Spring 2023 - LING 160 B100

Language, Culture and Society (3)

Class Number: 2664

Delivery Method: Blended


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 4 – Apr 11, 2023: Wed, 3:30–4:20 p.m.

  • 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 the social phenomenon of languages, which are constantly being changed by the people who use them (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, every different group of language users adapts their code in their own way. For example, English as it is used in Vancouver is distinct from how it is used in New York City or London, England or Singapore or Hong Kong or New Delhi, India. Language varies across different (cultural) contexts, from speech community to speech community. Within each context, speakers use language in ways that reflect their own cultural identities, backgrounds, beliefs, practices, and values.

This course introduces the field of sociolinguistics, which examines the relationship between social factors, culture, and language. Students will reflect upon and think critically about their everyday life and language use here in Vancouver as we discuss the following topics:

- multilingualism in speech communities and the social reasons for language acquisition, language shift, language maintenance, language loss, and even language death;

- the existence of regional dialects (e.g., Canadian English, American English, Newfoundland English, Texas English, Indian English) and social (class) dialects (e.g., the Queen’s English vs. that of working-class Londoners);

- how language use can reflect aspects of our social identity, such as ethnicity (e.g., African American English and its global spread as the language of rap/hip hop), gender (how do men and women speak differently?), sexuality (how do we use language to communicate our sexual identity when we are attracted to someone?), and age (why do teenagers speak differently from adults?);

- the role of politeness in language use, and how this varies across cultures;

- variation in language (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

- the important issues of discrimination and prejudice, as well as 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 with British Colonialism, initially in North America and the South Pacific, then in Asia and Africa. More 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.



  • Attendance 5%
  • brief (5-10 min.) weekly podcast participation assignment 15%
  • Participation in on-line discussion 15%
  • Test 1 16.25%
  • Test 2 16.25%
  • Test 3 16.25%
  • Test 4 16.25%


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.




Holmes, Janet, and Wilson, Nick (2022). An Introduction to Sociolinguistics (6th revised ed.) Taylor & Francis. ISBN: 9780367421106.

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.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

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.

Students requiring accommodations as a result of a disability must contact the Centre for Accessible Learning (778-782-3112 or caladmin@sfu.ca).

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website 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