Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2007-2008 (archived)


Department: Language Centre


Type Open Level 4 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2007/08 Module Cap None.


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • This module aims to explore the field of sociolinguistics, and specifically how sociolinguistic theories have been applied to BSL and English. This will include discussion of the contexts in which BSL and English are used and in which they interact, including the Deaf community and its culture, situations in which bilingualism occurs, and the issues facing a linguistics minority. Students will be able to critically review past and current sociolinguistic research, and use it to inform their own studies of the complex ways BSL and English function in various contexts.
  • The module forms the second module in the Postgraduate Certificate' Advanced BSL and Related Studies' and the Postgraduate Diploma in Interpreting with the Deaf Community, and is designed for students who have at least a conversational command of BSL, and would benefit from greater depth of knowledge about the use of BSL in different contexts, and mastering the language skills required to be able to discuss, and carry out research in, this complex area of study.


  • This module looks at the use of language, particularly BSL, in social contexts. In addition, an exploration of the relationship between culture and language will inform students' awareness of and skills in BSL and English
  • The sociolinguistic concepts of register, dialect and accent are applied to the use of BSL as are pragmatics perspectives on language. Differences between BSL and English markers of politeness, intimacy and formality will also be discussed
  • The relationship between the sign languages of Deaf communities and the dominant spoken and written languages of the larger societies within which they exist is explored and applied to gain insights into the use of 'contact' varieties of signed languages and the way the concept of bilingualism can be applied to sign language users. This knowledge will continually be linked to enhancing students' own abilities to adjust their signing appropriately for different communicative settings and aims
  • The module will also address such questions as 'What is community?' and 'What is culture?' in relation to people who use sign language. Students study the political and ideological debates surrounding the categorisation of 'deafness' as a disability and BSL users own perspective as a linguistic and cultural minority

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Describe and critically evaluate the study of sociolinguistics and the different ways it has been applied to sign languages
  • Discuss variety in relation to BSL and English in terms of register, accent, dialect, and various sociolinguistic groups within spoken and sign-language communities
  • Discuss the complex cultural context of BSL, including how being a linguistic minority can affect language use.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Demonstrate a depth of knowledge about bilinguism and code-switching as they relate to various situations within the Deaf community
  • Demonstrate a depth of understanding of the issues underlying intercultural communication in a majority language social context
Key Skills:
  • Apply sociolinguistic theories to research about BSL and the contexts in which it is used.
  • Apply knowledge of sociolinguistics to analysing the students' own sign language skills, both productive and receptive, and in providing peer feedback.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Small-class teaching: Improved skills in BSL (through input), all subject specific knowledge.
  • Group activities and discussions: Improved skills in BSL (through interaction), subject specific knowledge.
  • Peer presentations: Improved skills in BSL (through performance), subject specific knowledge.
  • Classes will be conducted in BSL to enhance students' language learning.
  • Lectures will be delivered using power-point and with samples of BSL on video.
  • BSL does not have a written form, has regional variations, and each signer has their own personal style. Therefore extensive use will be made of videoed examples of Deaf people using BSL in different situations for sociolinguistic analysis.
  • All group activities, discussions and peer presentations will be conducted in BSL to constantly enhance students' productive and receptive skills in the language. Activities will allow students to analyse examples of BSL, including their own performance, according to the socio-linguistic criteria they are learning about.
  • Formative assessment will be by students presentations to the class (3). These will be assessed by the tutors and feedback given in tutorial sessions. There will also be opportunities for peer feedback. Presentations will be videoed so students can critically evaluate their own work in terms of BSL and content.
  • Summative assessment will be by take home exam (exam questions must be answered in BSL recorded on video), and by a live conversation with a native BSL user (recorded on video for marking).

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 7 Twice a month approx 2 hours 14
Tutorials 7 Twice a month approx 1 hour 7
Practicals 7 Twice a month approx variable duration 10
Other (student presentations) 3 Once a month approx 3 hours approx 9
Preparation and Reading 160
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Take Home Exam Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Take home exam (ten short answer questions) 100%
Component: Live Conversation in BSL Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Live conversation in BSL 100%

Formative Assessment:

Presentations in BSL to the class and tutors (three of approximately 10 minutes each) will be recorded on video for evaluation and feedback. Tutors will collect the video tapes for each viewing prior to one-to-one and group feedback sessions

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University