Spring 2021 - LING 160 D100

Language, Culture and Society (3)

Class Number: 2706

Delivery Method: Remote


  • Course Times + Location:

    We, Fr 3:30 PM – 4:50 PM

  • Instructor:

    Suzanne Hilgendorf
    1 778 782-8583



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


  • Participation in class (incl. attendance and podcast participation assignments) 20%
  • Participation in on-line discussion 20%
  • Exam 1 20%
  • Exam 2 20%
  • Exam 3 20%


These course assignments are tentative. A detailed course outline will be distributed during the first week of classes.

Note: 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.

Course modifications for remote instruction:
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the originally scheduled three hours of weekly instruction on campus Wednesdays and Fridays from 3:30 to 4:50 pm will be divided into 2 hours asynchronous and 1 hour synchronous instruction.

For the asynchronous instruction, students will need to access two ca. 1-hour lecture podcasts posted in the
course’s Canvas site each week on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Students will be expected to listen to these
lecture podcasts within 1 ½ days, e.g. before 4:00 pm the following day.

For the synchronous instruction, the class will meet virtually via Zoom or similar technology on Wednesdays and
Fridays from 4:30 pm to ca. 4:50 pm. Students will have the option of joining these virtual class meetings via
computer or telephone, using video with audio or audio connection only. Please note that if telephoning into the
session, long-distance calling charges may apply. The ca. 20-minute sessions will focus on clarifying information
in the podcasts and assigned readings as well as addressing student questions.

In addition, following the online class discussion, the professor will hold optional virtual office hours for another
30 minutes, until ca. 5:30 pm. Students therefore will be able to interact with the professor directly via
teleconference for up to one hour on Wednesday and Friday afternoons.

In an exception to the above arrangements, students will need to access the course’s Canvas site for a full 90
minutes, from 3:30 to 4:50 pm, on three dates in order to complete three exams. These are tentatively scheduled
on the Fridays of January 29, March 5, and April 9.

The course otherwise relies extensively on the Canvas system for managing and storing course assignments,
documents, grades, etc.

No technologies other than those noted above are planned to be used.

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. 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.
ISBN: 9781138845015

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


Teaching at SFU in spring 2021 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).