Faculty of Arts


Language, Mind and Society

Please note: this is archived course information from 2018 for LINGUIST 101.


Course overview

Language is one of the most important aspects of being human. It is also a vast and exciting area of study. On the one hand, language has many practical purposes: we use it in almost everything we do to keep our communities functioning and to manage our identities. On the other hand, language can give us a window into how thoughts and meanings are formed in the mind. This course looks at the unique relations that hold between mind, society and language. In particular we look at the following questions:

  • Does what we think about language matter?
  • How much "control" do we have over the creation of meaning?
  • What is "conversation"?
  • Where is language in our mind, and how is it connected to the notion of meaning?
  • Do different cultures organise their meanings and languages differently?
  • What is special about human language and how did we get here?
  • Artificial Intelligence: will computers ever really be able to "do" language the way we do? What are the challenges?

Course aims and objectives

By the end of this course, you should:

  • Be able to describe how differences in language use can manifest themselves at different levels of structure
  • Be able to distinguish "facts", "values" and "opinions" as these relate to language and meaning in social contexts
  • Discriminate between and define key terms in the field, e.g., code-switching, politeness, apparent time, macro-sociolinguistics, micro-sociolinguistics
  • Critically evaluate and develop coherent arguments in favour of and against particular analyses of language and meaning
  • Be able to explain clearly to each other the relationship of different topics in the readings
  • Be able to apply primary language data (texts, media, recordings and so on) to problems in language and society

View the course syllabus

Availability 2018

Semester 1


Coordinator(s) Dr Keith Montgomery


Holmes, Janet. 2013. An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. 4th edition. Harlow, England: Pearson Education Limited.

Recommended Reading

Bonvillain, Nancy. 2014. Language, Culture and Communication. 7th edition. USA: Pearson Education Inc.


Coursework + exam


LINGUIST 101: 15.0 points

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