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COURSE NAME: "Sociolinguistics: A Changing Language In a Changing Society"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2020

INSTRUCTOR: Anna Mauceri Trimnell
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: TTH 11:30-12:50 PM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: IT 302
OFFICE HOURS: M/W 11:30-12:30

This course aims to analyze the interrelation between language and society in contemporary Italy. If we can say that Italian is the national language of Italy, it is not realistic to say that all Italians have always spoken just Italian or the same Italian. The history of the Italian language, in fact, shows how the process of it becoming the unitary language has been slow and how language still varies in time, social, situational and geographic space. The course will try to give an up to date account of linguistic diversity, social variation, special codes and language varieties in the Italian society and in the context of linguistic interaction between Italian and dialect, and between Italian and English within Italy. The course will be conducted entirely in Italian.

If we can say that Italian is the national language of Italy, it is not realistic to say that all Italians have always spoken just Italian or the same Italian. The history of the Italian language, in fact, shows how the process of it becoming the unitary language has been slow and how language still varies in time, social, situational and geographic space. Firstly, the course will give an overview of the process of “Italianization”, which determined the diffusion of Italian throughout Italy. This overview will be from a socio linguistic perspective, examining political and historical developments. Then, emphasis will be placed on the analysis of the following:

  1. The distinction between written and spoken language.
  2. The relationship between language and dialects.
  3. Communicative and linguistic choices by speakers in relation to social roles and status.
  4. The influences of English on the Italian language and vice versa. For this section the emphasis will be placed on lexis, examining the adoption and adaptation of words, the difference in meanings from the original language and the battle against the foreign words from fascism to today. 
This course is designed for students with a good knowledge of Italian but little or no previous knowledge of linguistics. The student will learn about the function of Italian within Italian society and how diverse socio, economic, demographic and geographic groups interrelate with the language. By the end of the course the student will be able to distinguish the main differences between the most important varieties of Italian and enlarge his or her knowledge of the lexis and grammatical structure of contemporary Italian.

Attendance and class participation 10%
2 Response papersOut-of-class responses relating to topics discussed in class and to out-of-class readings (late assignments will be penalized for 2 points for each day).20%
Midterm ExamIn-class exam. Questions on materials covered in class and response paper20%
Final ExamA cumulative in-class exams with questions and essay20%
3 workshops 30%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the cou
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

Students are expected to come prepared to class and participate in all activities. Regular attendance is an essential component of class participation. Students are allowed 3 absences, every unjustified absence thereafter will result in the lowering of the grade.

Please be aware that three late arrivals into class equal one absence, and that three early departures from class equal one absence.

When you miss a class, you are expected to find out what was covered that day and what assignments are due for the next class.
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


Weeks 1-2

Presentation of the course. 

Overview on the history of Italian Language


Week 3-4

How do the Italians speak? Standard Italian and Neo-standard Italian



Week 4-5

The impact of English on the Italian language



Response paper 1


Week 6

The main Sociolinguistic concepts: Linguistic communities, repertoires, varieties and registers, communicative competence.

The model of the Linguistic variation


Week 7

Diatopic variation. 

Variation according to geographic location.

Language and dialect: The regional varieties of the North, the Centre and the South.


Weeks 8-9

Diastratic variation. 

Variation according to social class or social group 

The Italian of ‘uneducated’ people, jargon, gender specific Italian, the language of young people.



Midterm exam


Week 10 

Diaphasic variation. Variation across degrees of formality (i.e. Italian during a business lunch versus 

Italian during a dinner with friends). The language of special uses.

Response paper 2


Week 11

Diamesic variation. Variation in a language according to the medium of communication



Week 12

General review