Fall 2019 - LING 160 D100

Language, Culture and Society (3)

Class Number: 1533

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 3 – Dec 2, 2019: Tue, 10:30–11:20 a.m.

    Sep 3 – Dec 2, 2019: Thu, 9:30–11:20 a.m.

  • Instructor:

    Suzanne Hilgendorf
    1 778 782-8583
    Office: RCB 9211



An introduction to language in its social and cultural dimensions. Students who have taken LING 260 prior to Fall 2008 may not take LING 160 for further credit. Breadth-Social Sciences.


This course explores how language is a social phenomenon, a code that constantly is being changed by the people who use it (users) as they communicate meaning to one another (uses). This on-going process of modifying a language is evident when we think about how users change sounds, grammar, vocabulary, and phrasings over time (e.g. Shakespeare’s English vs. present-day English). In addition, each group of users adapts a language in distinct ways, even as they ostensibly use the same code. Language commonly varies across different (cultural) contexts, from speech community to speech community. For example, English as it is used in Vancouver is distinct from how it is used in New York City or Edinburgh, Scotland or Singapore or Hong Kong. Within each of these contexts the users use English in ways that reflect their cultural identities, background, beliefs, practices, and values.

This course explores these and other topics in sociolinguistics, the research field that examines the relationship between social factors, culture, and language use. Topics to be discussed include multilingualism in speech communities and the social reasons for language acquisition, language shift, language maintenance, language loss, and even language death. The course looks at the phenomena of regional dialects (e.g. Newfoundland English; Texas English; Indian English) and social dialects (e.g. the Queen’s English vs. that of working class Londoners). It examines how language use can vary within a speech community depending on such social factors as ethnicity (e.g. African American Vernacular English), gender (e.g. Valley Girl English), age (e.g. youth language), and class/caste. Additional topics include the role of politeness and stereotypes in language use, variation (e.g. Canadian “washroom” vs. American “restroom”), and the relationship between language and cognition (does a language and its vocabulary shape our understanding of the world around us?). A special lecture will focus on the subject of World Englishes, which examines the international spread of English to speech communities around the globe. This phenomenon began as a result of British Colonialism, initially in North America and the South Pacific, then in Asia and Africa. Most recently, globalization and heightened transnational contact has inaugurated a third phase in the spread of English, to Europe and other parts of the world never subjected to (British) colonial rule.


  • Participation in class (incl. attendance and in-class group work assignments) 15%
  • Participation in on-line discussion 10%
  • Exam 1 25%
  • Exam 2 25%
  • Exam 3 25%
  • No Final Exam


A detailed course outline will be distributed during the first week of classes.

This course may be applied towards the Certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language.

Linguistics program students cannot count this course towards their breadth requirements unless in joint or double majors, extended minor, or double minors program.

Students should familiarize themselves with the Department's Standards on Class Management and Student Responsibilities at http://www.sfu.ca/linguistics/undergraduate/standards.html

Please note that a grade of “FD” (Failed-Dishonesty) may be assigned as a penalty for academic dishonesty.

All student requests for accommodations for their religious practices must be made in writing by the end of the first week of classes or no later than one week after a student adds a course.

Students requiring accommodations as a result of a disability must contact the Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca).



Holmes, Janet, and Wilson, Nick (2017). An Introduction to Sociolinguistics (5th revised ed.) Routledge. ISBN:  9781138845015.
Please note that students are responsible for the content in this latest edition. The content of older editions is not identical to that of the latest edition.
A list of additional readings (available via Library Reserve) may be distributed in class.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html