The Structure of Modern English

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This Course Guide has been taken from the most recent presentation of the course. It would be useful for reference purposes but please note that there may be updates for the following presentation.


The Structure of Modern English

Welcome to ENGL A202 The Structure of Modern English. This 10-credit course is part of the Bachelor of Arts in Language and Translation (BALT) degree, which has three main strands: English language study, Chinese language study, and translation. This course has no specific pre-requisites. ENGL A202 will introduce you to how English works. The course will equip you with sound foundation knowledge and the linguistic tools to explore and analyse English as it is used in diverse local and global contexts. It will provide you with key theoretical understandings about linguistics that will help you prepare for advanced courses in linguistics. This introductory course is designed to help you understand the linguistic structure of English and to understand what functions these structures perform. The 10 study units will provide you with additional information about these structures, as well as allow you to critically evaluate some of this information. The study units will also help you understand the communicative and functional properties of the structural units of English. The units will draw on examples from both established varieties of English (for example, American English, Australian English and British English) as well as modern varieties of English (for example, Chinese English, Filipino English, Hong Kong English and Pakistani English). The study units will include a number of short activities and self-tests to help you with your analytical skills. This Course Guide has been prepared to guide you through the course. It contains important information on the course materials and procedures. Please take a few minutes to read it and familiarize yourself with what you will have to do to complete the course successfully. We hope that you enjoy working on ENGL A202 The Structure of Modern English and we encourage you to contact your tutor if you have any questions about the course.

Course aims

This course aims to:

  • introduce you to phonetic, phonological, morphological, syntactic, semantic, pragmatic, stylistic, and discourse structures of Modern English;
  • help you understand the communicative function of the various structural features of English;
  • help you understand and appreciate local, regional, and global variations in the English language; and
  • provide practical examples and exercises to help you develop your analytical skills.

Course learning outcomes

Upon the completion of ENGL A202 The Structure of Modern English, you should be able to:

  • Describe the phonetic and phonological features of English.
  • Explain the morphological and word formation processes of English.
  • Analyse English sentence structures at the clausal, phrasal, and syntactic levels.
  • Identify the semantic and pragmatic features of English.
  • Outline some stylistic and discursive choices available in English.
  • Describe the processes of language change in English.
  • Identify features of global varieties of English.

Study units

This course consists of 10 study units. Each unit concentrates on different aspects of the English language. The course materials also direct you to additional resources and readings and include a number of activities and exercises to help you develop your analytical skills.

Below you will find a brief description of each of the 10 units.


Unit 1 Introduction to English linguistics
This unit introduces the nature of language with a focus on the English language. The unit provides an initial introduction to some of the basic concepts in linguistics (e.g. phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics) that will be developed later on in the course. In introducing these key concepts, the unit considers the structure of language and its meanings and functions in society.


Unit 2 Phonetics and phonology
This unit develops your understanding of the sound system of the English language. After introducing the science of phonetics, the unit looks at ways in which sounds are combined in English to form words. The unit will also examine the prosodic features of English, including stress, rhythm and intonation.


Unit 3 Morphology
This unit introduces how words are formed in English. It first describes various types of morphemes and then outlines a range of processes that English uses in forming new words. The unit ends with a brief description of how the new varieties of English add new words to reflect the local contexts.


Unit 4 Syntax: The grammar of words
This unit introduces word classes in detail. It first describes traditional ways of classifying words in English in some detail. The unit then looks at ways in which words are combined to form groups and introduces the basic elements of a sentence (subject, verb, object, complement, and adverbial). The unit ends with a discussion of the finite and non-finite verbs in English, and how the verbal elements in English indicate 'tense', 'aspect', 'modality' and 'voice'.


Unit 5 Syntax: Phrase and sentence structure
This unit builds on Unit 4 and extends the discussion of the English phrases before it introducing the English clause and sentence structure. The unit provides an in-depth description of the English phrase and clause structure, and relates these formal structures to some of their communicative functions.


Unit 6 Semantics
In this unit, the focus of the course shifts from structure to meaning. The unit provides a broad introduction to semantics by discussing some basic notions in semantics as well as looking at some key lexical relationships. The unit will also examine how semantic change occurs. The unit will end with a discussion of semantic relationships involving sentences.


Unit 7 Pragmatics
This unit relates meaning to context and looks at the pragmatics of English. In particular, this unit will introduce the role of context in creating and reflecting meaning. The unit will introduce speech act theory, the notion of conversational implicature, and politeness.


Unit 8 Stylistics
Building on Unit 7, which focused on pragmatics of spoken discourse, Unit 8 looks more closely at written texts, and considers tools and frameworks that can be used to analyse written texts. The unit introduces the notions of genre and register, and starts investigating how texts are organized and how text structures relate to their social purpose.


Unit 9 Language variation
Unit 9 looks at how processes of language change, and how English has changed and is changing. The unit first introduces historical linguistics as a way of studying language change over time. The unit then introduces dialectology and approaches to studying language variation before examining various factors that may influence language change. The unit ends with a discussion of how language contact may induce language change that results in the creation of new dialects, varieties, and languages.


Unit 10 Modern Englishes
The final unit of the course brings together a number of threads that have been discussed in the course to examine how new dialects and varieties of English have developed. Modern Englishes challenge our traditional descriptions of English and how English works. This unit focuses on the shifting roles that English plays in a 'glocalized' world and challenges us to think beyond this course to relate how English is used in diverse contexts.


Assignment File

There are four assignments in this course, which will be included in the Assignment File. You are advised to complete all of them; however, only the best three of your assignment grades will count towards your final grade.

