Lexicology – Course Introduction

This page contains an outline of the course Lexicology, along with some information on its implementation, activities, assessment, methodology, etc.

The course is designed to provide you with a better understanding of how to study, analyse, and acquire words. Although the general focus here is on English, we’ll also to some extent explore, or refer to, features of vocabulary in other languages. As the menu structure above indicates, we’ll begin by covering some of the essential history of English vocabulary, then move on to investigating and interpreting the different functions and parts of words and how they are formed, discuss the different levels of meaning that may be associated with lexical items – including how they may differ in native and non-native varieties of English –, and also explore some potential strategies that may make it easier for you to learn or teach vocabulary along the way.

Much of the material builds and expands on more basic materials from my Introduction to English Linguistics course, which I’d recommend you look at to refresh your basic knowledge of linguistics if necessary.


We won’t use any fixed textbook for this course, and, in general, all you’ll need is access to these pages, although I may still assign some additional readings or exercises to be done outside of class. As these pages are an essential part of the class, you’ll need to bring along some form of notebook computer (ideally not a tablet) for each class, although between 2-4 participants can always share one.

The course pages were developed for Firefox, so please install this, if possible, because some of the scripts that allow you to do interactive exercises on the pages may not work in all browsers, although, in my experience, they do run in most browsers, apart from maybe Internet Explorer. You’ll also need to have JavaScript enabled, as otherwise neither the menu bar, nor the exercises will work properly.

Many of the exercise you’ll be doing have text areas included in the exercise description. These are intended for you to keep a record of the steps involved in doing the tasks, and also to keep notes on what you think you’ve learnt from the exercise. Next to each of these text areas, you’ll find a button to save your results. As browsers – for security reasons – do not simply allow you to save anything to disk, when you click the button, this will first generate a new web page containing what you’ve written for you, which you can then save to your computer or a USB stick. The pages you save this way not only allow you to record your own learning process or understanding of the exercise content, but also to revise more thoroughly because they allow you to explain things in your own words, so please make appropriate use of them every time we do an exercise because otherwise you’re likely to forget many things again soon and won’t be able to apply what you’ll have learnt in the assignment and the exam!

In the materials, you’ll find important terminology highlighted as I’ve just done with the word terminology. You’ll also learn how to distinguish between different levels of linguistic analysis – and how they often work together to give us a complete picture – by using different types of conventions for representing features to make it clearer to see how things work in language.


Apart from regular attendance and participation, assessment will consist of a short assignment and a final exam. The final exam will cover everything discussed on the course, so please try to revise the materials frequently as you go along. Although parts of the exam may consist in multiple-choice items, you’ll also be required to do some analyses or provide definitions and examples to demonstrate your understanding of the materials covered, rather than simply proving that you can learn things by heart. You’ll be able to profit maximally from the course if you always try to find your own examples, which, again, you should do throughout the course when you do your revisions. And, although I’ll accept it in the exam if you only provide the examples given in my materials, I will reduce the number of possible points for every example that’s taken directly from the course pages.