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LG474 Language Rights

Prof. Peter L. Patrick

Dept. of Language & Linguistics

Human Rights Centre

University of Essex



On this page:


Assessment in brief

Assessment will be based on the Dept. of Language & Linguistics undergraduate standard of 50% exam (2-hour exam in Term 3) and 50% coursework (assignments equivalent to 3000 words).

Deadline: The deadline for all coursework is Thurs of Week 28 (ie, 12 April 2018).

Feedback: If you submit your work on time, you will receive feedback on Faser no later than Fri of week 32, ie 11 May 2018.

In addition, the Dept. is piloting a new draft-feedback plan. If you submit a draft to me by Fri 23 March 2018, I will give you initial feedback (no mark, just helpful comments) by Mon 9 April 2018, leaving you a few days to take on board my comments. (If I can get it back earlier I will, but it can’t be guaranteed for everybody. I will try to do it on a first-come, first-served basis!)


The Rules

As far as assessment goes, students from other programmes or Depts. (e.g. Human Rights) should follow the rules and advice on assessment for the Dept. of Language & Linguistics (bearing in mind that the topic is interdisciplinary, and thus will not have a typical linguistics assignment or exam).

Please see the Language & Linguistics department's

o      Undergraduate Student Handbook


These contain important information on how we judge your work, assignment writing skills, guidelines for citing references and avoiding plagiarism, coursework requirements, including lateness penalties, coping with exams and cheating. I will assume you are completely familiar with this material; unless noted below, these rules apply.

·         If you are a student from another Dept., welcome! You should be aware of your own Dept.’s rules and handbook, but please note that as this is a Lang & Ling course, it is governed by the rules of our Dept.

·         It is ESSENTIAL TO SUBMIT ALL COURSEWORK via Faser online. Direct any questions about this to the Administrators in the Main Language & Linguistics Office.

·         It makes life much easier for me if your assignment is submitted to Faser as either a Word document or a PDF file. If you are working on a Mac or using another word processor such as OpenOffice, you should still save and submit your file as a Word or PDF document. Otherwise I will not be able to give you online feedback.

·         The submission dates of assignments are logged automatically. If you cannot submit all your work on time, try to submit as much as you can.

·         Your feedback will be recorded online using FASER. Your feedback may be available before your mark is finalised (this is because of moderating coursework, meaning someone else has to look it over before the marks are recorded).

·         LATE COURSEWORK MAY RECEIVE A MARK OF ZERO under the current course deadline policy. Details are in the Handbook, under “Coursework”.

·         Department admin staff apply the late policy in a uniform manner. Please don’t ask me to change deadlines or give you an extension – it is not possible.


Teaching methods

The course involves a mixture of lecture, discussion, and student oral presentations. Attendance is expected every week, and it is your responsibility to participate as fully as you are able. Please complete the main readings for each week (except the first) before class, if possible. Basic knowledge of either descriptive linguistics & sociolinguistics, or human rights, is assumed. You're not expected to know both areas when you begin! This course is designed to accommodate students from both linguistics and human rights, as well as other disciplines, with a small amount of extra effort on your part.



·         There is a final 2-hour exam at years' end, containing a selection of questions, from which you will answer one question.

·         You will also do coursework (generally one essay) amounting to 3000 words on an assigned topic.

·         You are expected to make one (group) oral presentation – see below.

·         Exam marks are averaged with coursework marks; each contributes 50% to an overall final mark. So, 50% coursework, 50% exam.

·         It is my policy NOT to make previous years’ exam papers available to students. You will not find them on ORB. My view is that you will prepare better by participating in class, asking questions, and studying the materials assigned this year, than by taking previous exam questions as your guide for preparation.

·         Linguistics Dept advice on writing assignments is available at this link – obviously this was designed for typical Linguistics assignments, which yours may not be! But some of it will still be useful… 

·         My personal advice on writing exams, papers etc. for my courses (again, other staff may not agree) is available from this webpage:

·         Human Rights Centre advice on coursework: Please consult HRC materials, but note that this course is administered by Linguistics.

·         Students who have not had previous linguistic training are encouraged to register for this course.


General Criteria for Assessment

Please see the relevant Handbook page titled e.g. “Learning Outcomes and Assessment Criteria on LG modules” (UG Hbk p65-68; you can download it directly here) which shows the scale according to which your work will be marked.

In addition, I apply my own general criteria in assessing your work (they are similar to the Dept’s longer list). You must be able to:

·         Summarise: Demonstrate your understanding by clear, concise summary of assigned research. Be able to gather original-source information independently and show understanding of it. Be able to accurately summarise facts (both in detail, and at a general level), argumentation, crucial concepts, and theoretical claims, and explain or paraphrase technical terminology.

·         Analyse: Make and explain distinctions; identify similarities and contrasts; create and take readers through an argument, step by logical step; and generally, use appropriate terminology precisely in analysis of the relevant data.

