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Unit information: Sociolinguistics: Language Variation and Change in 2015/16

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Unit name Sociolinguistics: Language Variation and Change
Unit code MODL30015
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. James Hawkey
Open unit status Open




School/department School of Modern Languages
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit aims to provide a solid grounding in the discipline of sociolinguistics, which examines how language is used in (and can be reflective of) society. Within this unit, specific attention will be paid to topics including (but not limited to):

  • Language policy: How governments and other organisations employ, manage and manipulate the different languages used in the speech controls under their jurisdiction.
  • Language contact and multilingualism: The different situations which arise from situations where more than one language is used in a given community.
  • Language change: How speech situations can result in processes of diachronic language change, as well as cases of language obsolescence and eventual language death.
  • Language attitudes: How speakers feel about the different languages with which they are familiar, and the underlying issues and questions this reveals.

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of this unit, students will have;

  1. Demonstrated familiarity with the discipline of sociolinguistics,
  2. Acquired theoretical tools new to students, which will allow for the in-depth study of language variation and change.
  3. Developed greater knowledge of one or more speech communities where their target language of study is spoken.
  4. Learned to apply their new theoretical knowledge to different linguistic situations, and will have carried out independent, original, critical analyses.
  5. Become skilled in the selection and synthesis of relevant material.
  6. Evaluated and analysed material from a significant body of source materials appropriate to level H.

Teaching Information

1 × 1-hour lecture and 1 × 1-hour seminar per week

Assessment Information

3-hour written exam (50%) testing ILO’s 1-6; 3000-word essay (50%)testing ILO;’s 1-6

Reading and References

Texts may be revised depending on the specific foci of attention in a given academic year:

  • Chambers, J.K. and Schilling, N. (2013) The Handbook of Language Variation and Change. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell.
  • Spolsky, B. (2004) Language policy. Cambridge: CUP.

Thomason, S.G. (2001) Language contact: An introduction. Edinburgh: EUP.