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Language and the City (Level 6)


  • Credit value: 15 credits at Level 6
  • Convenor and tutor: Dr Jackie Jia Lou
  • Assessment: a 2000-2500-word multimodal research report (100%)

Module description

In this module we explore various ways in which language and the city are related, including:

  • how language is used in urban contexts by speakers from diverse language, social and cultural backgrounds
  • how cities are represented and reconstructed through language and discourse.

We will draw together studies in urban sociolinguistics from around the world as well as research in urban geography which specifically addresses language and communication.

You will be introduced to key sociolinguistic concepts, such as speech community, linguistic repertoire, identity and representation, power and ideology. You will also learn about a variety of quantitative and qualitative sociolinguistic research methods (e.g. variation analysis, discourse analysis, sociolinguistic interviews and ethnographic observations) and apply them to examine the use of language(s) in their immediate urban environments.

Indicative syllabus

  • Introduction to language, discourse and representation
  • Narrating the city and urban life
  • The discourse of city branding
  • Language and the city in the media
  • The discourse of urban planning and development
  • Contesting urban change through language and discourse
  • Multimodal and multisensory urban landscapes
  • Literary representations of cities

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will have:

  • achieved an advanced understanding of theories, concepts and methodologies in urban sociolinguistics
  • demonstrated in-depth knowledge of diverse theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches in urban sociolinguistics
  • reflected critically on language and communication in urban contexts through the lens of urban sociolinguistics.