Spring 2022 - LING 160 D100

Language, Culture and Society (3)

Class Number: 2178

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We 3:30 PM – 4:20 PM
    SSCB 9200, Burnaby

  • Instructor:

    Suzanne Hilgendorf
    1 778 782-8583
    Office: RCB 9211



Examines the relationship between language use and social structure. Considers how social factors such as gender, class, age, and ethnicity may be reflected in language use, as well as "big picture" topics that include multilingualism, dialect variation, language policy and linguistic stereotypes. Encourages students to think critically about the social dimensions of language. Open to all students. 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 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);
  • 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 social class;
  • the role of politeness in language use, and how this varies across cultures;
  • variation in languages (e.g. Canadian English “washroom” vs. American English “restroom”);
  • the relationship between language and cognition (does a language and its vocabulary shape our understanding of the world around us?); and
  • in general, issues of discrimination and prejudice, also equity, diversity, and inclusion, with respect to the language(s) individuals and communities use.

A special topic will be that 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, Latin America, and other parts of the world never subjected to (British) colonial rule.

Course modifications for Blended Instruction

As a Blended course, this class will have a combination of in-person and online components, with the online components replacing in-person class time.

The originally scheduled three hours of in-person instruction will be divided into 2 hours asynchronous (online) and 1 hour in-person 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 by Monday morning. Students are expected to listen to these lecture podcasts and complete brief participation activities within 2 days, e.g. before 3:00 pm on Wednesday.

For the in-person instruction, the class will meet for 1 hour on Wednesdays, from 3:30 pm to 4:20 pm. The in-person sessions will focus on clarifying information in the podcasts and assigned readings as well as addressing student questions. Students will also complete brief group work assignments.

In addition, the five scheduled tests will be completed in-person during these 1-hour class meetings



  • Attendance and lecture participation assignments 20%
  • Participation in on-line discussion 15%
  • Test 1 13%
  • Test 2 13%
  • Test 3 13%
  • Test 4 13%
  • Test 5 13%



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.

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.
ISBN: 9781138845015

A list of additional readings (available via Library Reserve) may be distributed in class.

Department Undergraduate Notes:

Students should familiarize themselves with the Department's Standards on Class Management and Student Responsibilities.

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.

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 2022 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with safety plans in place.  Some courses will still be offered through remote methods, and if so, this will be clearly identified in the schedule of classes.  You will also know at enrollment whether remote course components will be “live” (synchronous) or at your own pace (asynchronous).

Enrolling in a course acknowledges that you are able to attend in whatever format is required.  You should not enroll in a course that is in-person if you are not able to return to campus, and should be aware 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.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who may need class or exam accommodations, including in the context of remote learning, are advised to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112) as early as possible in order to prepare for the spring 2022 term.