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

Fall 2004

E 376L • The English Language and Its Social Context

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
33125 TTh
11:00 AM-12:30 PM
PAR 301

Course Description

English majors are well versed in literary matters, but they often know surprisingly little about the language in which they will teach—about its structure, its variety, about controversies involving its use as a private and public code. Can you answer, for example, the following general questions about language?

Are some languages or dialects more complicated or better than others?
Why do people have "grammar anxiety," the sense that they're likely to commit grammatical errors? Where do rules of grammar come from? Where does our sense that some words are "polite" or "impolite" come from? Should we trust everything a dictionary tells us?

The goals of this course will be to explore the questions above and other such matters: to become informed about the linguistic history and diversity of the U.S.; to study pedagogical issues involving language acquisition and language variety; to discuss problems of language and public policy; and to explore the particular tensions involving English language teaching, especially the problem of how to reconcile a love of English-language literature with a respect for language variety.

Grading Policy

Minimum requirements are: 1) a satisfactory average score on quizzes and satisfactory work on linguistics problems; 2) satisfactory work on four to six minor written assignments (2-4 pages each); 3) a passing average score on exams (three); 4) a satisfactory final paper (approximately 10 pages, two drafts); and 5) informed discussion and regular attendance.

Grades are based on:
Problems and other minor written assignments 15%
Three semester exams 15% each
Final paper 35%
Discussion and attendance 5%


Laurie Bauer and Peter Trudgill, eds., Language Myths, Penguin, 1998
Rosina Lippi-Green, English with an Accent: Language, Ideology, and Discrimination in the United States, Routledge, 1997
Steven Pinker, Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language, Perennial, 1999
Ronald Wardhaugh, Proper English: Myths and Misunderstandings about Language, Blackwell, 1999
Walt Wolfram and Natalie Schilling-Estes, American English, Blackwell, 1998
Course packet (available at Speedway Copy in Dobie Mall or on electronic reserve)


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