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Living Language: Science and Society

Following the successful first offering of Living Language: Science and Society in 2018W, we are excited to announce that Living Language will be offered again from September - December 2019!

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. Cross-listed as APSC 402, ASTU 402, FRST 402, LFS 402, LLED 402, and PHAR 402, Living Language is co-taught by Professors Janet Werker (Psychology) and Mark Turin (Anthropology, First Nations and Endangered Languages).

For the second iteration of Living Language, enrolment will be limited to 40 students. The class structure is comprised of in-class lectures by Professors Werker, Turin, 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. Student reflections include both individual written and oral work, small group discussion and constructive critique of one another’s work, as well as in-class assignments where students will work in interdisciplinary groups. 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.

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

To learn more about the Professors' backgrounds and visions for student experience, read their Q&A article about the course and watch their Welcome Video for students at the top of this page.

    For more information or to request an up-to-date version of the syllabus, please email