SOAS University of London

Department of Linguistics, School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics

Language, Society and Communication

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Term 1

This module introduces students to fundamental concepts and approaches in the study of the links between language and society. Using numerous examples, students will learn about the interplay of language with social factors such as class, gender, ethnicity and age, including how language varies and changes. The close parallels between this type of variation and the use of two or more languages (bi/multilingualism) will be drawn, including discussion of language attitudes, language planning and the maintenance of endangered languages, and language contact including code-switching and Pidgin and Creole languages. Students will also investigate how language is used in communication, discourse analysis, the relation of language to national and individual identity, and discuss the degree to which a society’s culture may manifest itself in its language and influence the world view of its speakers.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

To introduce and survey aspects of the use of language in society, to acquaint students with a basic knowledge of sociolinguistics, discourse/pragmatics and the methods involved in collecting and analysing bodies of sociolinguistic data.


Total of 10 weeks teaching with 2 hour lecture per week.

Scope and syllabus

The following topics will be covered:

  • introduction: variation in speech and communication; social factors in language use
  • multilingual speech communities: Languages and dialects, National languages and language planning, diglossia, linguistic minorities, pidgins and creoles, code-switching and code-mixing
  • language maintenance and shift: language ‘choice’, language loss and endangerment, language maintenance, revitalisation and revival, language and globalisation
  • sociolinguistic variation: class, gender, region, age; language change
  • sociolinguistic research methods and ethics; the ‘observer's paradox’
  • language attitudes and beliefs; language, culture, ethnicity and identity; language and discrimination
  • language and communication: social networks, the ethnography of communication, style and register, speech functions and politeness, cross-cultural communication and pragmatics, accommodation theory, discourse analysis, language and the media.

Method of assessment

  • AS1:Assignment 1 (20%) due in Term 1.
    Reaction paper/review, 500 words
  • AS2:Assignment 2 (30%) due in Term 1.
    Digital/oral assignment (podcast, video, narrated PowerPoint, blog, vlog) 5 minutes/ 1000 words
  • AS3:Assignment 3 (50%) due in Term 2.
    Project or essay, 1500 words on any topic covered in the course; original research encouraged
  • The exact assessment deadline dates are published on the relevant module Moodle/BLE page

Suggested reading

  • Holmes, Janet and Wilson, Nick. An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. Routledge (latest edition)

In addition, selected readings and examples from a range of sources will be used.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules