Language Race & Gender

  • BU Course Number: CAS LX342/ GRS LX642
  • Prerequisites: CAS LX250 Introduction to Linguistics
  • BU HUB: Allows students to earn one Hub unit in Social Inquiry I and Intellectual Toolkit (Teamwork/Collaboration).
  • Offered at the undergraduate and graduate level.

Course Description. [Sample Syllabus] At first glance, it may not be apparent that language plays a central role in establishing our identities. But if we stop to give this idea the attention it deserves, and if we examine it through the proper lens, we are soon overwhelmed by the ways in which we create and sustain our personalities and negotiate our place in the world through language use. In this course, we examine the relationship between language and identity from the perspective of sociolinguistic theory, with a special focus on how the social categories of race and gender can be seen to condition, predict, and explain patterns of language use both in the United States and across the globe. We will examine differences between men and women in conversational practice, identifying patterns in such behaviors as turn-taking, complementing, story-telling, gossip, swearing, and boasting. We will also rely on the notions of overt and covert prestige to assess phonological, syntactic, and lexical variation in a host of speech communities and communicative contexts, including the relatively new domain of online communication. Within this framework, we will also asses and in some cases challenge traditional conceptions of sex, gender, race, and ethnicity on linguistic grounds, asking what it takes to be considered be an ‘authentic’ speaker of a particular code or linguistic variety and what it means to belong to a speech community or community of practice.