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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Crispin Thurlow Faber
BIS 317
Bothell Campus

Language, Society, and Cultural Knowledge

Explores the determining role of language in human communication, culture and worldview; and the implications of language structure and content to forms of communicative interaction. Review and critique of theories of language as a social phenomena.

Class description

This version of BIS 317 will offer a broad survey of the role of language in everyday social life from the interdisciplinary perspective of Sociolinguistics. Each week we will address a new social issue or domain as a way to focus on a set of different sociolinguistic concepts, theories and research methods (see course schedule). For example, we will look at how language expresses regional identity, ethnicity, and gender; we will also examine the nature of language in the workplace, in the media, and in new media. There will also be a week which consider language under globalization and one on the “linguistics of sex”.

"Sociolinguistics … is that part of linguistics which is concerned with language as a social and cultural phenomenon. It investigates the field of language and society, and has close connections with the social sciences, especially social psychology, anthropology, human geography and sociology." (Trudgill, 1974: 32)

"The sociolinguist's aim is to move towards a theory which provides a motivated account of the way language is used in a community, and of the choices people make when they use language." (Holmes, 1992: 16)

"Sociolinguistics is often loosely defined as ‘the study of language in society', or ‘the study of language in its social contexts.' … Sociolingusitics is a broad and vibrant interdisciplinary project working across the different disciplines that were its origins." (Coupland & Jaworski, 2009: 1-2)

Any academic exploration of the relationship between language and society must always be interdisciplinary in its scope. Typically, it is a topic of interest to scholars working in fields such as sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology, sociology of language and discourse studies.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

On Mondays, Professor Thurlow will present a double lecture to introduce the week's topic along with key issues, concepts, research findings, etc. On Wednesdays, class will meet for the required reading quizzes followed immediately by a class discussion. This will also be when the weekly assignment is given out and time for you to meet with Professor Thurlow for directions and feedback on previous exercises.

Recommended preparation

No preparation required.

Class assignments and grading

Your individual effort and learning for this class will be evaluated based on the following:

1. Weekly assignments (worth 40% of final grade)

You will be required to undertake eight (out of a possible ten) small assignments as a way to explore key concepts covered in Monday lectures and the weekly quiz reading. These assignments will be assigned in class on Wednesdays (after the reading quiz) and should be handed in at the start of class the following Monday (i.e. you will have four days in which to complete each task). Each task is worth 5% of the final grade and will be graded on a credit/no credit basis, with a full credit for a well-completed task and a half credit for half-hearted work. Failure to turn in your project work on time will result in a zero grade. If you complete more than the required eight tasks you will be allowed to replace any half-credit tasks.

Note: Each task should be typed and supply the following information in the top RIGHT hand corner: Project number (e.g. Project 4), Name (first name, last name), ID (i.e. your student number)

2. Final exam (worth 30% of final grade)

There will be one final exam for BIS 317 based on material covered in the Monday lectures. This exam will be a “seen exam” – in other words, you will have advance notice of the general question areas to be examined. The exam will be multiple choice and require you to bring a "bubble sheet". The exam will contain ten repeat questions from the reading quizzes (one from each quiz).

3. Reading quizzes (worth 30% of final grade)

There will ten reading quizzes during the quarter – one each Wednesday. These will entail six short questions based on the case-study readings for the week. The quizzes will run for about twenty minutes and be followed by a short discussion related to the week’s primary topic. Each quiz is graded out of 6, with one point for each fully correct answer. Half points will be awarded for answers which is partially correct – i.e. which demonstrate basic knowledge but not full understanding. At the end of the quarter, you will be allowed to drop your two lowest quiz grades.

See above


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Crispin Thurlow Faber
Date: 10/07/2012