Core concepts in linguistics

This module introduces you to the foundations of linguistic study. You’ll learn about the history of linguistics, critically engage with a range of perspectives and methods, and examine how the building blocks of language are used to create meaning. There’s also a focus on the real-world application of linguistic knowledge and, throughout the module, you’ll consider contemporary debates about language. This module is designed to provide you with an overview of the linguistic knowledge you’ll need to specialise in either applied linguistics or artificial intelligence if you progress to our MA in Linguistics.

Vocational relevance

The module will appeal to anyone interested in a profession where language plays a central role. This includes administration, advertising, communications, data analysis, education, human resources, journalism, marketing, politics, public relations, publishing, social media management, and tourism, as well as those who teach English to speakers of other languages (TESOL), English as an additional language (EAL), or English as a foreign language (EFL).

If you are involved in language education, or any context that involves training and mentoring, you’ll are likely to be interested in studying this module and then following the MA in Linguistics (Applied) route. If your interests lie in uncovering the relationship between language, society, and developments in artificial intelligence, then progressing onto the MA in Linguistics (Artificial Intelligence) route may be for you.


L804 is a compulsory module in our:

Excluded combinations

Sometimes you will not be able to count a module towards a qualification if you have already taken another module with similar content. To check any excluded combinations relating to this module, visit our excluded combination finder or check with an adviser before registering.


Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU postgraduate modules correspond to these frameworks.
OU Postgraduate
Study method
Distance learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

What you will study

This module provides you with a clear path to decipher, discuss and dive deep into the core concepts that make linguistics an endlessly fascinating field. It will introduce you to key theories, concepts, and analytical approaches that will improve your understanding of language and its use. Developing your knowledge of linguistics will allow you to evaluate contexts where language plays a central role. Throughout the module you’ll encounter a broad range of case studies, drawing on a range of social, geographical, and professional contexts, that show how linguistics can be applied in the real world. While the module is taught in English, you’ll be encouraged to engage with examples from a range of different languages, as the discipline of linguistics goes beyond the analysis of a single language. You’ll learn to describe how texts work, understand why communication sometimes breaks down, and be able to explain how things can be improved.

The module has four blocks, each of which focuses on different elements of linguistic study.

In Block 1 you’ll explore what is meant by ‘language’ and ‘linguistics’. You’ll consider how linguistics developed and journey through its history, uncover the secrets of child language acquisition, and take a closer look at the types of data linguists work with.

Block 2 takes a closer look at the nuts and bolts of language. You’ll learn about different approaches to grammar, phonetics, and language documentation. You’ll also consider how language is used in, and shaped by, its wider social contexts.

Block 3 introduces you to wide a range of different methods and methodologies used to analyse different aspects of language. You’ll be introduced to ethnography, discourse analysis, corpus linguistics, text mining, and language transcription.

In Block 4 you’ll think more broadly about what makes quality research, and you’ll be encouraged to apply the knowledge that you’ve gained on the module to real-world scenarios.

The module is also designed to help you to develop the academic and digital literacies that you’ll need to study at postgraduate level. This includes developing your writing skills and finding your academic voice. You’ll be encouraged to engage critically with the broad range of topics covered, drawing on your own perspective, understanding, and experiences, combining that with the evidence presented in professional and academic research.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve.
  • guiding you to additional learning resources.
  • providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content.
  • facilitating online discussions between your fellow students, in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

Course work includes

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment

Future availability

Core concepts in linguistics starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2024. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2031.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

Entry requirements

To study for this postgraduate module you must hold a bachelors degree from a UK university or another recognised degree-awarding body, or a qualification at an equivalent level.

As our modules are taught in English, your spoken and written English must be of an adequate standard for postgraduate study in the UK. If English is not your first language, we recommend that you will need a minimum score of 7 under the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Please see their website for details.

Preparatory work

If you are new to the study of Linguistics, you may wish to complete the free short course Describing language on our OpenLearn website before your study start date. Another useful resource that will help you to prepare, especially if this is the first time you’ll be learning at a distance, is the free short course Succeeding in postgraduate study. Neither of these short courses are compulsory, but they will help you to prepare for your studies between the time you enrol and when your module officially starts. You can also explore the website for the School of Languages and Applied Linguistics to find out about what we have to offer.


Start End England fee Register
05 Oct 2024 Jun 2025 £2720.00

Registration closes 12/09/24 (places subject to availability)

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2031.

Future availability

Core concepts in linguistics starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2024. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2031.

Additional costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

Ways to pay for this module

We know there’s a lot to think about when choosing to study, not least how much it’s going to cost and how you can pay.

That’s why we keep our fees as low as possible and offer a range of flexible payment and funding options, including a postgraduate loan, if you study this module as part of an eligible qualification. To find out more, see Fees and funding.

Study materials

What's included

You’ll have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • module materials and study resources
  • audio and video recordings
  • accessibility guide
  • assessment area which will include the assessment guide; assessment questions and guidance; plagiarism guidance; assessment handbook
  • tutorials area, Adobe connect rooms.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

If you have a disability

Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader (and where applicable: foreign language materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way). Other alternative formats of the module materials may be available in the future.

To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our disability support pages.

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