For any course dealing with language difference, I like to start by introducing definitions of language and discourse communities. While this presentation isn’t the most visually engaging, it is packed with information about common beliefs about language. I start by discussing the three common meanings of “language” and complicating these by exploring some of the assumptions implicit in the definitions—principally that languages are distinct and stable. Then, I transition into a discussion of discourse communities. One reason for this is to move away from the rhetoric of “dialects,” which usually functions to marginalize a language as a modified version of a “standard.” This also helps to complicate students notions of “monolingualism,” which translingual scholarship considers a myth. By concluding with students considering their own discourse communities, they can begin to consider language as flexible, negotiated, and performative.

Presentation: Discourse Communities
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