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Language, Institutions, and Power

Course Code: CMNS 3100
Faculty: Language, Literature & Performing Arts
Department: Communications
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15
Learning Format: Lecture
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

This course gives students practice in using analytical approaches to the study of language and power to examine how language constructs ideology, institutions, and identity in the contexts of enduring struggles (e.g. struggles over human rights for prisoners, gays, women, the homeless, people with disabilities, language and cultural identity, and the environment). Readings on the theoretical perspectives that inform these approaches are combined with applications to enduring struggles between less powerful groups and institutions (e.g. the penal system, the law, governments, the medical system, corporations, the scientific community, and academia). Students leave the course with analytical tools that would be relevant in a wide range of disciplines as vehicles of inquiry and research, and with knowledge that will contribute to their civic and social awareness.

Course Content

Instructors will give students a representative sample of current theories of critical discourse analysis, rhetorical genre analysis, and pragmatics analysis, as well as case study readings focused on enduring struggles between marginal and mainstream groups. The course will cover selected key concepts from these three theoretical orientations:


Rhetorical Genre Theory

  • the rhetorical situation
  • the persuasive appeals
  • complex audience analysis: reception theory
  • identification and division
  • genre theory and genre analysis
  • classical and conciliatory arrangements

Critical Theory

  • discourse/discursive formations
  • language and identity construction
  • ideology
  • linguistic appropriation
  • dialogism/interdiscursivity
  • linguistic and symbolic capital


  • audience design
  • background knowledge/knowledge structures
  • politeness and modality (face-saving language)
  • the cooperative principle

Any single version of the course will apply the three theoretical perspectives and related analytical approaches to both readings and empirical research on a salient enduring struggle.


  • genre features of academic writing (summary, essay, research paper genres)
  • invention and revision strategies


  • features of academic presentations
  • strategies for addressing an academic audience

Methods of Instruction

Instruction will primarily be lecture and discussion format, with group work, peer editing, and student presentations based on readings and their research. Some instructors and students may include viewing and analyzing recorded meetings or interviews.

Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be based on course objectives and will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy. Ninety-five percent of students’ evaluation will be based on written work on which students receive feedback and instruction on their writing.

A sample of how assignments might be structured follows below:

  • 2 summaries of course readings (2 x 10%)
  • 1 critical summary based on two course readings (15%)
  • Term paper on a major course concept (20%)
  • Research paper: analysis of the genres, speech, and discourses that constitute one enduring struggle (35%)
  • Oral presentation (10%)

Exact means of assessment and their percentages for course grade will be specified in the instructor’s course outline.

Writing Competency Bar: A student must achieve a grade of C- or better (on first submission) on both the term paper and research paper in order to achieve a grade of better than P for the course.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the course, the successful student will be able to satisfy the following learning objectives:


  1. read and understand academic discourse about social, political and cultural aspects of language and conflict
  2. recognize and understand the basic concepts of rhetorical genre theory, critical theory, and pragmatics (theory readings)
  3. recognize and understand how these course concepts have been applied to analysis of enduring struggles


  1. apply course concepts to the analysis of empirical data gathered on one salient enduring struggle
  2. apply course concepts to the analysis of discourse and primary texts/genres deployed in one salient enduring struggle


  1. collect data by interviewing research informants involved in the public debate of an enduring struggle
  2. collect data by observing and recording a public meeting, debate, or hearing on an enduring struggle
  3. develop relevant categories for interpreting empirical data (thematic/qualitative and quantitative)


  1. write, draft, and revise coherent essay summaries of course readings
  2. write, draft and revise a term paper on a major course concept based on relevant readings
  3. write, draft and revise a unified and coherent academic research paper that combines readings with empirical research
  4. provide constructive criteria-based peer feedback on drafts of classmates’ writing assignments


  1. prepare a five-minute oral presentation of a research project
  2. deliver (extemporaneously) an uninterrupted, five minute oral presentation that conveys information and interest

course prerequisites

ENGL 1130 and one first-year course from the following list: Criminology, History, Humanities, Philosophy, and Political Science;


Other courses with instructor permission.

curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.