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Communicating Power


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies.


In this course we explore how language is used in social interaction at the individual, institutional, societal and cultural levels. We examine, for example, what is polite or impolite in different cultures and how this is reflected in language; how language is gendered; the diverse understandings of speech and language ideologies and how these are sites for potential and purposeful miscommunication and misunderstanding. We address the role of language in various spheres of everyday life: governance, economy, politics, health and education, and we examine how language policies and language planning in various nation states lead to the exclusion of the majority of agents in these domains. We will also debate issues concerning the sociolinguistics of globalization, such as the discourses about migration and how globalization influences linguistic vitality and diversity.

Course objectives

At the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • understand the complexity of everyday language use from a sociolinguistic, cultural, and communicative perspective;

  • describe factors that can enhance or impede transcultural communication;

  • debate issues on language policy and language ideologies;

  • understand the importance of rhetoric in communication and society.

  • understand the complexity of linguistic diversity


The timetable is available on the BA International Studies website

Mode of instruction

One two hour lecture per week; bi-weekly tutorials.

Attending lectures and tutorials is compulsory. If you are not able to attend a lecture or tutorial, please inform the tutor of the course. Being absent without notification can result in a lower grade or exclusion from the final exam or essay.

Assessment method

Paper 30%
Final exam 70%


Blackboard will be used. Students are requested to register on Blackboard for this course.

Reading list

Mesthrie, Rajend, Joan Swann, Ana Deumert, and William Leap. 2009. Introducing Sociolinguistics. Edinburgh: University Press (2nd edition).

Supplementary articles will be made available on Blackboard.


The student administration will register all first year students for the first semester courses in uSis, the registration system of Leiden University. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable