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Cultural Interaction


Admission requirements

Students must have taken a first year course on Communication (e.g., Language in use, Taal in gebruik). They must also be willing to carry out fieldwork by collecting (recording and transcribing) naturally occurring conversations.

This course is only available for students of the BA Linguistics. There is a limited number of places available for exchange students.


This course will introduce students to the underlying assumptions that guide communication in different social and cultural contexts. Communication often proceeds on the basis of culturally-formed assumptions about who should speak, when, and for how long, what are appropriate topics for conversation, and linguistic and paralinguistic cues indicating how interlocutors feel about it. However, such assumptions are hardly ever made explicit, ensuring social cohesion between insiders while leaving outsiders at a loss about how to interret what is going on. In this course, we introduce basic notions in cross-cultural pragmatics and conversation analysis, through the work of such luminaries as John Gumperz, Herbert Clark, Michael Silverstein and Erving Goffman, among others. During the first half of the course, weekly readings of journal articles and book chapters will be uploaded on Blackboard. Students must familiarize themselves with this literature prior to coming class, to help ensure a high level of academic discussion. During the second half, students will be helped to formulate their own research projects by going out and collecting data from different communities. The last four sessions will be dedicated to students presenting their projects in class. A central goal of these class presentations will be to compare conversational structures in different settings, trying to identify the conversational devices that make different contributions apt to different conversational goals.

Course objectives

The goal is to provide students with the theoretical background to account for the different meanings from which our social worlds are constructed as they arise in everyday conversation, as well as the practical skills to collect, transcribe and analyze everyday conversations in different social and cultural settings. Students will receive practical training in the techniques of conversation analysis, as well as be given the opportunity to comment on each other’s work. In this way, this coure will foster both analytical and collaborative skills, preparing students to carry out independent research in future.


Linguistics bachelor

There are 6 lectures in The Hague on Mondays 17.15-19.00 on September 11, 18, 26 and October 2, 9 and 16.
There are tutorials in Leiden, for times, check the schedule.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

  • Seminar

Course Load

Total course load 140 hours:

  • Lectures: 2h per week x 13 weeks = 26 hours

  • Practical work: 5 hours (design of study and data collection)

  • Preparation tutorials:

  • Tutoring:

  • Study of compulsory literature: 75 hours

  • Assignment(s): 30 hours (data analysis, preparation of class presentation and final paper)

  • Tutorials: 1h x 2 weeks = 2 hours

  • Preparation exam: 10 hours

  • Exam(s): 2h (midterm) = 2 hours

Total: 140 hours (5 EC)

Assessment method

Midterm exam (written examination with short open questions): 40%
Class presentation: 10%
Final paper: 50%


There can be no retake of the midterm exam (mastering this material is crucial to proceeding to the next, practical part of the course). The final paper may be improved within 10 days of the feedback being provided.

Exam review

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • Uploading the course syllabus and required weekly readings and samples of conversational analysis

  • Sharing comments and feedback after the class presentations

Reading list

Readings will include book chapters and journal articles by Gumperz, Hymes, Haviland, Levinson, Silverstein, HH Clark, Garfinkel, and Goffman. A detailed syllabus will be provided at the start of the semester.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch


M. Terkourafi

Education Administration Office van Wijkplaats:

Coordinator of Studies: Else van Dijk


The maximum number of students for this course is 15. Students from the BA Linguistics have priority. During the first block, classes will be shared with the BA International Studies and take place in the Hague. In the second block, classes will be in Leiden.