three of approximately 10 minutes each) will be recorded on video for evaluation and feedback. Tutors will collect the video tapes for each viewing prior to one-to-one and group feedback sessions

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University