General Linguistics (MLL Paper XIII, PPL Paper A)

Paper A — General Linguistics

The goal of paper A is to explore key ideas in linguistics, ideas that have had a profound impact on the discipline and have shaped the way it has developed. The paper is a compulsory part of FHS for the MLL and PPL degree courses, and underpins and contextualises other FHS papers in Linguistics. It is also available to certain other courses (Modern Languages Sole Language, Human Sciences, Experimental Psychology).

Teaching is done through tutorials, for each of which there is a compulsory set of seminal readings and a supplementary set of recommended readings that offer additional views or different perspectives. The core readings are grouped according to the following 8 central themes and ideas:

  1. Writing and its influence on grammatical traditions
  2. The historical turn
  3. European Structuralism
  4. American Structuralism
  5. Variation within and across languages
  6. Creativity and the Chomskyan turn
  7. Competence and I-language
  8. Literal meaning and beyond

Current students can access the reading lists for these themes and a sample paper on Linguistics Weblearn. Tutorials should be arranged via College Linguistics Organising Tutors (LOTs).


  • For MLL/PPL students, the Prelims Linguistics Foundation Course provides a solid basis for beginning this paper.
  • Students who have not followed the Prelims Linguistics Foundation Course (including Experimental Psychology and Human Sciences students) should attend at least one of the three Prelims lecture series in General Linguistics, Phonetics & Phonology, and Grammar, and are strongly recommended to attend all three of the lecture series, as background for this paper.

Method of Assessment: three-hour unseen written paper (Modern Languages method of assessment A).

Subscribe to Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics