English 336 : English in Society

Syllabus for Spring 2014

Tuesday & Thursday, 2:30 - 3:45 p.m., B231 Van Vleck


bullet Instructor bullet Assignments
bullet Materials bullet Assessment and Grading
bullet Aims of the Course bullet Course Outline


Portrait of Professor Young Professor Richard F Young
7163 Helen C White Hall
Office hours: Wednesdays, 1:00 - 3:00 p.m., or by appointment

E-mail: rfyoung at wisc dot edu
Home Page: www.wisc.edu/english/rfyoung

Class E-mail List. Use the class e-mail list as a public bulletin board for discussions about the class.  Send your messages to english336-1-s14 at lists dot wisc dot edu. In order for you to receive messages from the e-mail list, your e-mail address must be in the Registrar's database.  You can update your preferred email address by accessing My UW-Madison, "Student Records" tab, "Preferred Address" module.

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Required Materials


Young, R. F. (2008). Language and interaction: An advanced resource book. London & New York: Routledge. ISBN: 978-0-415-38553-4 (paperback). A copy of the textbook is on reserve at College Library, Call No. P40.Y68.

These 11 focal studies are available for download from My WebSpace:
  • Cicourel, A. V. (1995). Medical speech events as resources for inferring differences in expert-novice diagnostic reasoning. In U. M. Quasthoff (Ed.), Aspects of oral communication (pp. 364-387). Berlin & New York: W. de Gruyter.
  • Day, D. (1998). Being ascribed, and resisting, membership in an ethnic group. In C. Antaki & S. Widdicombe (Eds.), Identities in talk (pp. 151-170). London: SAGE Publications.
  • Goodwin, C., & Duranti, A. (1992). Rethinking context: An introduction. In A. Duranti & C. Goodwin (Eds.), Rethinking context: Language as an interactive phenomenon (pp. 1-42). New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Hall, J. K. (1995). (Re)creating our worlds with words: A sociohistorical perspective of face-to-face interaction. Applied Linguistics, 16(2), 206-232.
  • Halliday, M. A. K., & Matthiessen, C. M. I. M. (2004). An introduction to functional grammar (3rd ed.). London: Arnold. (Chapter 1)
  • Hanks, W. F. (1996). Language and communicative practices. Boulder, CO: Westview. (Chapter 1)
  • Heath, S. B. (1983). Ways with words: Language, life, and work in communities and classrooms. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Hymes, D. (1962). The ethnography of speaking. In T. Gladwin & W. Sturtevant (Eds.), Anthropology and human behavior (pp. 15-53). Washington, DC: Anthropological Society of Washington.
  • Hymes, D. (1972). Models of the interaction of language and social life. In J. J. Gumperz & D. Hymes (Eds.), Directions in sociolinguistics: The ethnography of communication (pp. 35-71). New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
  • Ochs, E. (1996). Linguistic resources for socializing humanity. In J. J. Gumperz & S. C. Levinson (Eds.), Rethinking linguistic relativity (pp. 407-437). Cambridge, UK and New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Ochs, E. (2002). Becoming a speaker of culture. In C. J. Kramsch (Ed.), Language acquisition and language socialization: Ecological perspectives (pp. 99-120). London: Continuum.

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Aims of the Course

The English language is both an object of study in its own right and also a tool that people use to communicate information and to influence the behavior and opinions of others. The English language has been studied for centuries, but what we know about English is strongly influenced by writing and written language and, because writing and reading are most often done in isolation, many linguistic theories have ignored the social life of language. Yes, language has a social life and, obviously, social interaction does not happen in isolation; it involves people doing things and influencing each other by what they do. To combine the English language and social interaction in a single thought means asking: How does social interaction happen through English? And how does our knowledge of the English language change when we consider it to be primarily a means of social interaction? These are the two questions that we will wrestle with over and over again in this course. If you are interested in language and if you are interested in social relationships, this course will help you develop those interests.

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Attendance and Readings. You are expected to attend class regularly and to complete weekly readings from section A of the textbook and from the course packet.  Attendance will be taken at each class meeting.

Extension Tasks. You are expected to carry out extensions tasks from Section B of the textbook based on each reading. The readings extracted in Section B of the textbook are short extracts from the articles and chapters in the course packet. Your responses to a given reading are due on the last day scheduled for discussion of that topic. Assignments handed in late will receive a failing grade. These activities must be done in groups of between three and five students. Each member of the group will receive the same grade.

Explorations. On seven occasions throughout the course, a group of students will present one complete lesson based on Section C (Explorations) in the textbook. The group grade will be determined by the votes of the students in your audience on the Presentation Evaluation Form.

Final Exam. Your knowledge and interpretation of the readings and lectures will be assessed by one final take-home exam.

