For my final year I am studying four modules: Gender, (Im)Politeness and Power in Language; Critical Discourse Analysis; The Sociolinguistics of Language Contact; and a Language Project (dissertation).

Gender, (Im)Politeness and Power in Language focuses on how speakers use language to construct gender and also investigates language differences between genders. WE have covered core theories in Gender research and have looked at gender within the framework of politeness theory. We have also taken a historical approach to language and gender studies including looking at the Deficit, Dominance and Difference approaches to language variation between sexes. The deficit model was championed by Otto Jespersen (1922) where he discussed women’s language as deviating from the male norm. The dominance model was advocated by Robin Lakoff (1975) who believed patterns in male language are manifestations of patriarchal dominance and that language differences between sexes existed to put male speakers in a superior position and female speakers in a inferior position. Still in the dominance approach, Dale Spender (1980) commented that language confirms our suspicions of male superiority and female inferiority. She argued that language is inherently sexist and that features of language such as the male being the superordinate and the female being the subordinate (e.g. lion as the norm vs. lioness as the feminine marked category) was proof that language is inherently sexist. The difference model, espoused by Maltz and Borker (1982) proposed that, as children, boys and girls are socialised into different social categories and as a result develop different distinct communicative styles. The result is two categories who speak differently and have different communicative aims in language, for example Maltz and Borker claimed that men’s language is fact oriented whereas women’s language is relationship oriented. Deborah Tannen (1990) developed this by positing what she called ‘report’ and ‘rapport’: the idea that men’s speech focuses on reporting facts and information whereas women’s speech focuses upon building and maintaining relationships. A development of this difference model was the dynamism model (see Cameron 2007), the idea that gender is dynamic and constantly changing.

Critical Discourse Analysis teaches a range of approaches that have been developed in critical linguistics to understand how language uses (or discourses) enforce and challenge power relations in society. It incorporates an introduction to theories, approaches and perspectives in critical discourse analysis including analysis of lexical choice, modality, transitivity, text patterns, argument structure, figures of speech (including metaphor) and style. It also includes the teaching of the practical analysis of language and includes the explanation of methods that can be used in the critical discourse analysis including the discourse-historical approach, the discourse-space approach, critical metaphor analysis and rhetorical theory as well as showing how some existing concepts to such as cohesion, coherence, narrative structure, genre and classical rhetoric may be adapted to a critical linguistics perspective. The module also integrates the description, interpretation and explanation of the ideologies that underlie specific texts (interviews, speeches, media reports etc.) through analysis of relevant linguistic features (e.g. lexis, modality, transitivity, metaphor and argument structure) as well as teaching how the systematic analysis of metaphor (critical metaphor analysis) can contribute to our understanding of discourse.

The Sociolinguistics of Language Contact is concerned with developing an an understanding of approaches to bilingualism and language contact. The module covers a range of topics including grammatical and lexical borrowing between languages, types of code-switching and explanations for these, the sociolinguistic aspects of bilingualism and methods used to study bilingualism and language contact. We have looked at a wide range of varying topics including:

  • Definitions of Bilingualism
  • Definitions of Language contact
  • Bilingualism in relation to cognition, education, first language acquisition and second language acquisition
  • Interference and transfer
  • Borrowing and code-switching
  • Sociolinguistic aspects of language contact and bilingualism including attitudes, domains, proficiency and identity
  • The contact structures of a number of immigrant languages including pidgins and creoles
  • Linguistic identity, language attitudes and integration within and between the            communities

My language project, or dissertation, gives me the opportunity to study and develop a topic of my own choosing under the guidance of an assigned project supervisor. The final piece is 9000 words long and has to demonstrate an ability to independently carry out a research project in English Language and Linguistics, including conceptualising and researching a topic for investigation, planning out all project phases, data collection (or sampling of texts), analysis and project write-up an well as demonstrating an ability to use computational tools such as concordancing programmes, statistical analysis tools, Wordsmith or CLAN to handle numerical data and analyse texts. For my project I am investigating sub-genre variation in political discourse. I am investigating a U.S. politician (Hillary Clinton) to see whether, and if so in what ways, her speech varies within different sub-genres of political discourse. I will be using a corpus-based approach to investigate her use of personal pronouns between three sub-genre of political discourse: Presidential Debates, On The Trail Campaign Speeches and Talk Show Interview. These three contexts display varying levels of formality as well as differing audiences and as a result the speaker should use different communicative styles for each.