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LING103 Language Myths


Everyone uses language, so everyone seems to have an opinion about it, but many people don't realize that there is a scientific study of language, linguistics, which researches language. This paper critically examines popular language myths from a linguistics perspective, examining three areas that have generated language myths. The first is the origins, development, and nature of language. It focuses on the relationship between using language and being human, and includes topics such as whether animals, computers, and aliens use language. The second topic concerns language attitudes and change. It focuses on the use of language in the world, and looks at topics such as whether some languages are ‘better’ than others and if there are ‘killer’ languages. The third area is language policy, education, identity and culture. It looks specifically at the New Zealand context, and covers topics such as whether bilingualism is good for children and whether additional languages should be required in school.

Lecturer and Course Coordinator

Dr Simon Overall


2 group oral presentations (15% each)30%
2 individual written reports (15% each)30%
Final examination40%

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Examination of popular myths from a linguistics perspective. Includes topics such as the origins and nature of language, attitudes toward languages, and language policies.

This paper introduces linguistics by critically examining popular misconceptions or 'myths' about language. The paper is divided into three sections. The section on the origins and nature of language considers myths such as whether animals have languages and if invented languages are fake. The section on language attitudes examines myths such as whether English is a killer language and if pidgins and creoles are primitive. The section on language policy and education focuses on myths about language behind language 'wars' and if bilingualism slows child development.

Paper title Language Myths
Paper code LING103
Subject Linguistics
EFTS 0.1500
Points 18 points
Teaching period Summer School
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $868.95
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $3,656.70

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Schedule C
Arts and Music
Teaching staff
Dr Anne Feryok
Paper Structure
  • Nature and development of language
  • Language attitudes
  • Language policy and education
Assessment Schedule:
  • Report 1: 15%
  • Report 2: 15%
  • Small group presentation: 15%
  • Small group presentation: 15%
  • Exam 40%
Teaching Arrangements
This paper is taught through lectures. In Summer School this means two 2-hour lectures and one 2-hour tutorial per week.
None. Texts available on Blackboard.
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Lifelong learning, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
Upon successfully completing this paper students will:
  1. Understand different theories about the origins and nature of language
  2. Recognise the difference between human and nonhuman languages
  3. Be able to evaluate arguments about nonhuman languages
  4. Understand how all human languages share fundamental similarities
  5. Recognise the role of attitudes in labels applied to languages
  6. Be able to evaluate arguments based on attitudes
  7. Understand selected topics covered in language policies
  8. Recognise influences on selected language policies
  9. Be able to evaluate arguments about selected language policies

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Summer School

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Monday 14:00-15:50 2-7
Tuesday 14:00-15:50 2-5, 7


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Thursday 14:00-15:50 2-7