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Language and Communication


Admission requirements


This course offers a general introduction to the study of language in use, studying language from a communicative perspective: how does linguistic communication work?

People use language to communicate but this is not simply a matter of encoding and decoding meaning. What speakers intend to communicate is often more than what they literally say, or it may even be something different (as in the case of irony). A big chunk of language in use is indirect, for instance out of politeness considerations. Researchers of language use try to determine how hearers can work out the meaning intended on the basis of linguistic and non-linguistic information. Among the first to answer this question systematically, were philosophers like Searle (speech act theory) and Grice, who introduced ‘the cooperative principle’. These theories we take as starting point for the course, also studying later developments like neo-Gricean pragmatics and Relevance Theory.

Whereas the study of language as a system is often restricted to the level of the word and the clause, the study of language and communication also takes into account the level of discourse, ranging from principles of turn-taking in spontaneous conversations to coherence relations in written texts. Just like language users apply the rules of grammar, they also behave according to specific norms when, for instance, switching the topic in a WhatsApp conversation or when deciding which degree of politeness is required in a specific genre or medium of communication. Researchers of language and communication try to make explicit the principles underlying such choices, that will of course be highly context-dependent and culture-specific.

Course objectives

At the end of this course you will be able to

  • Provide an overview of the main research topics and approaches in the domain of language and communication ;

  • Explain and illustrate in what respects the various approaches differ;

  • Analyse concrete instances of language use from different media in terms of the theories discussed;

  • Explain how the norms for language use studied are systematically related to genre, medium and culture.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

Lecture (1 hour per week) and seminar (1 hour per week)

Assessment method

  • Written examination with closed and short open questions after part 1 (40%)

  • Written examination with closed and short open questions after part 2, covering the entire course (60%)

The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average (40/60).

There is no separate resit for the first examination. The resit covers the entire material of the course.

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest.

Reading list

Please purchase before the beginning of the course: Betty J. Birner, Introduction to Pragmatics. Wiley-Blackwell, 2013. (The book is available on-line via the university library.)

For the second block, a reader will be provided.


Enrolment through My Studymap is mandatory


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

For questions related to the content of the course, please contact the lecturer, you can find their contact information by clicking on their name in the sidebar.

For questions regarding enrollment please contact the Education Administration Office ReuvensplaatsE-mail address Education Administration Office Reuvensplaats:

For questions regarding your studyprogress contact the Coordinator of Studies


This course is open to students from the BA Linguistics only.

First year’s students BA Linguistics will be enrolled in the seminars of this course by the Education Administration Office.