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Advanced topics in language variation and change



This course aims to support and foster an advanced understanding of current issues in Language Variation and Change. Through a reading of research articles, you will come to understand how research questions are formulated, how they are operationalised, and how conclusions are drawn from the research carried out.

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • achieve an understanding of how research questions are identified and framed in the context of relevant literature in Language Variation and Change
  • understand how data is analysed within a theoretically defensible framework
  • give an effective and critical oral summary of the content of a research article
  • write a critical account of one of a number of important issues in Language Variation and Change, including (in some cases) a report of your own independent research on a topic relevant to the issue at hand.

Note that a Research Extension module can be taken alongside this module, for students who wish to write a dissertation.

This module will be capped at 35.



Students must have successfully completed:

  • L10I Intermediate language variation and change (LAN00010I)



Contact hours

One hour per week in Spring and Summer Terms, alternating between plenary lectures and seminars.

Teaching programme

The programme is arranged around topics in Language Variation and Change which are currently the subject of intense research. The format is a plenary lecture followed by a seminar in the following week during which students do oral presentations based on readings they have covered. The topics may vary from year to year, but will typically be selected from the following:

  • Motivations of variation and change
  • External motivation for variation and change: contact
  • Current issues in modelling the speech community
  • High-contact speech communities: youth language in multiethnic urban centres
  • Sociolinguistic typology
  • Sociolinguistic perception
  • Historical sociolinguistics

Teaching materials

Each week, a number of research articles will be set for discussion in seminars. All readings are available online or will be posted on the VLE a week in advance of the relevant lecture.

Assessment and feedback

Assessment and feedback

Feedback on formative work

  • Student presentations in the seminars serve as formative work.
    Oral feedback will be provided during the seminars.

Summative assessment and feedback

  • A 4000-word essaydue in Week 5 of the summer term
    • Weight: 100%
    • Written feedback available at the end of the summer term.


Transferable skills developed in this module

All modules provide an opportunity to work on general oral/written communication skills (in class and in assessments) and general self management (organising your studies), alongside the specific skills in language or linguistics that the module teaches.

In addition, this module will allow you to particularly develop skills in:

  • the application of data analysis skills: you will read primary sources of literature, and critically evaluate them to formulate your own opinions, both orally and in writing, in collaboration with and gaining feedback from others; you will find different interpretations of data, and come to appreciate the contingent nature of much knowledge: an important part of decision-making.
  • self-management: this module is delivered through seminars, and you are expected to plan much of your own work in order to meet deadlines.

Follow this link to hear how past students use transferable skills from their degree in their current jobs.

About this module

  • Module name
    Advanced topics in language variation and change
  • Course code
    E/L02H (LAN00002H)
  • Teacher(s) 
    Paul Kerswill
  • Term(s) taught
  • Credits