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Language Acquisition: Language Shift

Course 2010-2011

Admission Requirements



Language shift is the situation in which a dominant language undermines the use of a smaller one within a speech community. The community gradually shifts to speaking the more dominant language. This course examines the linguistic, sociolinguistic, and social implications of language shift.
English in particular is notorious for inhibiting the use of less dominant languages. This has happened in Scotland (Gaelic), Wales (Welsh), and, for instance, the Philippines (Spanish). In the Netherlands, Frisian and the old dialects have been affected by the dominance of Standard Dutch. In these examples, a complete shift has not always taken place, and in fact successful language maintenance and revitalisation efforts are known.
For the course, students choose a relevant country or region and do a small empirical study into the language shift situation there. Students collect new data. They could, for instance, test attitudes through a survey or listening experiment, or they could describe the use of a specific language item across generations of speakers.

Course Objectives

  • describe linguistic, sociolinguistic, and/or sociological changes;
  • collect and process empirical data, present these data;
  • read sociolinguistic articles, and write a fully-fledged research paper. The coursework and the collected data could serve as the start of a sociolinguistic MA thesis.


The timetable will be available from July 1 onwards on the Department website.

Mode of Instruction

Two-hour seminar per week.


  • Presentations (40%)
  • Homework (20%)
  • Research report (40%)
    The course can be extended to 15 ECTS through an extra paper.


This course is supported by Blackboard.

Reading list

Articles and other material will be made available through Blackboard.


Students can register through uSis
Register for Contractonderwijs

Contact information

English Department, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 103c. Phone: 071 527 2144, or mail: