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Admission requirements


Course description

Globalization continues to bring people from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds together, to live and to work and to interact communicatively. This has engendered a very diversified global village with multi-cultural and multilingual agents with shifting identities who must interact. In these interactions, the participants bring along their socio-cultural expectations, communicative resources, norms and values. To attain successful communication in such a diversified world, the participants must understand, negotiate and accommodate to each other’s expectations. In this course we explore how language is used in social interaction, at the individual, institutional, societal and cultural levels. We investigate what is polite, or impolite; the variety of understandings of speech and language ideologies and how these are sites for potential miscommunication and misunderstanding.

We also address the role of language in various spheres of everyday life of members of various communities of practice in the global village: governance, economy, health and education and examining 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.

Weekly overview

Week 1: Using language: Language use in social interaction. Communication.
Week 2: Politeness and Impoliteness across cultures
Week 3: Talk in social interaction
Week 4: Societal and individual multilingualism
Week 5: Sociolinguistics of development
Week 6: Sociolinguistics of globalization
Week 7: Intercultural communication in professional and workplace contexts

Learning objectives

The aim is to introduce students to issues in language use in social interaction and how they affect cross-cultural communication in the global village. Week one focuses on communication as joint activity and the diversity of the modes of communication. Week two addresses (im)politeness and how they vary across languages and cultures. Week three looks at how people do things with words in social interaction. In week four we challenge the monolingual mindset and argue that multilingualism at both the individual and societal levels is the norm, but it raises practical, political and economic questions for language planning and policy. We discuss linguistic landscaping in public spaces. In week 5 we discus the role of language in the four pillars of development: education, economy, health and governance. In week 6 students are confronted with more challenges of language use in a globalised world, e.g. in relations to migration and refugees. Week 7 returns to the challenges of intercultural communication in professional and workplace contexts.

At the end of the course, students should develop an understanding of the complexity of language use in everyday life. They should be able to describe the diversity of communication strategies that come to play in transcultural interactions in various arenas in the global village. Students should have skills for analysing and interpreting social encounters. They should be able to debate issues on language policy as it relates to various pillars of development: education, health and governance. Students should also have a better understanding of the complexity of linguistic vitality and diversity.

Mode of instruction

The course will be taught through seminars and workshops. The seminars will introduce the issues and challenges pertaining to the topic and the workshops will be devoted to discussions, debates and presentations by the students on the topics. The Tuesday class will be a seminar and the Friday class a workshop. As the class is concerned with cross-cultural interaction, students from different backgrounds will be paired to discuss and reflect on the cultural values that they bring to bear on intercultural communication and how these can be problematic in interaction with the partner from another culture. The workshops will also include thought experiments and practical activities such as role plays to bring to life some aspects of language use. We will also have an excursion to the city of The Hague to observe its linguistic landscape and to be participant observers of language use and social interaction in various pubs.


In-class participation, 20%
Three assignments on course readings distributed over the block, 20%
A critical review of an article on a sociolinguistic topic (800-1000 words), 20%
Final research essay (3000 words), 40%

Compulsory literature

Compulsory literature:

  • Bowe, Heather and Kylie Martin 2007. Communication across cultures. Mutual understanding in a global world. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

  • Deckert, Sharon K. and Caroline H. Vickers 2011. An introduction to Sociolinguistics: Society and Identity. London: Continuum

Recommended readings:
These books deal with the topics of the course and can be consulted as reference works. Specific readings will be spelled out in the course syllabus and made available through Blackboard.

  • Blommaert, Jan. 2010. The sociolinguistics of globalization. Cambridge University Press

  • Coulmas, Florian (ed) 1997. The handbook of Sociolinguistics. Blackwell

  • Coulmas, Florian 2005. Sociolinguistics. The study of speakers’ choices. Cambridge University Press

  • Coupland, Nikolas & Adam Jaworski (eds.) 2009. The new sociolinguistics reader. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

  • Culpeper, Jonathan. 2011. Impoliteness: Using language to cause offence. Cambridge University Press

  • Djité, Paulin G. 2008. The sociolinguistics of development in Africa. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters

  • Fasold, Ralph 1984. The Sociolinguistics of society. Volume 1. Introduction to Sociolinguistics. Basil Blackwell

  • Fasold, Ralph 1990. The Sociolinguistics of language. Volume 2 Introduction to Sociolinguistics Basil Blackwell

  • Wardhaugh, Ronald. 1998. An introduction to Sociolinguistics. (Third edition) Blackwells

  • Wierzbicka, Anna 2003. Cross-cultural pragmatics: the semantics of human interaction. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter