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Language & Diversity




Admissions requirements

Sociolinguistics is recommended, but not compulsory.


Picture the following situation: a man comes into the room wearing a backpack, he turns round and accidentally knocks over a vase, shattering it to pieces. How would you describe this event? Would you say “the man broke the vase” or “the vase broke”? According to linguistic research (Fausey & Boroditsky, 2008), the description you are most likely to use depends on your native language. English speakers are more inclined to use the construction in which the vase-breaker is identified (i.e. “the man broke the vase”) than speakers of Spanish. More importantly, these different linguistic patterns have consequences for people’s memory of these kinds of accidental events: English participants demonstrate better recall for who broke the vase than Spanish participants (Fausey & Boroditsky, 2011). Research findings of this nature thus suggest that our particular linguistic background may have a profound effect on how we view the world around us.

In this course, we will take a closer look at phenomena like this in order to better understand how language influences people’s perception of the world. In the first section of the course, we will look at how language influences us in a general sense: how does the acquisition of language influence development? Do people who do not share the same mother tongue differ in their perception of the world? And how does acquiring more than one language influence us? In the second part of the course, we will take a closer look at how language might be used to engender changes in our behaviour. In this light, we will investigate phenomena such as linguistic framing effects, politically correct language, euphemisms and propaganda. This part of the course will also take into account how narratives can be used to change people’s behaviour and attitudes regarding both themselves and others. In the final part of the course, you will conduct your own small-scale research on how language influences us, thereby providing you with some hands-on research experience.

Course objectives

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

  • describe how the acquisition of language affects human cognitive abilities.

  • describe how a person’s linguistic background can affect the representation and categorisation of people, objects and events.

  • grasp how linguistic representations can be used to affect people’s behaviour and attitudes.

This course will provide students with experience in:

  • formulating relevant propositions and discussing issues concerning the relationship between language, thought and behaviour.

  • conducting their own small-scale empirical research project.

  • conveying the results of their own research to others in both the written and spoken form.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

The course will be taught through a combination of lectures and seminars. The lectures will provide students with relevant knowledge of the field, whereas the seminars (and the associated assignments) will require students to put this knowledge into practice. In the first set of seminars, there will be class discussions related to the topics dealt with in the lectures. In the second set of seminars, students will work on setting up their own small-scale group research projects, so that they can gain experience in conducting their own research. The last sessions of this course will involve class presentations of the research projects.


15% class discussion and discussion preparation of topic 1 (Assignment 1 and 2)
15% class discussion and discussion preparation of topic 2 (Assignment 3 and 4)
15% Research project group assignments
20% presentation research project
35% final research essay (2000 words, empirical paper describing research project)


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

Reading will consist of a selection of articles/book chapters that will be provided via Blackboard.


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Dr. Hannah De Mulder