BA Linguistics and Social Anthropology

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Discourse as Social Practice

Course unit fact file
Unit code LELA32061
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course unit introduces students to the study of language as a resource that both shapes and is shaped by social actions and structures in the world around us. When we approach discourse as a form of social practice, we are able to understand and analyse how the everyday use of language can have material and ideological effects on individuals and our society. We will explore mainly qualitative approaches to studying discourse, and apply descriptive linguistic skills gained from existing modules, including pragmatics, and corpus linguistics. We will think critically about the social dimensions of language, analysing how meanings are (re)produced and how power can be (de)constructed through discursive practices in a variety of spoken and written contexts. Students will conduct an individual research project on a topic of their choice through which they will apply their theoretical understanding and analytical tools to real-world linguistic data.


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Pragmatics: Meaning, Context, and Interaction LELA20291 Pre-Requisite Recommended
From Text to Linguistic Evidence LELA10402 Pre-Requisite Recommended


The principle aims of the course unit are as follows:

  • To introduce students to key theoretical concepts of discourse as a form of social practice
  • To provide students with qualitative analytical tools to analyse spoken and written language in their social context(s)
  • To enable students to critically evaluate the relationship between language and society
  • To provide students with experience of conducting an individual research project.



This module is under development but topics may be selected from:

  • Theorising discourse as social practice
  • Critical Discourse Analysis
  • Individual and institutional power in spoken interactions
  • Recording and reusing spoken discourse
  • Representing social phenomena in public discourse
  • Building communities through language  
  • Conducting responsible research. 

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures will primarily introduce new topics, theories and concepts, and use small interactive group discussions, short analytical tasks, and polling platforms such as Vevox.

Seminars will focus on group discussion of lecture content and independent reading tasks, as well as applying methodologies to data provided by the module leader and that gathered by students in data collection tasks undertaken between seminars.

Students will also be able to attend weekly consultation hours for additional support.

In addition to face-to-face contact hours, all learning materials for the module, including seminar preparation materials, such as independent readings and individual data collection tasks, and lecture handouts and additional reading will be available on Blackboard, alongside assessment briefs and information. Discussion boards on Blackboard will also be used to enable students to initiate discussions with teaching staff and to work with their peers beyond contact hours, facilitating further discussions about readings and data excerpts.

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course, students will:

  • Have knowledge of a range of scholarship in linguistics and related disciplines that approaches discourse as a form of social practice
  • Know the implications of this scholarship for our understanding of language and society, especially in relation to power and ideology
  • Understand how to appropriately apply qualitative methodologies to range of types of linguistic data.

Intellectual skills

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

  • Critically evaluate theory and current research in discourse analysis
  • Justify the choice of qualitative approaches when applied to a range of linguistic data
  • Accurately describe linguistic phenomena in context
  • Support discussion of the role of discourse as social practice in society with empirical evidence.

Practical skills

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

  • Produce a research report
  • Collect and manage real-world linguistic data
  • Conduct qualitative linguistic analysis
  • Read and evaluate academic literature.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

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

  • Design and deliver an individual research project
  • Engage in independent reflection
  • Confidently communicate in a group
  • Demonstrate an awareness of socially aware and responsible research
  • Effectively manage time.

Employability skills

Project management
The course enhances project and time management skills through independently designing and conducting an individual research project, including the ethical collection and storage of data.
This course will be of particular benefit for students interested in careers that involve qualitative data analysis of written of spoken language or social research more broadly.
The course encourages students to think critically about and reflect on social structures and systems in the wider world and how we can use research skills to better understand or change them. It, thereby, provides confidence in applying academic knowledge and analytical skills in real-world contexts.

Assessment methods

Assessment TaskFormative or SummativeWeighting
Project ProposalFormative0%
Individual ProjectSummative70%
Exam (In-Person)Summative30%


Feedback methods

Feedback Method Formative or Summative
Project proposal: written feedback Formative
Project:  written feedback (1-to-1 feedback also available) Summative
Exam: written feedback (1-to-1 feedback also available) Summative


Recommended reading

Fairclough, Norman. 2015. Language and Power. London: Routledge.

Hart, Christopher (ed.). 2020. Researching Discourse: A Student Guide. London: Routledge.

Thomas, Jenny. 1995. Meaning in Interaction: An Introduction to Pragmatics. Harlow: Longman.

Baker, Paul. 2006. Using Corpora in Discourse Analysis. London: Continuum. 

Further reading will be recommended on Blackboard and in class.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Leigh Harrington Unit coordinator

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