MA Linguistics / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Language and Mediality: From Sand Drawings to Twitter

Unit code LELA61072
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Linguistics & English Language
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Much of the language we encounter in our daily lives is mediated, i.e. it is articulated by another element or, in other words, it is brought to us through channels other than spontaneous speech in face-to-face interactions. We can think about written language as mediated through the writing system, but spoken language can also be mediated, for example, by technological ways of transmission such as radio or telephone. In the case of writing, mediation has become so natural for many language users that they forget about it. In addition to that, language practice can involve complex layers of mediation when, for example, a lecture based on a written script and delivered with slides as visual aids for students is recorded and put online to be accessed by students outside the classroom.


None, however, a working knowledge and/or interest in semiotics and news/other media is useful.


The principal aims of the course unit are as follows:

  • To consider processes of mediation and how they impact on language practices in and across speech communities.
  • To explore how communication is mediated not just through the modes of speech, writing and image, but through technologies including print, radio, film and computer and processes such as transcription.
  • To understand how new media practices have changed the perception of traditional distinctions between speech and writing.
  • To demonstrate, through analysing a transmediate text, the ways in which a change in medium can affect the content, structure, layout and tone of a piece of communication.  


Draft syllabus; the order of the coverage of topics might change

Lecture 1: Introduction

Lecture 2: Language standardisation and ideology

Lecture 3: Orality and literacy.  Natural speech as medium

Lecture 4: Writing as medium: iconography and typography

Lecture 5: Writing as medium: transcription and orthography

Lecture 6: Transmission as mediation: telephone, radio, Skype

Lecture 7: Recording as mediation: TV and film

Lecture 8: Computer-mediated communication

Lecture 9: Multimodal discourse: discourse, design, production and distribution

Lecture 10: How news media construct the news

Lecture 11: Pulling it all together and assignment discussion


Teaching and learning methods

Teaching will be done in one two-hour lecture block. Lectures will provide background information, but students are expected to take responsibility for work dynamics by demonstrating leadership in the preparation of class discussions. The seminar hour will be dedicated to data analysis, discussion of the research literature and assignment preparation. Students will be asked to contribute data to the seminars.

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Understand the properties of different processes of mediation (conceptual and technological).
  • Understand how new media are affecting language usages.
  • Understand how modes interact in multimodal texts.
  • Analyse data in terms of these properties.

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Apply their theoretical knowledge to new data.
  • Recognise the effect of processes of mediation in everyday language practices.
  • Improve their ability to select research questions, and to seek and analyse evidence that bears on the question.

Practical skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Improve academic writing.
  • Improve reading and discussion skills.
  • Engage with texts in alternative media.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Manage time and locate relevant resources when working independently on a project.
  • Take responsibility for course dynamics and class discussions  

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 100%

Feedback methods

Oral feedback on work done for seminars - Formative

Individual written feedback on coursework - Formative and Summative

Additional one-to-one feedback (by making an appointment) - Formative

Recommended reading

Androutsopoulus, Jannis (ed.) (2006): Sociolinguistics and computer-mediated communication. Special Issue: Journal of Sociolinguistics 10 (4).

Crystal, David (2006): Language and the Internet. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hutchby, Ian (2001). Conversation and technology: from the telephone to the internet. Cambridge: Polity.

Kress, Gunther and Theo van Leeuwen (2001), Multimodal Discourse: The Modes and Media of Contemporary Communication. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ochs, E. (1979). Planned and unplanned discourse. In T. Givón (Ed.), Syntax and Semantics, vol. 12: Discourse and Syntax (pp. 51–80). New York: Academic Press.

Ong, Walter (2002). Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. London: Routledge. 

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 117

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Daniele Leggio Unit coordinator

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