Course Description: The Language of Social Class; Language as Unifier, Laguage as Divider

Whether we speak with careful word choice or speak in our casual register, our speech immediately connects us to specifics groups – those we call home, those we aspire to, those we eschew, those we’re grappled into by others. This course is an exploration of our language and how it reflects our social groupings. It considers the ways specific and variable choices of syntax, vocabulary, and grammar – what contemporary analysis often refers to as “code-switching” – can impact our social interactions and even our self-reflections. Our literature will include Pygmalion, Raisin in the Sun, The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, excerpts from Dickens and Twain, critical analysis, and examples from contemporary culture. In addition, we will open the semester with a brief history of the English language and examination of the cornerstones of linguistics – etymology, syntax, articulatory phonetics, etc. (If that latter sounds daunting or dull, please know that last spring’s juniors and seniors are still talking about how mesmerizing and fun it was – just consider the social cache of knowing what an unvoiced labiodental fricative is, or what r-less or r-full dialect may say about the speaker and the history of English!).