The Secret Life of Language


Whether we’re writing a status update on social media or an academic assignment, we continually adjust our language to suit our context. This elective module will look at a range of linguistic issues, including “proper English”, how language can be used to create moral panics, and the ethics of communication. We will do this by analysing a wide range of texts including films, digital games and poetry; students will also create a number of academic, scientific or creative texts of their own. Peer review of each other’s work forms an integral part of this module.


The aim of this module is to provide students with an introduction to the ways language is used, particularly to express identity. We will look at writing and reading as social interactions that vary among different communities of writers, such as academics, bloggers and journalists. We will examine the conventions around these interactions and evaluate the way we decide who has the “authority” to write and how the “rules” around language use can change and be negotiated within particular communities. The module will encourage students to think critically about writing in a range of areas, including journalism, research, popular fiction and screenwriting; students will be encouraged to write in a range of genres, both individually and collaboratively.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module the student should be able to:

1.  explain the key concepts of sociolinguistic study

2.  identify key aspects of particular genres and discourse communities

3.  critically evaluate texts in terms of their successful use of these identifying aspects

4.  work collaboratively with peers to analyse and critique their own and others' writing

5.  produce texts, through drafting and redrafting, which use appropriate genres and conventions effectively

Indicative Content

1 *

"Good English": the role of standardisation, dialect and idiolect − how we choose language to reflect our identities and our role in a speech or discourse community

2 *

Language and influence: how the media constructs narratives to persuade or inform the audience (and how to tell the difference)

3 *

Creating a narrative across genres: the conventions, freedoms and limitations of different forms; using these forms in new ways

4 *

Narrative changes over time: how authors reinvent old stories to reflect current concerns

5 *

Technical writing: the use and manipulation of data; hearing the author's voice; critiquing "bad science"

6 Header 6

The ethics of communication: (electronic) media and ownership, attribution and theft

Statement on Teaching, Learning and Assessment

This module will consist of a series of lectures which will introduce key aspects of language study through a specific text or texts. The tutorials will take the form of workshops, where students will do their own analysis of further texts and discuss their findings and implications. The assessment for this module will be through weekly contributions to a discussion forum, and a critical text analysis, to be completed throughout the semester in order to encourage students to write reflectively, creatively and academically, with feedback and feed−forward from their peers and tutors.

Teaching and Learning Work Loads

Total 200
Lecture 10
Tutorial/Seminar 10
Supervised Practical Activity 0
Unsupervised Practical Activity 0
Assessment 25
Independent 155

Guidance notes

Credit Value – The total value of SCQF credits for the module. 20 credits are the equivalent of 10 ECTS credits. A full-time student should normally register for 60 SCQF credits per semester.


We make every effort to ensure that the information on our website is accurate but it is possible that some changes may occur prior to the academic year of entry. The modules listed in this catalogue are offered subject to availability during academic year 2019/10 , and may be subject to change for future years.