HDAK00206U Language, place and mobility

Volume 2016/2017

Place is a central aspect of people’s lives. We come from places, we orient towards places, and we move through places. However, places are not just ‘there’, they are not static entities. Places are continuously created and re-created, interpreted and re-interpreted, through human activity and practice. When we speak about a place, when we name it or include it in narratives about ourselves, we turn place into a meaningful basis for the construction of communities and identities. Places are thus to a large degree the result of social processes. Yet, at the same time, places are structured by nature and material surroundings. The focus of the course will be on the linguistic aspects of place and place-making, and on the importance of place to human beings. We will look at both the processes through which people discursively construct places, and at the ways places affect speakers and languages in everyday practices.

The course introduces different theories of place and includes literature from sociology, human geography, ethnography and sociolinguistics. Regardless of the wide-ranging literature, we insist on tying all approaches to our focus on how people create, experience and describe place linguistically. Mobility will form a recurring motif in our investigation of place; other themes we touch upon include urbanity, multilingualism, the ghetto, rurality, dialect, indexicality and commodification.

The course will relate directly to the on-going research of the teachers, and participants will be presented with data from Nørrebro, Southern Jutland and Vollsmose. The distinguished researcher on language and place Professor Barbara Johnstone from Carnegie Mellon University, US, will also participate as guest lecturer and supervisor. Prof. Johnstone will present us with cutting-edge, state-of-the-art perspectives on the course themes, and she will provide us with a comparative, international perspective. Student participants will get the possibility of collaborating with Prof. Johnstone and the other course teachers on all aspects of the research process: data collection, analysis and oral and written presentations. The course will also include a mini conference, during which students and teachers will present their research. These presentations are envisioned to lead to the final written assignment.

The course will offer participants the possibility of understanding and approaching place and places in new ways. It includes literature readings, discussions of theory, fieldwork and practical observations. Participants will become acquainted with the actual research process, with the organization of a conference and with academic dissemination.


The course is relevant to anyone interested in language as a social phenomenon.

Learning Outcome


On the background of this course the student is expected to be able to

  • Formulate a research question within the topic of the course

  • Collect or select relevant empirical material in order to analyze and answer the formulated question

  • Analyze empirical material

  • Present a well-formulated discussion of the research question using the empirical material in a written assignment (in Danish or English)


In addition, the student is expected to

  • Demonstrate insight into place as a theoretical concept

  • Discuss approaches to place in relation to empirical material

  • If possible, suggest practical consequences of the analyses

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 42
  • Course Preparation
  • 210
  • Exam Preparation
  • 160,5
  • Total
  • 412,5
Type of assessment
Written examination
The exam consists in a free written home assignment. This assignment needs to include empirical material relevant to the course. Theory treated during the course needs to be employed, and the assignment should include reflections on the methods used for data collection and analysis. The creative response will be awarded.
Den fri hjemmeopgave skal skrives på dansk.