Authorship. Some of your assignments for this course involve integrating information from published sources into your own writing. This means that you need to be careful not to plagiarize: "to steal or pass off (the ideas and words of another) as one's own" or to "present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source" (Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition, p. 888). For advice on what sources you should document and how to document them, consult Quoting and Paraphrasing Sources on the Writing Center's web site, from which the preceding statement is taken.

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Assessment and Grading

I will award letter grades for the Extension Tasks and Explorations and percent scores for the final exam. The meanings and equivalencies of the grades follow.

Grade name
Percent cutoff
Letter grade equivalent
Excellent. Work goes well beyond the requirements of the assignment.
Demonstrates full understanding of all concepts; creatively applies theories and methods to new problems in the field.
Intermediate grade
Demonstrates understanding of all concepts; can correctly apply theories and methods to new problems in the field.
Intermediate grade
Demonstrates understanding of some but not all concepts; some errors in applying theory and methods to new problems in the field.
Demonstrates understanding of a limited number of concepts; many errors in applying theory and methods to new problems in the field.
Lack of understanding of concepts; not capable of applying theories and methods to new problems in the field. Assignment not completed by deadline.

The final grade for the course will take into account grades awarded on all assignments in the following proportions.


Percentage of Final Grade

Attendance 10%
Final Exam 35%
Extension Tasks 35%
Explorations 20%

Incompletes. The grade of "Incomplete" will only be used for a student who has carried the course with a passing grade until near the end of the semester and then, because of illness or other unusual and substantial cause beyond his/her control, is unable to complete the remaining assignments.

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Course Outline



Readings and Multimedia

Extension Tasks


January 21

Introduction to the Course


January 23, 28, & 30

Language and Social Interaction

Hymes: 'Models of the interaction of language and social life'

Tasks B1.2.9-12 on Hymes reading due January 30

C1.2 Language Games
C1.3 The Ethnography of Speaking
C1.4 Conversation Analysis

Presented on January 30 by
The B-Team

February 4, 6, 11, & 13

Talk in Context

Goodwin & Duranti: 'Rethinking context: An introduction'

Tasks B2.1.4-8 on Goodwin & Duranti reading due February 13  

American Tongues video

February 18, 20, 25, & 27

Interactional Resources

Halliday & Matthiessen: An introduction to functional grammar (Chapter 1)

Tasks B3.1.7-12 on Halliday & Matthiessen reading due February 20

C3.2 Talk-in-Interaction

Presented on February 27 by
The Glitter Squad

Hall: '(Re)creating our worlds with words: A sociohistorical perspective of face-to-face interaction'

Tasks B3.2.8-12 on Hall reading due February 27

March 4, 6, 11, & 13

Discursive Practices

Hanks: Language and communicative practices (Chapter 1)

Tasks B4.1.8-12 on Hanks reading due March 13

C4.1.1-5 Greg and The Fat Man
C4.2.1-3 The Mark Belling Late Afternoon Show

Presented on March 13 by
The Flaming Mongooses

Spring student on vacation Break

March 25, 27, & April 1

Describing Discursive Practices

Hymes: 'The ethnography of speaking'

Tasks B5.1.8-12 on Hymes reading due March 27

C5.1.1-5 Elementary School Geometry

Presented on April 1 by
The Pink Flamingos

Ochs: 'Linguistic resources for socializing humanity' Tasks B5.2.7-12 on Ochs reading due April 1
A Clarinet Lesson

April 3 & 8

Interactional Competence

Cicourel: 'Medical speech events as resources for inferring differences in expert-novice diagnostic reasoning'

Tasks B61.7-12 on Cicourel reading due April 8

C6.2 and/or C6.3 on Autism and/or Mother-Infant Interaction

Presented on April 8 by
The A-Team

April 10, 15, & 17

Talk and Identity

Day: 'Being ascribed, and resisting, membership in an ethnic group'

Tasks B7.1.7-11 on Day reading due April 17

C7.4 Identities On Line

Presented on April 17 by
Good Dialogue Ninja Turtles

A Boy Named Sue by Johnny Cash audio
Extract from Seinfeld's The Wizard video

April 22, 24 & 29

Community and Communities

Heath: Ways with words: Language, life, and work in communities and classrooms (Chapter 6)

Tasks B8.1.7-9, 11, & 12 on Heath reading due April 29

C8.5 Cultural Communities

Presented on April 29 by
Hello Katie

They Know All The Lines video

May 1 & 6

Developing Skills in Social Interaction

Ochs: 'Becoming a speaker of culture'

Extra Credit Assignment:

Tasks B9.1.5-8 on Ochs reading due May 6

May 8 Final exam available

May 11 at 12:05 p.m.

Final exam due

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This page was last revised on August 18, 2015 .