Linguistics 220: Language and Society

Fall 2017

General Course Information

Class Meetings: Tuesday/Thursday
Classroom:Swift Hall 107
TA:Jordan Hosier
Instructor:Annette D'Onofrio
Office:Room 106, 2016 Sheridan Rd.
Office hours:Thurs 3:30-4:30pm (or by appt.)

Course description

How do language and society affect one another? This course will focus on the study of linguistic variation and change from a variety of perspectives on the social. We'll examine how linguistic variation corresponds to large-scale social categories like age, gender, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic class, as well as how individual speakers use language to construct identities, portray stances, and achieve interactional goals. We'll explore how language is a social practice that is situated in history, and how language can reflect, reinforce, create, and contest societal power structures. Students will participate in hands-on quantitative research in sociolinguistic variation to examine directly how the social and linguistic are intertwined.

Learning outcome goals

Through successfully completing this course, you will:

  • know the difference between descriptive and prescriptive views on language.
  • understand the ways that language use can show variation, and the social factors that can condition this variation.
  • conduct quantitative and qualitative analyses of linguistic variation.
  • write clear critical analyses of the relation between social factors and linguistic variation.
  • present sociolinguistic data and analysis.
  • understand broader implications of sociolinguistic variation and linguistic discrimination.

Course Policies

Communication with instructors

Please contact Annette and Jordan via e-mail for questions, issues, or to set up an appointment outside of Annette's scheduled office hour. If you have a question, be sure to check these pages thoroughly before e-mailing, in the case that the answer to your question is already there. We highly recommend that you read over any e-mail you send prior to hitting the send button. We make every effort to address your questions and concerns respectfully, and we ask that you do the same when posing questions, whether in person or via e-mail. Any e-mail sent before 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, will be answered the same day. While there is a good likelihood of a prompt answer for emails sent after 6 p.m., or on weekend days, the only guarantee we make is that after-hours emails will be answered the next business day. Reading responses and project files should be submitted in the Assignments tab in the course Canvas page.

In-class policies

While readings and outside work are crucial to understanding the content of the course, the bulk of what you'll learn will come from engaging in the classroom. This requires your attendance and full attention during class. Please turn off and put away cell phones.

If you must use a laptop in class, it should be to take notes in class or do work as directed during a workshop class; you should not be using it for any other purpose. We recommend trying paper notes, not only because you may process the material more thoroughly, but also so that you will avoid inevitable distractions of a computer. If you must use a laptop, please sit in one of the last two rows, so that others in the class will not be distracted by your screen.

We will provide you with respect during class, and I expect that you will treat us and your fellow classmates with the same respect. Sexual harassment will not be tolerated. Speaking up and remaining open-minded will be crucial in class, but please do your best to frame comments with tolerance and respect. If you have questions or concerns about classroom conduct at any point, please contact Annette as soon as possible.

Late assignments

You are allowed two reading response skips throughout the quarter, no questions asked. Because of this allowance, no late reading responses will be accepted. See more info in the grading breakdown section, below.

Projects that are late will be deducted a full letter grade for each 24 hour period that they are late. Assignments turned in more than 48 hours late will not be accepted, and no credit will be given. This does not apply to the final paper, which must be turned in on the due date, no exceptions.

Academic integrity

All students are expected to comply with Northwestern's principles regarding academic integrity. See this link for more information. Suspected violations will be investigated.

Students with documented disabilities

Any student requesting accommodations related to a disability or other condition should to register with AccessibleNU (; 847-467-5530) and provide the instructor with notification from AccessibleNU, preferably within the first two weeks of class. All information will remain confidential.

Grading Breakdown

Participation (10%)

Much of our class will be based on discussions. Your attendance and participation in these discussions are critical for your participation grade. Please see the WCAS policy for missing class and notify Annette as soon as possible if you must be absent for any reason. Attendance will be taken, and your class participation will be noted.

Reading Responses (25%)

There is no assigned textbook for this course. Instead, we will be drawing from an assortment of books, articles, and other media. Each week, we will have a class discussion relating the readings to the topic of the week, listed on the Schedule page. All readings will be uploaded to our Canvas site in the Files tab. To get you thinking critically about the assigned readings, you will complete a short reading response at the beginning of each week.

Question or questions for each set of readings will be provided in the Assignments tab on our Canvas site before class on Thursdays. For each set of readings, you will provide:

  1. A short (one to two paragraph) response to one of the provided question(s), and
  2. A question provoked by the readings that you would like us to address.

You will need to complete the readings for the upcoming week and your response by Monday at 5 p.m., turned in via Canvas in response to the prompt under the Assignments tab. Responses are part of your grade, and you should expect to share your thoughts in class discussions.

You may skip TWO of the eight reading responses throughout the quarter, no questions asked. Because of this allowance, no late responses will be accepted, and no make-up responses will be allowed. If you choose to turn in more than the required six responses, only your highest six scores will be counted. Note that you will be expected to complete the readings assigned for each class meeting even if you choose to skip a reading response that week.

Projects (40%)

Aside from the reading responses and the final paper, you will complete two projects in this class, each worth 20% of your grade. The project grades will include tasks and activities leading up to the project, as well as a write-up or presentation. You must complete all of these components to get full credit for the assignment.

All assigned tasks and project deadlines will be noted on the Schedule page in the corresponding week that they are due, with instructions and materials provided in advance.

All course work must be completed by the specified time on the day they are due, or else they are late. All assignments should be submitted via Canvas under the Assignments tab.

Final paper (25%)

This class will not include a final exam, but instead a final paper due during the exam period. The final paper will be a written proposal for a sociolinguistic research project, involving an original research question, a review of sociolinguistic literature relevant to this question, and a detailed proposal for carrying out research on the question (approximately 7-10 pages, double spaced). Specific details about the final project will be provided throughout the quarter. The final paper is due (no exceptions) by the end of the day on Tuesday, December 5, 2017, by 11:59 PM.

Linguistics Experimental Requirement

As a 200-level course in the Linguistics Department, this class has an experimental requirement. You must complete the requirement by completing 2 experimental credits during the quarter (a total of two hours of time). See these guidelines for complete information about fulfilling these requirements.

An account will be created for you in the Sona system, which is where you'll sign up for studies and be assigned credit. You should receive an e-mail by the end of the first week of class with your login information. If you do not receive an e-mail, or you have trouble logging into Sona, please let Annette or Jordan know as soon as possible.

While your experimental participation is not graded, failure to complete both experimental credits will result in your course grade being lowered by one "notch" on the letter grade scale (e.g. A to A-, A- to B+, etc.)

Opportunities to complete the requirement will be posted on Sona throughout the quarter. If you don't see a slot that will work for you, we recommend you check back, as more will be posted.

We strongly encourage you to complete your credits well before the end of the quarter. You must fulfill the requirement by the end of Reading Week (Friday, December 1).