This course covers basic concepts of sociolinguistics, such as prescriptivism, prestige, and variation, including regional, ethnic, and social variation. Other concepts to be discussed include the legal status of languages, American slang, language communities, mono- and multi-lingualism, the English-Only Movement, and Standard American English. We will also examine the “Trump effect” on the USA language debate. You will examine language issues of all 50 states and the territories of Puerto Rico, Guam, and American Samoa.




This course introduces students to issues in the field of sociolinguistics, applied to the context of American society. Students will learn to read critically about language issues and how these impact society in various ways. We will examine connections between language structure, attitudes, and policies in the media, law, education, and politics, among other contexts, and emphasize the complex role of language in society.




There are three class-hours each week (Mondays 11:30—12:20 & Thursdays 10:30—12:20). The Monday hour will be used for tutorials and writing assignments; the Thursday sessions will be a combination of lecture and discussion (group and whole-class) in which students will investigate, discuss, and debate various issues of language in the USA. Attendance is required at all sessions.




Assessment will be continuous and based 100% on coursework. That said, your final grade will also be affected by attendance and participation.

In-class writing assignments (2 x 20%)


Research paper





A list of readings will be given at the beginning of the course the semester and will be freely downloadable from HKU Library E-resources. Additional readings might be given from time to time, as the debate in the USA about language continues. Students are expected to keep abreast of the latest developments in the language situation.



Last updated: 12 July 2018