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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Spring 2008

E 379S • Literacy, Linguistics, and Sociolinguistics

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
35405 MWF
12:00 PM-1:00 PM
PAR 204
Kimball, S

Course Description

Many students and teachers in a university take literacy for granted, yet we live in a country and world in which large numbers of people can neither read nor write. Ours is an era in which a historically high degree of literacy is necessary to keep a basic job and to function in society. But the definition of what it means to be literate is far from fixed. For example, are people who can read but not write literate? How well does one have to be able to read to be considered literate? We also live in a society in which the idea of literacy has been extended beyond reading and writing to include a degree of competence in other areas. Consider, for example, such currently used terms as "computer literacy," "consumer literacy," or "emotional literacy." In this class we will consider definitions of literacy from the perspective of linguistics and sociolinguistics. We will examine how literacy is defined by scholars of ancient societies an area in which there is currently lively debate that can help inform current thinking about literacy, and we will look at how literacy functioned in earlier ages and at how writing systems may effect literacy. We will also critically examine current educational and sociological definitions and their impact on literacy and language education both for school-age students and for adults seeking basic literacy education. Finally we will look at current linguistic and cognitive theories that inform the study of and teaching of literacy to children and adults. I hope to invite an outside speaker to talk about basic literacy education for adults.

Grading Policy

One 5-page position paper with required drafts (20%)
Two-page topic proposal for final research paper (10%)
Fifteen- to twenty-page research paper with required draft (60%)
Ten-minute final presentation on your research topic (10%)
Ungraded short in-class exercises as the occasion demands


Course packet available at Jenn's Copying


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