Language in Social Interaction I

A dinosaur
LecturerYoshihiko ASAO, Lecturer
DepartmentSchool of Letters / Graduate School of Letters, 2015 Spring
Recommended for:School of Letters, 2nd year students or more Others, 3rd year students or more NUPACE students (21.5hours / session One session / week 15 weeks / semester)

Outline of the course

Our course loosely follows the structure of the textbook, An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. You should read the textbook chapters by the date indicated in the schedule.

The first half of the course is more about macro-level phenomena, such as multilingual societies, dialects, and language change. The second half of the course is more about micro-level issues, i.e. how people behave in each communication setting, although these two aspects of language are closely related.

Key Features

As a G30 class where Japanese and international students work together, class topics are taken from both English and Japanese so that students with different backgrounds can find their own familiar examples. Students are also encouraged to discuss cultural differences in class. Besides, because the course has a broad coverage, we not just overviews the field, but also invites guest speakers so that students can see how research is conducted in reality in a variety of subfields.

Goal of the course

The goal of this course is to learn the basics of sociolinguistics, with an emphasis on sociolinguistic issues in Japan and/or the Japanese language. It aims to better understand the linguistic diversity of the world and its relation to society and culture. Some illustrative questions we will address in class are below:

  1. How do we use different languages, or different styles of the same language (e.g. polite vs. plain) in different situations?
  2. How do we use words to achieve our goals? How can we guess an intended meaning in conversation?
  3. Which language should have an official status? Should we save dying languages?
  4. Culture determines language, language determines culture, both, or neither?


  • Holmes (2013) An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. (4th edition)

Copies are available at the NU co-op or online stores.


  • Turn your cellphone to the silent mode.
  • If you are absent from the classroom for more than one third of a class, the instructor reserves the right to reduce your attendance points.


The schedule is subject to minor changes; check the website to see updates.

Date Content Chapter
Apr 13 Introduction
Apr 20 Multilingualism and diglossia Ch 1, 2
Apr 27 Guest talk 1: Masahiro YAMADA (Kyoto U)
Documentation and revitalization of endangered languages
May 11 Birth and death of languages Ch 3, 4
May 18 Dialects Quiz 1, Ch 6
May 25 Language variation in age, social class and ethnicity
Jun 1 Language change Ch 9
Jun 8 Gender Ch 7, 12
Jun 15 Speech act and maxims of conversation Quiz 2
Jun 22 Speech style and politeness Ch 10, 11
Jun 29 How discourse is organized Ch 14
Jul 6 Guest talk 2 (details TBA)
Jul 13 Language and culture Quiz 3, Ch 13
(Jul 20) (Holiday - Marine Day)
Jul 27 (backup day)
Aug 3 (backup day) Final project due

Lecture Handouts

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  • Attendance and participation (40%) You will be asked to attend every class and actively participate in class discussions. You need to submit a reaction paper at the end of each class. Typically, you will be asked to write a paragraph or two to present your own opinions and/or questions on the class topic.

  • Quizzes (30%) You will be asked to show your understanding of the key concepts discussed in class and in the textbook. Quiz dates will be announced in advance.

  • Final project (30%) In the final project, you need to collect and analyze your own data on a sociolinguistic variation or discourse function. Detailed instructions will be announced later.

Last updated

April 29, 2020