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Varieties of English EN2001

This course explores how and why language is used differently in a range of contexts.

Students will examine the variation of spoken language in relation to region, gender, ethnicity, age and social class; students will see that individuals are able to shift their style of speaking from one situation to the next and we will explore the attitudes that people have towards different varieties of English. The course also examines a range of tools and methodological frameworks that linguists use to analyse both spontaneous spoken interaction, written media and advertisement texts/discourses.

The questions that will be addressed may include the following: Do women and men speak differently? What is slang? How and why do adolescents speak differently from adults? What are the public stereotypes about speakers with “non-standard” accents? What is Standard English? How do language choices influence the representation of social groups (e.g. women, asylum seekers) in the media? What are the language strategies employed by politicians? What is the difference between spontaneous talk and scripted drama/soap opera interaction?

Learning outcomes

If you complete the course successfully, you should:

  • have become familiar with regional, socio-cultural and situational language variation
  • have acquired a range of analytical frameworks and tools and empirical research from linguistics and discourse analysis
  • be able to transcribe and analyse spontaneous spoken language
  • have analysed spoken language as well as examples of media and political discourse
  • have explored the representation of language variation in a range of texts
  • have studied language variation in relation to social, political and philosophical issues
  • have investigated the role language plays in constructing social identities and realities

Essential reading

  • Thomas, Wareing and Singh (eds.) (2003) Language, Society and Power. Second Edition. Taylor & Francis Books Lt
  • Janet Holmes. (2008) An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. 3nd edition. Longman
  • Deborah Cameron. (2001) Working with Spoken Discourse. London: Sage