New Course Explores Language and Politics

Professor H. M. FazaleHaq, a linguist who arrived at Wesleyan a year ago, will be offering a timely new course in the fall: “Language and Politics: Making and Unmaking of Nations” (CGST212). Here is the course description:

This course explores the key topics at the intersection of language and politics, including language choice, linguistic correctness, (self-)censorship and hate speech, the performance of ethnic and national identity in language, gender politics and “powerful” language, rhetoric and propaganda, and changing conceptions of written language, driven in part by technological advances. One of the examples of such topics is “Tweet Politics” or “Incivility on the Web” around the globe. This course consists of three modules. In the first two modules the above-mentioned topics will be discussed in general, while in the last module we will see how preferences in language policies and politics played a significant role in “making and unmaking of nations” in different parts of the world, from South Asia to East Asia to North America.

In addition to his interests in the intertwining of language and politics and in linguistics, Prof. FazaleHaq teaches courses in Hindi-Urdu language. In fact, teaching these two closely-related languages in a single course is itself related to the question of language and politics, since the ways in which these languages have evolved in recent decades intertwines with complex political, cultural, and religious issues. As Prof. FazaleHaq explains:

Though “pure” (shudh/khalis) Hindi and Urdu are two separate languages, the standard form of both the languages is the same except for the scripts in which they are written. Hindi is written in Devanagari script and Urdu follows Perso-arabic script. 

Prof. FazaleHaq’s Hindi-Urdu courses are designed so that by the end of the first semester you will be able to read and write (level appropriately) in both scripts. Learning both Hindi and Urdu together ultimately gives students the ability to interact with close to 500 million people in South Asia as well as the opportunity to explore both secular and devotional literary traditions that go back to at least the sixteenth century, and even enjoy modern media such as Bollywood movies and television soap operas, which form an important part of the lives of many in contemporary India and Pakistan.

Anyone who would like to learn more about either the “Language and Politics” course, or about Hindi-Urdu language classes, should check out this website ( or reach out directly to Prof. FazaleHaq: