Aims/Description: This module introduces key issues in the field of sociolinguistics, which studies how language constructs rather than simply mirrors social reality and, more specifically, the ways in which people position themselves and others in relation to language use. With a sharp focus on the French borderlands, students will obtain an overview of the status and function of the French language in relation to its speakers and to speakers of other languages. We will begin by discussing how language works and the ways in which linguists and laypersons sometimes disagree about language issues. We will then relate aspects of these theoretical discussions to issues concerning linguistic minorities in the officially monolingual country of France, in addition to the bordering multilingual countries of Luxembourg, Belgium and Switzerland. We will explore the ways in which language becomes the target of struggles and debates that are embedded in broader socio-political issues. Students will have the opportunity to conduct their own small-scale analyses based on case studies. Crucially, this module underlines the necessity of questioning the presupposed homogeneity conveyed by the use of labels such as the 'French language' and 'French-speaking countries', which potentially mask the social and linguistic complexity inherent to the social world.

Restrictions on availability: CEFR A2 Level French

Teaching Methods: Seminars, Independent Study
Assessment: Course work

Information on the department responsible for this unit (Languages and Cultures):

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Teaching timetable


The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.

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Teaching methods and assessment displayed on this page are indicative for 2021-22. Students will be informed by the academic department of any changes made necessary by the ongoing pandemic.

Western Bank, Sheffield, S10 2TN, UK