English in Combined Honours

Key benefits
  • Develop theoretical knowledge of language and practical understanding of the English language

  • Possibility of specialising in Business English, Teaching English and Legal Language

  • Innovative modules such as Language and the Law, Computer-Mediated Communication and Language and the news media

  • Opportunity for work/study placement in the UK or abroad

  • The School of Languages & Social Sciences (LSS) is recognised as a leader in the integrated study of Language and Society, with an outstanding reputation for teaching (22 out of 24 in the last Teaching Quality Assessment exercise) and for research (Grade 5 out of 5 in the last Research Assessment Exercise).
The English Language half-programme offers core and elective modules, giving a grounding in key areas together with the opportunity to choose specialist areas of interest.

After a common and broadly based first and second year you will choose topics for specialisation in your final year. 

Subject guide & modules

 Year 1

Introduction to Linguistics familiarises you with the structures and communicative functions of language, and two further modules equip you with the analytical tools you need in grammar and vocabulary to describe the English language with understanding and accuracy. The remaining three modules at Level 1 teach you how to apply this understanding in a range of areas, exploring such topics as how English has changed – considering the effects of developments in technology and the mass media – how it has developed as a world language and its current role in the global economy.

Your core module for first year are (subject to change):

  • Across Time and Space: The module provides a brief introduction to the historical development of English, as a basis for the investigation of the concepts of language varieties and boundaries

  • Words and Meanings: This module aims to introduce you to the theories and methods of analysis used to describe words and their meanings

  • Language in Society: This module aims to allow students to develop an understanding of the interaction between social factors and the language(s) spoken in a given society

  • Social Applications: This module takes a ‘problem-solving’ perspective, locating the study of the English language within an applied linguistic concern for issues ‘in the world’ where language is implicated

  • Contexts, Modes and Media:This module looks at language as it is employed for a variety of purposes in both private and public contexts. It also extends methods of communication to cover non-verbal means whereby messages are conveyed, as substitutes for and supplements to the use of words.

  • Grammar and Meaning:This module introduces students to systemic functional grammar and to the notion of three types of meaning or metafunctions: the ideational, interpersonal and textual. It covers areas such as: clauses and clause complexes, clause as exchange, clause as representation and clause as message.

Year 2   

In the second year you continue to develop your skills in language analysis with The Discourse of Spoken English, applying analytical skills in modules such as Language and the Law, as well as a choice among modules relating to language and the workplace, ahead of the placement year. You can opt to follow a particular interest such as English in education or in business, with a further choice of elective modules which situate English Language in a range of social and cultural contexts.

Your core module for second year are (subject to change):

  • Research Methods in Language & Communication: You will be able to demonstrate familiarity with some of the basic concepts related to the design and conduct of research

  • Variations of English: This module investigates the ways in which English functions in society, introduces you to phonology and grammar variation and to research methods in sociolinguistics. 

  • Working with Language Data: The module will consist two full group workshop (weeks14 & 15) followed by shorter small group seminar sessions which will support groups of students in running a small research project.

Optional modules are:

  • Stylistics (Teaching period one): The study and interpretation of texts from a linguistic perspective. As a discipline it links literary criticism and linguistics, but has no autonomous domain of its own.

  • The Language of Law (Teaching period one): This module introduces students to the nature of the language used in legal contexts

  • Language in the News Media (Teaching period two): This module aims to introduce you to the ways in which media texts both reflect and construct our social practice and values. It addresses a range of issues, such as what makes something newsworthy, whether there is objectivity in news reporting, whether different social groups are equally represented in mass media texts, and what part visual images and layout play in our media messages; and it introduces you to a variety of methods for describing and critically evaluating media texts in relation to these issues

  • Language at Work (Teaching period two): The context for the module will be set by considering how language and work are inter-related on a macro scale. It will look at the impact of global trends on both work and language practices, as increasing numbers of business enterprises trade across national borders, necessitating international – and ‘intercultural’ – communication.

  • Computer Mediated Communication (Teaching period two): This module will build on the Introduction to English Language modules at Level 1 by looking at one particular area of English, the language used in CMC. At the same time it will provide students taking a placement year with language awareness and useful tools of analysis.

  • Discourse Analysis for Business (Teaching period two): For the study of spoken business discourse, students will work with a range of authentic texts, drawn from relevant business environments, and become familiar with the concepts of register, genre and discourse community as they apply to the business context.

  • Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (Teaching period two): By the end of the module, the students will have become aware of the basic requirements of a teacher of English to speakers of other languages. They will have had the chance to develop some of the skills necessary for the TESOL teacher.

