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Language, Power and Identity


Deze informatie is alleen in het Engels beschikbaar.

Disclaimer: due to the coronavirus pandemic, this course description might be subject to changes. For the latest updates regarding corona virus, please check this link.

Topics: Language, Nationalism, Ethnicity, Globalization.
Disciplines: Sociolinguistics, Antropology.
Skills: Researching, Analysing, Collaborating, Oral communication, Written communication, Presenting, Societal awareness, Reflecting, Independent learning, Resilience.

Admission requirements:

This course is an (extracurricular) Honours Class: an elective course within the Honours College programme. Third year students who don’t participate in the Honours College, have the opportunity to apply for a Bachelor Honours Class. Students will be selected based on i.a. their motivation and average grade.


What is the difference between a language and a dialect, and who decides? Should every nation have its own unique language? What are minority language “rights”? Why do certain forms of language play a central role in the ways we think about ourselves and identify others?

This course examines the complex relationship between language and social life. Through the use of sociolinguistic and linguistic anthropological methodologies and concepts, students will explore the linkages between language, dialects, identity and society, with special attention to the question: do national projects require that all citizens speak the same language? The first part of the course will provide students with theoretical background in linguistic and anthropological approaches to the course theme. In the second part of the course, we will move on to examine case studies from around the world that allow us to consider the interplay of language, power and identity from a variety of different contexts, including minority languages, postcolonialism, and globalization.

Course objectives:

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Understand basic concepts in sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology;
  2. Analyze the use of language and the attitudes/ideologies that people have towards language;
  3. Apply linguistic and anthropological concepts to analyze their own experiences or academic interests related to the intersection of language and society.

Programme and timetable:

This class will take place on 9 Tuesdays from 17.15 - 19.15.

Session 1: February 7
Session 2: February 14
Session 3: February 21
Session 4: February 28
Session 5: March 7
Session 6: March 14
Session 7: March 21
Session 8: April 4
Session 9: April 11 (17.15 - 20.15)

The final assignment is due on April 25, 2023.

Lipsius building, room 2.12

Reading list:

There will be about 25-30 pages of required reading each week. The finalized reading list will be announced on Brightspace before the first class session. Readings from previous iterations of this course have included:

Gal, Susan and Judith Irvine. 2019. “Introduction.” Signs of Difference: Language and Ideology in Social Life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Bourdieu, Pierre. 1991. “The Production and Reproduction of Legitimate Language.”
Language & Symbolic Power, 43–65. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Bucholtz, Mary and Kira Hall. 2009. “Locating Identity in Language.” In Language and
Identities, edited by Carmen Llamas and Dominic Watt, 18­–28. Edinburgh: Edinburgh
University Press.
Anderson, Benedict. 2006 [1983]. Imagined Communities. London: Verso.
Mitchell, Lisa. 2006. “Making the Local Foreign: Shared Language and History in
Southern India.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 16 (2): 229–48.
Blommaert, Jan. 2009. “Language, Asylum, and the National Order.” Current Anthropology 50 (4): 415–41.
Woolard, Kathryn A. 2013. “Is the personal political? Chronotopes and changing stances
toward Catalan language and identity.” International Journal of Bilingual Education and
Bilingualism 16(2):210–224.
Billings, Sabrina. 2009. “Speaking Beauties: Linguistic Posturing, Language Inequality,
and the Construction of a Tanzanian Beauty Queen.” Language in Society 38 (5): 581

Course load and teaching method:

This course load is 5 EC (140 hours):

  • Seminars: 9 seminars of 2 hours each (participation is mandatory)

  • Literature reading: 4 hours/week

  • Assignments & final essay: 86 hours

Assessment methods:

  • 10% Participation, assessed continually through participation in seminars

  • 10% Final paper proposal

  • 20% Group presentation and discussion facilitation during one class session

  • 60% Final paper 3000-4000 words, due April 25, 2023

Students could only pass this course after successful completion of all partial exams.

Brightspace and uSis:

Brightspace will be used in this course. Upon admission students will be enrolled in Brightspace by the teaching administration.

Please note: students are not required to register through uSis for the Bachelor Honours Classes. Your registration will be done centrally.

Registration process:

Submitting an application for this course is possible from Monday 31 October 2022 up to and including Sunday 20 November 2022 23:59 through the link on the Honours Academy student website.

Note: students don’t have to register for the Bachelor Honours Classes in uSis. The registration is done centrally before the start of the class.


Janet Connor: