Spring 2020 - POL 325 D100

Language and Politics (4)

Class Number: 5282

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 9:30 AM – 1:20 PM
    WMC 3510, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    Six lower division units in political science or permission of the department.



Explores the relationship between language and politics, including the relations of power that shape the choice of state language(s), the origins and effects of language regimes, the politics of linguistic minorities and concerns relating to linguistic justice and equality. Students with credit for POL 329 Selected Topics in Canadian Government and Politics under the title Language and Politics may not take this course for further credit.


Aristotle once wrote that human beings were naturally political animals because they possessed speech (logos), which elevated them above concerns of mere survival. Human beings could therefore deliberate together on issues of justice and engage in the highest form of life, political life. We Moderns seem to have lost this exalted sense of political life. Yet language remains. It is still what binds us to political community. It is the basic medium through which politics is made possible. The aim of this course is to take the connection between language and politics seriously. Some of the questions we will ask include: What is language? How does language relate to power and political reality? How is language governed, by whom, and according to what criteria? How is it used as a political tool or weapon? How does it constitute the political world and how does politics, in turn, shape it? Throughout the course, we will explore many of the different ways and contexts in which language and politics converge. We will look at the politics of bilingualism and multiculturalism in Canada, Indigenous languages and cultures in Canada, theories of linguistic community and the nation-state, the linguistic structure of ideologies, propaganda, free speech, the role of language in fascist and totalitarian politics, the role of language in liberal democracies, and the function of political concepts. Students will develop the skills to analyze and deconstruct political speeches and texts.

This course is designed to promote serious critical thinking by means of introducing students to some of the most influential and enduring modern political ideas and systems of thought. Critical thinking involves the willingness to interrogate and re-assess what seems natural to you. It involves subjecting your fundamental political assumptions to sustained scrutiny and reflection. Alongside an emphasis on critical thinking, this course seeks to promote the further development of professional writing skills. Most of your course grade depends on your capacity to communicate your thoughts and arguments effectively in written form.


  • In-Class Test 20%
  • Critical Textual Analysis 20%
  • Critical Film Review 20%
  • Participation 15%
  • Final Essay 25%



None.  All required readings will be posted on Canvas.

Department Undergraduate Notes:

The Department of Political Science strictly enforces a policy on plagiarism.
For details, see http://www.sfu.ca/politics/undergraduate/program/related_links.html and click on “Plagiarism and Intellectual Dishonesty” .

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