ENGL6071 Foundations in Language and Human Communication, Spring 2011

This course is open to all rpg students in the Arts Faculty and can be taken in lieu of the elective module of the Graduate School Core Course II ‘Basic Research Skills and Methods’ or as one School elective course.  Please register now via http://www.hku.hk/gradsch/web/forms/student/GS2.pdf.  For enquiries, please write to english@hku.hk.

2nd semester 
6 credits
Form of assessment: 100% coursework

Friday, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m., February – April 2011
Room 113G, Main Building, HKU

No prerequisite for Arts research students

This course introduces you to some of the main themes, theories and concepts in contemporary, critical approaches that underpin the study of human communication in its many manifestations: speech, writing, images, gestures, mediated texts, and so on. Collectively, we will refer to these modes of communication as discourse. Discourse is central to social life in that we organize our private and public personas and our relationships with others through the ways we talk, write, interact, organize our institutions, and through other acts of meaning-making. It is in this sense that we can think of discourse as language in use, a form of social action or a set of social practices. But discourse does not only construct social order; it is also constructed by and reflective of social order being itself shaped by its context of use and constrained by broader cultural, political and economic macro-formations.

Along with the increasing significance of ethnography as a research method, the study of discourse has had a powerful impact in changing scholarship in every major social science discipline (e.g. Geography, Sociology, Psychology) and even applied fields like Business, Education, Medicine and Law. Discourse Studies is both a philosophical framework for understanding how language works, but it is also a methodology – a way of investigating the workings of language. And the best way to understand how discourse works is to examine it in action and to try to analyze it for yourself.


The course can be taken either in lieu of the elective module of the Graduate School Core Course II 'Basic Research Skills and Methods' or as one School elective course. Please register now via http://www.hku.hk/gradsch/web/forms/student/GS2.pdf. For enquiries, please write to english@hku.hk.


What is communication? Small 'd' and big 'D' discourses, genres and styles. Communicating and constructing identities, stances and ideologies. Negotiating social relationships through discourse: power and sociability. Language 'flows' and global semioscapes. Key principles of visual analysis. Nonverbal communication.


This course will (1) raise your awareness of the way language and other semiotic systems are used in a wide range of contexts; (2) introduce you to some of the key concepts in social semiotics and discourse analysis; (3) familiarize you with analytic approaches and methodologies; (4) allow you to perform your own data collection and critical interpretation.


A combination of lectures and seminar discussions.


100% coursework (one research paper of approx. 2,500 words).


Cameron, D. 2001. Working with Spoken Discourse. London: Sage.
Jaworski, A. and N. Coupland (eds.) 2006. The Discourse Reader. 2nd edition.London: Routledge.


Last updated: 15 July 2011