The Assignment File includes detailed descriptions of what you are required to do to complete each assignment. It will outline the various stages and phases of your assignment. They may also include guidelines on the use of appropriate academic language in writing assignments.

Please see the section on assessment below for further information on the assignments for this course.


Presentation Schedule

The Presentation Schedule is available on the OLE, and it gives the dates for completing assignments, and attending tutorials, day schools, etc.



The course carries two formal activities in student assessment:

  • four assignments; and
  • a final examination.

Assignments serve as the continuous assessment component within the study period and contribute 50% of the total course marks. The other 50% are evaluated through a final examination.

You are required to have at least 40% or above on the average of assignment scores as well as 40% or above on the final examination in order to obtain a pass in this course.



During the 40-week period of distance learning, your performance will be continuously assessed through the submission of the assignments. Assignments serve three purposes:

  1. Assignments provide a mechanism for you to keep up your progress.
  2. Assignments test your understanding of the topics and require you to demonstrate your achievement on the learning outcomes of each unit.
  3. Assignments provide an opportunity to apply what you have learned to wider contexts.

After being marked by your assigned tutor, assignments are returned to you so that you can see your strengths and identify areas that need further development. In addition, your tutor's feedback should help to widen and challenge your ideas.


Final examination and grading

There will be a three-hour final exam at the end of this course, which will contribute 50% towards your final grade. Please note that you must achieve a passing score in this examination (i.e. at least 40%) in order to pass this course.

The exam will cover all of the material discussed in this course. Many of the questions will be similar to the ones in the study units. Exam questions will require you to apply the knowledge that you have gained in this course. There may also be some items that test your understanding of the key terms used in the study of English. You should use the time between Unit 10 and the final examination to review your course material and prepare for the exam. Information about the date, time, and venue of your exam will be provided later.


Course marking scheme

The assessment items are outlined in the following table.

AssessmentCourse area coveredWeighting*
Assignment 1Units 1 and 216.6%
Assignment 2Units 3 to 516.6%
Assignment 3Units 6 to 816.6%
Assignment 4Units 9 and 1016.6%
Final ExamAll units50%

* The scores of the best three of the four assignments will count for 50% of the total marks.

The table below gives all of the course's study units, the time taken to complete them, and the assignments that follow them.


UnitTitleStudy time
1Introduction to English linguistics3 
2Phonetics & phonology3Assignment 1
4Syntax: The grammar of words3 
5Syntax: Phrase, clause, and sentence structure3 Assignment 2
8Discourse analysis and stylistics3Assignment 3
9Language variation3 
10Modern Englishes3Assignment 4
 Revision4Final examination

This course is intended to introduce you to English linguistics. As such, we will cover a large number of topics and issues. It is therefore important that you pace yourself and work continuously throughout the year, gradually building your knowledge of English and linguistics.

In this section, we will outline some steps to help you work through the course:

  • We recommend that you first carefully read the learning outcomes and introduction of the unit.
  • We recommend that you then start working through the rest of the study unit.
  • There are a number of short activities and self-tests included in the study units. We suggest that you complete all of these and then compare your answers to the ones given at the end of the unit.
  • You should plan to attend all the tutorials.
  • The Assignment File provides detailed descriptions of the various assignments. It also suggests ways in which to complete the assignments successfully. Please read through this material carefully and follow the directions.
  • Send all your assignments to your tutors on time. Review the marked assignments carefully and read all of your tutor's comments. Please contact your tutor if you have any questions or difficulties.
  • Remember to review all the course material to prepare for the final exam. You will be informed of the exam arrangements separately.


Ten two-hour tutorial sessions will be provided. Tutorial topics will be on a selection of issues taken from the unit contents and objectives. Your attendance at tutorials is optional, although it is strongly encouraged.



ENGL A202 tutors will hold regular tutorials of two-hour duration. Tutors review the key concepts introduced in each unit and conduct group and individual discussion. Tutors are expected to be available to answer student queries and offer assistance in completing student assignments when necessary. Aside from marking assignments in accordance with the marking criteria, tutors are also expected to provide comprehensive and timely feedback to students. You may contact your tutor by telephone, by e-mail with the tutor!|s permission, or during tutorials.

ENGL A202 The Structure of Modern English is a 10-credit course which introduces you to how English works. The course will equip you with the foundation knowledge and linguistic tools necessary to explore and analyse English as it is used in diverse local and global contexts.

As an introductory course to Modern English, ENGL A202 will cover a lot of different topics and sub-fields. There will be some topics that you find more interesting than others. This is expected. We all have our preferences in what we like to study. However, we do urge you to work through all the units carefully as it is important that we have a good understanding of the basics in the sub-fields of linguistics.

We hope that this course will help you in discovering your own interests in language. The study units in this course will provide you with a very accessible introduction to the fantastic field of language studies. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact your tutor.

Finally, we hope that you find this journey into English an enjoyable one and that you will continue your exploration of languages by taking more advanced courses in linguistics.

Dr Ahmar Mahboob teaches Linguistics at the University of Sydney. Ahmar has published on a range of topics, including: language teaching and teacher education, language policy and practice, educational linguistics, and World Englishes. Ahmar is the co-editor of Questioning Linguistics (2008) (with Naomi Knight), Studies in Applied Linguistics and Language Learning (2009) (with Caroline Lipovsky), Directions in Appliable Linguistics (2010) (with Naomi Knight), and the editor of The NNEST Lens: Non-native English Speakers in TESOL (2010). Ahmar is the Associate Editor of the journal Linguistics and the Human Sciences and serves on the editorial board of several other journals in the field. He is also the co-founder and co-convenor of the Free Linguistics Conference, held annually at the University of Sydney, Australia.

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