Placement Year:

In your third year, you will have the opportunity to undertake a placement. If you are studying English Language with another language, this will be the time for you to develop your linguistic and cultural competence during the Year Abroad. Other students can also undertake an approved placement (optional) related either to their English Language studies or to their other subject, or to a combination of both. Aston students are highly sought after by employers, and Aston is consistently at the top of league tables for graduate employment. This is due in part to the experience gained during the placement year and is a particular feature of Aston degrees.

Final Year:

Drawing on the skills and knowledge gained during the first two years, together with the experience gained during the placement, the final year programme combines the writing of a challenging research dissertation with the further study of English Language analysis in The Discourse of Written English, while the applied thread continues in Language as Evidence. Electives allow you to further your interest in specific areas such as business or education, as well as exploring English Language topics of more general interest.

Your core module for final year are (subject to change):

  • Dissertation: This course aims to enable students to research in significant depth a topic in English Language, and address, elaborate and apply key concepts used in the linguistic analysis of discourse, in professional, social, educational and/or cultural institutions and contexts.

  • Discourse of Spoken English: This module will provide an introduction to key approaches to the analysis of authentic spoken language in interaction.

Optional modules are:

  • Language and Gender (Teaching period one): This module aims to introduce you to the ways in which the social construction of gender both reflects and inflects our discursive practices

  • Learning English (Teaching period one): Develop knowledge and understanding of what it means to learn English as a first language.

  • Critical Discourse Analysis (Teaching period one): This module continues and develops several the themes introduced earlier in the programme related to discourse analysis. Specifically, it introduces students to the processes and practices associated with critical discourse analysis and the linguistic construction of ideology. 

  • Corpus Linguistics (Teaching period two): This module aims to introduce you to the theories and methods of analysis used in corpus linguistics, and to enable you to collect your own corpus and use corpus software to undertake your own analyses.

  • Language as Evidence (Teaching period two): This module provides students with an introduction to forensic linguistic investigation and the forms of evidence such a practitioner might be expected to give.  It provides students with an overview of the range of possible linguistic evidence and encourages them to explore what should not as well as should be provided as evidence by a linguist. 

  • Multimodal Analysis (Teaching period two): This module will introduce a framework for describing and analysing the contribution made by visual aspects of discourse to the overall meaning and interpretation of texts. We will explore issues such as the impact of typographical decisions and the use of colour; the provenance, selection and use of pictorial images and their associated social messages; and overall physical composition and layout of multimedia texts.

  • Linguistics of the Individual (Teaching period two): This module explores idiolectal variation in language use. By placing the individual with his/her personal and social history, beliefs, and emotions in the foreground of linguistic enquiry, it takes a bottom-up approach to language variation.

Learning, teaching & assessment

You will be involved in: lectures and seminars, small-group work, project work and independent study.  Studies generally revolve around lecture classes in the first two years, and there are opportunities for group and collaborative work. Students undertake a major piece of independent research in final year.You will be allocated a personal tutor who can provide you with help and advice. Assessment is through a combination of exams, coursework, essays, presentations and an extended dissertation during your final year.

Placement year

By taking a 4 year Sandwich programme you will have the opportunity to undertake a year’s professional experience in the public or private sector in your third year of study. You will gain invaluable experience which will set you apart from other graduates.The placement year can be in the UK, or there are opportunities for English speaking placements/study abroad.  You will be given support and advice on finding a placement. Many employers return each year to employ our placement students.

Career prospects

Potential careers for graduates include: publishing, linguistic computing, journalism, law, the Civil Service, the media (including advertising, marketing and public relations) and information technology (including library work), as well as teaching (at home or abroad).

Personal development

This course helps you to develop team working skills, presentation and communication skills. Your IT skills will also benefit from use of our newly refurbished e-learning centre.The Placement Year will develop your initiative, confidence and independence, as well as giving you invaluable professional experience.  In your final year you complete an individual research dissertation which improves your independent research skills and report writing skills. All students are encouraged to undertake Personal Development Planning (PDP.)

Facilities & equipment

The School of Languages and Social Sciences has a dedicated e-learning centre for the exclusive use of its students.  The e-learning centre is supported by a dedicated team and has all of the standard software that you will need (e.g. Microsoft Office etc). Extensive use is also made of our Virtual Learning Environment to help support your studies. Our newly refurbished “Cadbury Room” contains social seating areas, study stations and meeting tables as well as networked printing facilities and wireless internet access.

Further information

Tel: 0121 204 4283; Email: ids@aston.ac.uk


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