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What do babies know about language when they're born? And how do our experiences as we get older affect both how we use language and what we think about other people's language behaviour? Why, for example, do people think some languages, or some dialects, are 'better' than others? And is there any truth behind such beliefs? In this course we consider a range of research from the field of linguistics that addresses these and other questions. The role of language experience will emerge as a recurrent theme: the experience that the infant has with a particular language; how our early experience with language affects how we speak and how we listen, and how our beliefs about language are created and maintained in connection to other experiences in our social lives.
When we hear somebody talk, even for the very first time, we make a split second judgement about them. That’s because a speaker’s language tells us something about them. We not only receive a linguistic message – the content of what is being said – but we also receive social information. Is the speaker male or female? Where are they from? How old are they? Are they Maori or Pakeha? In this course, we explore how our language is able to convey messages like these. We begin by examining the relationship between language and our social lives, asking questions such as: Do some people speak 'proper' English? Do women and men speak differently? How are new languages and dialects 'born'? And how do languages 'die'?In the second half of the course, we focus on languages in New Zealand, particularly English and Maori. We'll ask: How was New Zealand English 'born'? How have English and Maori changed over time? Are there regional accents in New Zealand? Is there such a thing as a 'Maori English'? Finally, we'll explore some of the ground breaking research being conducted in UC's Department of Linguistics and the New Zealand Institute of Language, Brain and Behaviour. We'll see that the work we do is not only shaping our understanding of language in New Zealand, but also our understanding of language in general.
By the end of the course, students will:(1) be able to demonstrate their understanding of how language (including sound patterns and grammatical systems) can vary(2) be able to demonstrate their knowledge of the latest developments in the field of sociolinguistics(3) be able to demonstrate their understanding of the linguistic landscape of New Zealand(4) be able to discuss the relationship between language and society, and how e.g. social attitudes can affect language use(5) understand the relationship between English and te reo Maori in New Zealand, both today and in the pastThey will also:(4) be able to conduct bibliographic searches of relevant work relating to language and society, and(5) be able to critically evaluate rival hypothesis. In particular, they will be able to think critically about the opinions very commonly expressed in the media about linguistic issues, and will be able to evaluate the evidence for those opinions.
This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attributes specified below:
Critically competent in a core academic discipline of their award
Students know and can critically evaluate and, where applicable, apply this knowledge to topics/issues within their majoring subject.
Biculturally competent and confident
Students will be aware of and understand the nature of biculturalism in Aotearoa New Zealand, and its relevance to their area of study and/or their degree.
Library portalThe course outline is available on LEARN (only for students enrolled in this course).
Domestic fee $785.00
International fee $3,500.00
* All fees are inclusive of NZ GST or any equivalent overseas tax, and do not include any programme level discount or additional course-related expenses.
For further information see
Language, Social and Political Sciences