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English Language undergraduate courses – University of Reading

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English Language undergraduate courses

If questions like these interest you, this popular and challenging subject may be the one for you:

  • Are all varieties of English equal?
  • Do men speak differently from women?
  • How can you influence other people through the way you use language?
  • Why do people sometimes fail to understand each other?
  • Does it matter that over 3000 languages may die by the end of the twenty-first century?

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Language is an ever-evolving phenomenon. Its usage may differ depending on who you are, to whom you are talking, what media you are using, in what situation you find yourself and what you are trying to achieve. How we use language at any given point in our lives defines us, in many respects, both individually and as a nation, and this makes it a fascinating and highly relevant area of study.

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Your Voice Speaks Volumes book imageThe reason we change our voice when talking to a stranger on the phone is just one of the secrets that will be revealed in a new book on the English language by a University of Reading expert.

In her book Your Voice Speaks Volumes, published by Oxford University Press on 24 October, Professor Jane Setter explains why people often become 'voice chameleons', changing the way they speak depending on social situations.

Subconsciously responding to or mimicking the tones and accents of others, as well as their timing and context, can lead to us changing our own voices without realising it. We may adopt certain accents we deem to be more authoritative or unthreatening when speaking to people for the first time.

This phenomenon is also the reason teenagers speak to their parents differently to their best friends.

Professor Setter said: "Altering your voice in different situations is normal, and the speakers themselves probably don't even realise it's happening. Our voices evolve to show our social allegiances, our tribal memberships. This chameleon-like aspect of your voice is called code-switching, and we all do it every day to a greater or lesser degree.

Professor Setter is a phonetics expert at the University of Reading, teaching English Language and Linguistics. She is a National Teaching Fellow of the UK Higher Education Academy.

Your Voice Speaks Volumes: It's Not What You Say, It's How You Say It  is now available to buy.

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In the Department of English Language and Applied Linguistics at Reading, our programmes in English Language take you on a journey through theoretical and applied areas of language study, enabling you to see how English is used as a social, stylistic, economic and political tool on the world stage. You will explore theories of language in the contemporary world, and learn how to apply this knowledge to the solution of real-world problems: at work, at play, in relationships, in the media, in education, in politics. You will examine the role of languages in creating individual and social identity, the growth of English as an international language, and current developments in English language teaching and learning. Ultimately, our goal is to enable you to become consummate English language analysts and users, through gaining a thorough understanding of how and why English varies in different settings and for different purposes.


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