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Language Acquisition 4: Dimensions of Text Analysis


Admission requirements

A pass for an introductory course on academic writing (LA1 or equivalent) and a course on English grammar (LA3 or equivalent).


Languages are often discussed as if there is a single, correct way to construct a message. Yet we use language in a very diverse range of contexts and communicative situations (e.g., using speech or writing, writing an essay or an email, addressing a professor or a friend, communicating in public or private contexts) and we adjust our linguistic choices accordingly. What is deemed ‘good’ or ‘appropriate’ language in one context or situation may be ‘inappropriate’ in another.

This course focusses on such situational variation in English (and other languages) by discussing how language functions and is investigated at the level of text and discourse. We start by distinguishing among the core concepts of register, genre and style, and then turn to the question of how these language dimensions interact. Besides description of the systematic, structural differences among linguistic registers (including academic writing, face-to-face conversation, and electronic communication), this course also explores functional explanations for why situational features influence the forms of language. Foundational questions we address include:

  • What is the extent of register and genre variation within and across languages?

  • How do we account for linguistic variation among text types?

More specific topics include, but are not limited to:

  • How do scripted (e.g., TV dialogue) and spontaneous conversation compare?

  • How do literary genres (e.g., the novel) change over time, and to what extent might these changes be attributed to aesthetic or situational features?

  • What is personal style?

  • How do technological affordances (e.g., instant messaging dialogue bubbles) influence they way we understand diachronic language change?

In the first half of the course, you engage in seminar discussions regarding readings that present theories and methods of discourse analysis. In the second half of the course, you participate in workshops in which you conduct your own small-scale linguistic analysis with guidance from your instructor and 3-4 of your classmates. Weekly peer review sessions support you as you write about your research in a concise essay directed toward a general audience. Through this process, we examine the nature of scientific communication, and how it might be more effectively undertaken.

Course objectives

  • Understand theories and concepts related to linguistic variation

  • Investigate how language functions at the level of text and discourse

  • Apply qualitative and quantitative methods of discourse analysis

  • Engage in independent research

  • Develop audience awareness for effective scientific communication

  • Write a multimodal essay in English at CEF-level C1


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

Lectures, seminars, workgroups, research

Assessment method

The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average of

  • Seminar participation score based on percentage of seminars attended with proper preparation.

  • 3,000-word research-based essay at the end of the course. A score of 6 is required to pass the course.


  • Seminar participation: 20%

  • End-of-term essay: 80%


Students can take a resit if the final grade is below 5.49.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Biber, Douglas, & Conrad, Susan. (2019). Register, Genre, and Style. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

This textbook is available electronically via the university library:


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.

General information about MyStudyMap is available on the website

Registration À la carte education, Contract teaching and Exchange

Information for those interested in taking this course in context of À la carte education (without taking examinations), eg. about costs, registration and conditions.

Information for those interested in taking this course in context of Contract teaching (with taking examinations), eg. about costs, registration and conditions.

For the registration of exchange students contact Humanities International Office.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Arsenaal


Not applicable.