SOAS University of London

Department of Linguistics, School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics

Language, Society and Communication (Masters)

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Taught in:
Term 1

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 two hours classroom contact per week in a lecture.

Scope and syllabus

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.

  • 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, 750 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, 2000 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. 2008. An introduction to sociolinguistics. 3rd edn. London: Longman. ISBN: 9781405821315

In addition, selected readings and examples from a range of sources will be used.  Additional readings and references will be supplied during the term.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules