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Living Language: Science and Society

"It helped me think critically about my skillset...and how this would fit into an interdisciplinary team."

- Taryn Jessop, Commerce student, Sauder School of Business. Read more in Letters to Santa.

We are excited to announce that Living Language will be offered again in Winter I 2020 (September - December 2020) online.

New module: Language & Wellbeing: Health, Environment, Sustainability, & Diversity and Language and Social Change topics

This year, as well as new co-instructors, the course will feature a new module: Language & Wellbeing: Health, Environment, Sustainability, & Diversity. This module will feature discussions of how language intersects and informs our relationship to our health care systems, the relationship between language and sustainability, and language and biodiversity. Readings will be assigned in ecolinguistics; and the links between linguistic diversity and biodiversity, such as how traditional knowledge of ecosystems (e.g. medical plants) is embedded in local, often endangered, Indigenous languages.

In addition, the course will be spending more time on the module, Language and Social Change. Topics will include the role of language-based discrimination in the legal system; official language policies and the impacts of language policy planning; and the implications of how and where First Nations languages occur in public settings (e.g.: land acknowledgements, signage on campus, the recent Edmonton CFL name change).

In this interdisciplinary 3-credit 'transition-out' course, 3rd and 4th-year students examine, integrate and apply their subject-specific knowledge through the lens of language and the framework of the language sciences, with a focus on themes of real-world importance. Living Language is co-taught by Assistant Professors Elise Stickles (English Language and Literatures) and Darko Odic (Psychology) and is cross-listed in six faculties as APSC 402, ASTU 402, FRST 402, LFS 402, LLED 402, and PHAR 402. Enrolment for this course will be limited to 40 students. Please consult with your academic advisor or read through this info sheet to choose the appropriate registration option for you.

The class structure is comprised of lectures by Assistant Professors Stickles, Odic, and invited language leaders across campus and in the wider community, along with student-led reflections and presentations. Through the course, students will lead their own exploration of language as it applies to all domains of human life, from the creation and acquisition of spoken language to writing systems, texts of all kinds, arts, culture, science, and technology. Students will engage in group discussion with their peers and will complete short written assignments that include individual reflections and longer, more in depth, explorations. Working in small interdisciplinary groups, students will design an action-oriented final project to be presented in-class at the end of the term. 

This course is designed for upper level students in any discipline and from any Faculty who are interested to learn more about how language works and what it does. There are no pre-requirements, other than a commitment to deep intellectual exploration, a willingness to be challenged, and a readiness to reflect on what you have learned in your discipline through the lens of language.

A picture of the Reconciliation Pole at UBC, in front of which Mark Turin is speaking to the Living Language class

Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • identify the building blocks and characteristics of language and demonstrate how these shape the ways we think and interact with one another and our communities
  • critically assess how language is used in your chosen field of study
  • reflect on and apply what you have learned in your chosen field of study outside the classroom in critical and creative ways
  • use your enriched understanding of how language functions to communicate your field’s insights to broader audiences
  • be open to learning and listening beyond your discipline
  • recognize the power of language in science and society and when it is harnessed to manipulate rather than inform
  • collaborate with peers across disciplinary lines

To learn more about students' and the co-instructors' experiences of the course, read:

Please refer to the UBC Vancouver Academic Calendar for the deadline for registration. 

For more information or to request an up-to-date version of the syllabus, please email living.language@ubc.ca