·         Evaluate: Identify and assess the underlying methods, assumptions and goals of a piece of research or policy; appraise the strength or weakness of a position, a theory, or a set of recommendations or principles. Are the conclusions supported by the arguments? the data? Are the findings significant, and why? Are policy and planning recommendations coherent, consistent with sociolinguistic knowledge, and practical? When you make evaluative claims, you must be able to cite specific evidence to back them up.

·         Present your work effectively: Communicate your (and others’) ideas with clarity, in a logical and transparent structure, in a coherent fashion and appropriate style, drawing on technical terminology as needed. You must be lucid, precise, and original, while demonstrating a sense of balance among the parts, controlling length to meet requirements, and attributing ideas to their authors through good citation and reference practice. You must demonstrate that you are able to refer effectively both to material in sociolinguistics and other areas relevant to language rights (e.g. human rights, law, etc.) as needed.

In addition to satisfying these general criteria, you are expected to consult advice on essays, referencing and good academic practice in the Dept. Handbooks (above), and to observe the criteria below which are specifically for LG474.


Specific Criteria for Assessment in LG474

The criteria and advice above are GENERAL, and not developed with this module in mind. Please ALSO attend to these expectations which are specifically for this module:

o      Locate and use multiple appropriate sources for each main point. How many? See below.

o      Do not rely solely on sources aimed at a general audience; use specialist linguistic and human rights works and terminology.

o      Be critical of the arguments presented in the readings – especially in works aimed at a general audience, which can be expected to ignore some complexity or detail, and might favour impact over subtlety, and colour over rigorous argumentation.

o      Draw actively on several human rights instruments; integrate them into your argument; show awareness of the history and development of their use for language rights.

o      Make sure your paper isn't just a descriptive case study, but provides linguistic/human rights (and also legal/historical/social) context and evaluation, as appropriate to the topic.

o      Make examples detailed, and relate them clearly to your arguments. For example, linguistic arguments should not be limited to surface phenomena (such as vocabulary), or naively equate language with culture or biological diversity; human rights or legal arguments should not be merely idealistic or aspirational; in general, your arguments are expected to be more complex, pragmatic and critical.

o      Comment on policy and practice, referring to actual outcomes, and using specific measures, if available.

o      Don't leave vague the definition or implementation of language rights, or lump them all together.

o      Do make active use of concepts developed in class, including definitions (e.g. of linguistic diversity, minority, or mother tongue); oppositions (e.g. language documentation vs revitalization, or individual vs collective rights), and principles (e.g. substantive equality, non-discrimination).

o      Do go into appropriate technical linguistic depth for your topic, using scientific terminology and analysis and demonstrating mastery of the research literature.


Length Limits

Part of the skill of writing an assignment is learning to say what you want to say within the word limit you are given.


Proper Referencing

You should remember at all times to refer explicitly to the work of any scholar whose work you make use of, citing the surname, year of publication and page number of any references.

·         Whenever you use someone else's words, they must be enclosed in quotation marks and clearly identified.

·         When you cite specific facts or points from published work, you must give a detailed citation including a page reference, even if you do not quote directly.

·         You will be penalised for poorly structured work and inadequate bibliographical referencing.

·         This may seem picky or pointless to you, but it’s considered an important skill in academia – i.e., we require you to learn it! All you have to do is follow a set of guidelines carefully and be consistent.

·         The Dept. student Handbooks contain just such a set of guidelines, in a section called “References”. Please leave an hour to check every assignment against this list.

·         Every work referred to in the body of the essay must be given a complete reference in the bibliographical list at the end of the essay. There is no magic number of references for a good essay, but consider 12 to 20 references (not counting instruments or mass media reports) a minimum number, and be sure they are all used appropriately (not just tacked on to make up the numbers).


Plagiarism and Cheating

It is crucial that you understand and observe University rules in this area. What may seem perfectly alright to you could be seen by academic staff as a serious academic violation, punishable by penalties including expulsion.

·              Please, for your own sake, refer to the general rules and guidelines on this page (from LG218, but it applies generally).

·              Since most undergraduate linguistics students will have taken LG218 with me, I will not address these during class time. They are treated in depth in the student handbooks under the headings “How to avoid plagiarism” and “Academic offences” – you are expected to be familiar with those sections.

·              I will assume that students from uman ights and other areas are familiarHuman Rights or other areas of study are also familiar with such general rules and guidelines.

o      However, if you have any questions or doubts, please take the time to see me in office hours before you hand in your assignment. I’ll be glad to address issues of proper referencing and how to avoid plagiarism then if needed.


Oral Report

All students will make one oral presentation of c. 10 mins. in the second half of term, based on materials relevant to your essay. You may collaborate in presenting materials with other students if your topics converge. In a large class, expect to work in groups of 4-6 on this. No mark is given for the presentation, but it is required. More details about this will be posted early in the term. Please identify a topic for your report, and class colleagues to collaborate with, by the end of the first week in February.


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Page last updated on 22 January 2018