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Unit information: Language and Society in the Present and Past in 2015/16

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Unit name Language and Society in the Present and Past
Unit code MODLM0017
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Langer
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Modern Languages
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit allows students to acquire and develop knowledge of the two complementary disciplines of synchronic and historical sociolinguistics. The theoretical tenets that underpin these disciplines inform each other in such a way that students will be able to effectively compare present and past speech communities. During the course, specific attention could be paid to topics such as (but not limited to):

•Language variation and change. The different methods used to study language variation and change in these two complementary disciplines will be critically compared and evaluated.

•Language attitudes: Historical and contemporary texts will be examined to allow further insight into how speakers may have felt about their language varieties.

Intended learning outcomes

a) Students will acquire and develop knowledge of the disciplines of synchronic and historical sociolinguistics. This complements other theoretical approaches that students will acquire in other units.

b) Students will gain in-depth knowledge of several sociolinguistic situations around the world and through history.

c) Students will develop their own analytical skills through the comparative analysis of present and past situations.

d) Students will be able to apply their new theoretical knowledge to different linguistic situations, and will be able to perform independent, original, critical analyses.

e) Students will be skilled in the selection and synthesis of relevant material.

f) Students will be able to analyse and evaluate a wide range of materials at a high level.

Teaching details

Seminar-style teaching: discussions based around a series of theoretical and community-specific texts, set each week. This will allow students to develop their own analysis and receive feedback from staff and fellow students on their ideas.

Assessment Details

1 x 5,000 word essay (testing ILOs 1-6)

Reading and References

Davies, Steffan et al. (eds.) 2012. Language and History, Linguistics and Historiography. (= Studies in Historical Linguistics 7). Oxford: Peter Lang.

Havinga, Anna & Nils Langer (eds.) 2015. Invisible Languages in the 19th century. Oxford: Peter Lang.

Hernandez-Campoy, Juan & J. Camillo Conde-Silvestre (eds.) 2012. The Blackwell Handbook to Historical Sociolinguistics. Oxford: Blackwell-Wiley.