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ET119: Language in Society


Language plays in central role in constructing society, and society plays a central role in shaping language. In this module, you'll examine the complex and often fraught intersections of language and society. You'll identify, reveal, and interrogate real instances where language plays a role in the perpetuation of power imbalances, the enactment of social injustices, and the manipulation of information. You'll design and propose solutions, informed by linguistic research, to convince real target audiences to reduce these problems. You will engage with a wide range of theories and approaches to language and society, drawn not only from scholars of linguistics, but also from media theory, philosophy, communication studies, cognitive psychology, anthropology, gender theory, marketing, and law. You will become a practitioner of "linguistics for society" as you become a scholar of language in society. This module transitions you from doing traditional academic research to creating real-world impact.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this module, you will be able to:

  • Describe a range of theoretical and methodological approaches to examine language in society.
  • Critique language artefacts according to linguistic frameworks.
  • Construct and complete a research project to examine a langauge artefact.
  • Analyse a target audience.
  • Define a problem of language in society.
  • Recommend a solution to a problem of language in society.
  • Work collaboratively as a member of a team.
  • Communicate ideas effectively in speaking and writing.

Learning Experience

Two-Hour Meetings

You will work in a small group of four to five people during weekly 2-hour meetings, where you practice application of analytic and critical approaches to real-world langauge artefacts. You will regularly share your findings and recommendations with the entire module during planned and improvised formal presentations.

One-Hour Meetings

You will engage with coure module concepts in a blended seminar/lecture setting during weekly 1-hour meetings of about 10 to 15 students. These meetings will prepare you to engage independently with core concepts in required readings and out-of-class activities.


You will routinely work outside of formal module meetings with a project group, where you will collaborate to identify and research a problem in language and society, and to propose a solution to the problem. This will result in a collaboratively written formal recommendation report that combines academic research with real-world impact. This recommendation serves as a formal formative assessment.



You will individually produce a 2000-word recommendation to address a problem at the intersection of language and society. It will build on your formative practicum recommendation. It constitutes 50% of your module assessment.


You will complete a 2-hour written examination to demonstrate your mastery of core module concepts. The exam is 50% of your module mark.

Preparatory Reading

  • Piller, I. (2016) Linguistic diversity and social justice: an introduction to applied sociolinguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.