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SEL3413 : Language and Ageing

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Heike Pichler
  • Lecturer: Dr Christos Salis, Professor Thomas Scharf
  • Owning School: English Lit, Language & Linguistics
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
  • Capacity limit: 60 student places

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


This advanced module in sociolinguistics takes a multi-disciplinary approach to examining patterns of language variation and change in later life. It teaches students the key methodological challenges and theoretical imperatives for studying the language use of older adults, and explores with them how insights from gerontology, geriatrics and cognitive psychology can enrich our understanding of the mechanisms underpinning language variation and change in older adults. Students will learn to apply the following to the analysis and interpretation of vernacular speech data from older adults: advanced methodological tools from variationist sociolinguistics; ongoing discoveries about language and ageing from across the language sciences; and multi-disciplinary insights into the complexity of age and ageing from the health and social sciences. Students will also participate in reciprocal intergenerational learning activities with older community members, which will enhance their intergenerational communication skills and support their development as socially responsive and responsible citizens in age-friendly communities. These activities will also ensure that students’ findings from their project work reach a wider audience of non-linguists.

Outline Of Syllabus

This module will cover the following:
1.       the social & scientific urgency of addressing the relative neglect of older adults in the variationist research paradigm;
2.       key methodological challenges & imperatives for studying old-age language variation & change, incl. the need for multi-disciplinarity;
3.       the impact of social, biological & psychological aspects of ageing on old-age linguistic heterogeneity & lability;
4. the discursive construction & negotiation of (old) age identities;
5.       ageist language use (incl. elderspeak) and its role in the perpetuation of ageist stereotyping & discrimination.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion150:0050:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture112:0022:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading130:0030:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching111:0011:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyProject work130:0030:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study157:0057:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

LECTURES are used, primarily, to impart information and provide an overall coherence for the module. They focus on enhancing students’ knowledge base in variationist sociolinguistics and on introducing students to insights from other disciplines that are relevant to studying older adults’ language use.

SMALL-GROUP TEACHING SESSIONS are used to consolidate students’ understanding of the lecture and reading materials, to plan plan and prepare (group) assignments, and to develop students’ transferable skills in linguistic data analysis.

GUIDED INDEPENDENT STUDY is used for the preparation of seminar and workshop exercises as well as for the preparation and completion of assignments.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Research paper2M752750-word essay reporting results of data analysis exercise
Report2A25500-word report (prepared as a group or, where appropriate & only with prior agreement from the module leader, individually)
Formative Assessments

Formative Assessment is an assessment which develops your skills in being assessed, allows for you to receive feedback, and prepares you for being assessed. However, it does not count to your final mark.

Description Semester When Set Comment
Written exercise2M500-word research paper outline or abstract
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The WRITTEN EXERCISE provides an opportunity for formative feedback. Students will prepare an outline or abstract for their research paper.

The RESEARCH PAPER tests students’ analytical, numerical, IT and writing skills. Students use the acquired numerical skills to quantify patterns of linguistic variation in their data; they use the acquired software skills to visualize these patterns; and they write up the results for a specialist target audience. Crucially, the essay challenges students to think across disciplinary boundaries and use the knowledge from guest lectures to interpret the results of their analyses.

The REPORT tests students’ ability to communicate the results of their data analyses to a lay audience of older adults. It is produced by groups of students under the guidance of older community members whose role it is to advise on focus and pitch, and to flag instances of inaccessible or ageist language use. The collaboration between students and older adults also develops students’ intergenerational communication skills and fosters intergenerational learning. Participating older adults become spokespersons for the discipline.

Reading Lists