Language is central to human life. Human words allow us to share ideas, to coordinate actions and to accomplish complex tasks. Among the c. 6000 languages spoken world-wide, English stands out as being the lingua franca of global life. However, this does not mean that English is more sophisticated or more complex than other languages, or easier to learn: All languages of the world share some basic principles and structures (‘universals’), while they differ in others.
This lecture offers basic insights into ‘how languages work’, and places, then, English under the linguistic magnifying glass. We will cover a wide range of topics, among them phonetics and phonology, morphology, syntax and sociolinguistics, and we will also go beyond the basic facts by looking at, e.g., the origins of some of the basic features of Present-Day English and how they developed.