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PWR 1JJA: Language on the Move: Linguistic Diversity and Language Change

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Catalog Number: PWR 1JJA

Instructor: Jennifer Johnson

Units: 4

Grade option: Letter (ABCD/NP) 

Prerequisite: None

Course Feature: WR-1 requirement


According to recent census estimates, at least 220 languages are spoken in California and nearly half of California residents use a language other than English at home.Yet bilingual education in California was banned from 1998 until the Multilingual Act in 2016, despite experts pointing to the benefits of multilingualism. What is the effect of English language dominance both in the US and worldwide? And, think about this, while Mexico’s government recognizes 68 indigenous languages, linguists recognize 292 separate languages. Why this difference? What roles do scientific, political and popular discourses play in shaping language ideologies? Moreover, how will AI technologies shape the future of language diversity? How do these technologies reproduce linguistic biases or provide opportunities for language revitalization?

In this course, you will sharpen your analytical, rhetorical and research skills through an interdisciplinary approach to course themes drawing on scholarship from fields such as sociolinguistics, anthropology and education.Together we will explore what language varieties, dialects, accents shape our social identities and inclusion and exclusion to groups and access to opportunities.  We will ask what role does globalization, education and technology play in shaping language change and explore how policymakers, linguists and educators approach these issues. 

Examples of Research Topics

You will propose an in-depth research project that explores the social, cultural or political dimensions of a language issue. Sample projects include the impact of the “woke war” discourses, the relationship between indigenous data sovereignty, digitalization and revitalization through an examination of translation apps, the appropriation of African American Language in social media spaces, ChatGPT’s impact on authorship and learning, or the weaponization of language in occupied regions or post-colonial countries. 

PWR 1 Assignment Sequence

Rhetorical Analysis

(1500-1800 words; 5-6 pages) This assignment asks you to analyze the rhetorical strategies of a text of your choice that makes an argument about a language change. You may also choose to analyze a text (including media pieces, music etc.) that draws on a linguistic variation or rhetorical tradition outside “standard” varieties of English.

Texts in Conversation

(1800-2400 words; 6-8 pages) This assignment marks the beginning of your research project. In the TiC, you will choose a topic of interest to you, do research, and compare a range of ideas and voices that are in “conversation” around your topic.

Research-Based Argument

(3600-4500 words; 12-15 pages): Your RBA is the final product of this course. Building on the research you did for the TiC, you will craft an original research question, integrate a variety of sources and evidence, and develop your own position(s) within a “conversation”.  Students are encouraged to conduct primary research in the form of sociolinguistic analysis, interviews or other methodologies.