Language and Social Justice

Course Description

Language is one of the primary sites for the reinforcement and reproduction of oppression in modern society. This course is founded on the belief that those of us who study language have a responsibility to the communities in which we live, work, and learn to apply the knowledge generated by the discipline to the pursuit of a more just society. Ultimately, the goal of this course is to understand how language is implicated in sustaining unequal systems of power as well as how those of interested in language and social justice can develop tools for challenging these systems.

We will consider two important ways in which language and power interact in modern societies. First, we will explore how language is a key component in the performance of personal identity. We will explore how language connects with gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, social class, and various other aspects of personal identity. We will see how people’s beliefs about language reflect their beliefs about people. In other words, when people say ‘southern speech sounds uneducated,’ what they really mean is that they believe southern people are uneducated. Language use then becomes an excuse for discrimination. Second, we will examine how language is implicated in controlling access to sociopolitical institutions. Language use can prevent access to quality health care, limit access to fair treatment in legal settings, and limit job opportunities. In both cases, language becomes a gate-keeping mechanism that serves to increase marginalization. Understanding these processes can provide important insights into strategies of resistance.

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

• Summarize the importance of language, power and politics in everyday life and communication.
• Describe the ways in which linguistic ideologies are implicated in systems of marginalization.
• Analyze how language functions to reflect and reproduce reality within social institutions and society.
• Analyze spoken and written language data through critical lens, i.e., in terms of power relationships.


This course is designed for you, if you have interest in language, social justice, and/or sociolinguistics. Familiarity with basic sociolinguistic ideas will be helpful, but none is required. I will provide you with necessary scaffolding to be successful regardless of past experience.


One Section Available to Choose From:

Online sections of Pre-College courses are offered in one of the following modalities: Asynchronous, Mostly asynchronous, or Blended. Please review full information regarding the experience here.

Dates: June 27, 2022 - July 15, 2022
Duration: 3 Weeks
Meeting Times: M-F 8:30A-11:20A
Status: Closed
Format: On-Campus
Instructor(s): Thomas Lewis
Course Number: 10435