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Advanced Topics in Language Variation & Change - LAN00002H

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  • Department: Language and Linguistic Science
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Paul Kerswill
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2019-20

Module summary

This module follows on from work on Intermediate Language Variation and Change, expanding the theoretical and empirical base. The focus is more firmly on language change, with an emphasis on language contact, dialect contact, demography and social structure. We take a relatively long time-line, so that we can see both the origins and the end-points of change (while recognising that change is continuous). Students will not be required to do independent research, while their critical skills will be honed through guided reading. There is also a strong emphasis on academic writing.

Related modules

Co-requisite modules

  • None

Prohibited combinations

  • None

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2019-20 to Summer Term 2019-20

Module aims

The module demonstrates how a sociolinguistic approach can benefit our understanding of language change. It emphasises language contact, dialect contact, demography and social structure. The module takes a relatively long time-line, so that we can see both the origins and the end-points of change (while recognising that change is continuous).

Module learning outcomes

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

  • demonstrate knowledge and understanding of qualitative and quantitative approaches in the domains of language contact, dialect contact, sociolinguistic models of change and new, contact-based language varieties including multiethnolects.
  • give a critical account of linguistic phenomena arising from contact, describing and contrasting them based on data contained in published articles.
  • show an understanding of the problem of language change from several standpoints, including change derived from contact, the longer-term effects of multiethnic youth language, and the transmission of language from adults to children.

Module content

Coverage of topics will vary from year to year, but will be selected from the following list (and other related topics):

  • Language contact
  • Dialect contact
  • Language shift
  • The speech community as the locus of language change
  • Transmission vs. diffusion
  • New youth language(s) and language change
  • Demography, social structure and language change
  • Historical Sociolinguistics – window on the past
  • Discourse variation and language change


Task Length % of module mark
4000 Word Essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
4000 Word Essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

Feedback on formative work (literature review)

Oral feedback will be provided during the seminars.

Summative assessment and feedback

Written feedback available at the end of the summer term.

Indicative reading

Pre-reading for this module:

Kerswill, Paul (2004). Social dialectology/Sozialdialektologie. In Klaus Mattheier, Ulrich Ammon & Peter Trudgill (eds.) Sociolinguistics/Soziolinguistik. An international handbook of the science of language and society, 2nd edn., Vol 1. Berlin: De Gruyter. 22–33. [This is an introduction to variationist sociolinguistics, narrowly defined.]

Background reading:

Tagliamonte, Sali (2011). Variationist sociolinguistics: Change, observation, interpretation. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. Chapter 2 (= pp. 25–65). [This can be read as an overview of some of the areas we will be covering.] (ebook)

Weekly readings:

These will be posted on the VLE a week before each lecture.

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.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): changes to courses

The 2020/21 academic year will start in September. We aim to deliver as much face-to-face teaching as we can, supported by high quality online alternatives where we must.

Find details of the measures we're planning to protect our community.

Course changes for new students