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Unit information: Sociolinguistic Anthropology: Language, Culture, and Society in 2021/22

Unit name Sociolinguistic Anthropology: Language, Culture, and Society
Unit code MODL30016
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 Not open




School/department School of Modern Languages
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

Sociolinguistics examines how language is used in (and can be reflective of) society. Anthropological linguistics studies the relation between language and culture, and how language is a lens on diverse social worldviews. In this unit, co-taught by researchers in Modern Languages and Anthropology, students will gain an interdisciplinary perspective on the social usage and meaning of language.

Beginning with a solid grounding in sociolinguistics, the unit will cover topics such as ethnicity; sexuality; language diversity, language change, endangerment, and death; multilingualism; linguistic relativism; and the relationship between language, culture, and cognition.

Students will gain an understanding of

  • The similarities and differences between sociolinguistic and anthropological linguistic perspectives.
  • The challenges of interdisciplinary research on language, culture and society.
  • The importance of language in human social behaviour and interaction, and be able to describe how language is used by speakers in establishing group and individual identities of ethnicity, gender, class, and power.
  • The scope and importance of language diversity and how it is theorised to relate to culture and cognition, particularly in the domain of meaning.
  • The relationship between quantitative empirical research on language variation and change and an understanding of how speakers situate themselves socially.

Intended Learning Outcomes

At the end of the unit a successful student will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate in-depth familiarity with the discipline of sociolinguistics, by describing influential theories of how language is used by speakers in establishing group and individual identities
  2. Deploy new theoretical tools, which will allow for the in-depth study of language variation and change at both speaker and group level.
  3. Demonstrate advanced knowledge of one or more speech communities where their target language of study/language of interest is spoken.
  4. Articulate with reference to empirical work the differences and commonalities between socio- and anthropological-linguistic approaches.
  5. Appraise the implications of language diversity for our understanding of human culture and cognition, particularly in semantics.
  6. Learn to apply their new theoretical knowledge to different linguistic situations, and will have carried out independent critical analyses, in order to arrive at their own informed viewpoint.
  7. Become skilled in the selection, synthesis, evaluation and analysis of relevant topic-based material, appropriate to level H.

Teaching Information

Teaching will be delivered through a combination of synchronous sessions and asynchronous activities, including seminar discussion and collaborative as well as self-directed learning opportunities supported by tutor consultation

e-learning: Wiki entries by students

Assessment Information

Summative assessment:

1 x Timed Assessment (50%). Assesses ILOs (2), (4), (6) and (7).

1 x 3000 word written assignment (50%). Assesses ILOs (1), (2), (3), (5) and (7).

Formative assessment:

1 x Three short paper summaries on class Wiki. Assesses ILOs (2), (6), and (7).


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. MODL30016).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.