Sociolinguistics

Module code: EN2090
Module coordinator: Dr Cathleen Waters

  • How do our social experiences – our age, our gender, our education – affect the ways in which we use language? 
  • How does our immediate situation and relationship with those we are speaking to influence and inform our choice of sounds and syntax?
  • How conscious or unconscious are these choices? And how similar or different are they for speakers of other varieties of English, and of other languages around the world?

Building on the first-year modules Studying Language and Describing Language, in this module you will further examine the relationship between language and society. We will consider both theoretical and empirical work on the relationship between language and society, and investigate quantitative and qualitative ways of exploring linguistic variation and language change. 

Together, we will discuss and reflect on popular and scholarly claims about the relationship between language use and social context. You will collect data suitable for sociolinguistic study and analyse this data systematically to evaluate hypotheses and claims about linguistic variation. 

Topics covered

  • Language attitudes
  • The linguistic variable
  • Variation across the lifespan
  • Language and gender
  • Language and identity
  • International varieties and language contact

Learning

  • 10 one-hour lectures
  • 10 one-hour seminars

Assessment

  • Collection of data for database creation (10%)
  • Essay, 3,500 words (90%)