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Language & Power - EDU00094M

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  • Department: Education
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Ursula Lanvers
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23

Module summary

In this module you will engage with socio-political and socio-educational issues around language use in society, including language activism, gender linguistics, online interaction, and education policy. You will focus on sociolinguistics, language and power in society and in educational discourses, and fairness in language use. All weeks will include some discussion of methods for analysing language use in relation to power in society.

A the end of this module, you should be able to critically analyse texts from the point of view of power negotiation, and have an awareness of different theoretical stances to, and different methods of researching, power in language.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Spring Term 2022-23

Module aims

The Module aims are:

  • to develop your understanding of different sociolinguistic frameworks and approaches tackling the interrelation between language and power,
  • to discover how injustices in education are replicated -and sometimes challenged- via language,
  • to consider different methods for analysing language use and its relation to power,
  • to develop understanding of specific linguistic campaigns and their relation to current issues in language in the education sector,
  • to apply criticality skills to a chosen educational discourse context.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students should have a clear understanding of the compelling, ubiquitious and pervasive interrelation between of language and power.

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

Academic skills

  • understand how language can be used to assert, challenge and cement power in educational contexts,
  • understand of how language is manipulated for specific educational goals
  • appreciate different sociolinguistic theories and sociolinguistic approaches applicable to the field of education (e.g. liberational, emancipatory), and their practical applicability to different learning and teaching contexts.

Graduate skills:

  • critically evaluate power negotiation in texts and discourses
  • appreciate advantages and disadvantages of different methods for the analysis of language, in educational contexts and beyond
  • appreciate the pervasiveness of power in all language use, and different ways adopting communicative styles with more or less power distance

Module content

In detail, sessions will cover:

Week 2 will offer a module overview and assignment requirements. You will then discuss methodologies used in usage-based language analysis, both of written and spoken discourse, and focus on a couple of examples of this, including Corpus based analysis.

Week 3 will offer a discussion of how plurilingualism is systematically erased in educational contexts, including examples of educational language rights, the provision for EAL (English as additional language) students, and code mixing and translanguaging.

Week 4 will focus on language use and class division, offering both a historic perspective and current overview of the research area, including intersectionality.

Week 5 will include a discussion of gender linguistics, including historic perspectives, current theories and linguistic activism on the topic. You will critically discuss key authors on this issue, and discuss implications for educational contexts.

Week 6 will discuss global language changes, global language policies and current language shifts. Here, our central discussion will be: can language policy halt the increasing dominance of English?

Week 7 will discuss how and if we can decolonise foreign language learning. In this week, we will examine conceptualisations of foreign language teaching that aim to decolonise the foreign language curricula.

Week 8 will include a discussion of Critical Discourse Analysis: what this is, and example of applying Critical Discourse Analysis to educational discourses, both classroom data, and educational policy documents.

Week 9 will include a discussion of linguistic activism, and the premises under which campaigners fight for language change, using examples of e.g. LGBTQ activists and anti-English movements.

The final week will be an assignment workshop, where you will have a chance to discuss an assignment outline, and assignment options in small groups.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3500 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3500 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

Via marker feedback on assignment and feedback sheet as well as face to face feedback.

Indicative reading

Holmes J. & Wilson, N. (20117). Introducing sociolinguistics. London: Routledge.

Mooney, A. & Evans, B. (2019). Language, society and power. London: Routledge.

Fairclough, N. (2001). Language and power. London: Longman.

Simpson, P., Mayr, A. & Strathman, S. (2019). Language and power. London: Routledge.

Macedo, D. & DrGraff, M. (eds) 2019. Decolonizing World Language Education. Routledge.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.