SEL8163 : The Sociolinguistics of Language and Society

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


• Evaluate terms, concepts and premises underlying: (1.) Labovian sociolinguistics and (2.) Fishman’s sociology of language paradigm.
• Give a detailed understanding of fieldwork techniques used within the paradigms associated with Labov/Fishman which students will subsequently apply to their independent fieldwork projects.
• Emphasis will also be placed (particularly in seminars) on reinforcing skills for the resolution of linguistic analyses and the interpretation of tables/graphs.

Specific to Paradigm (1.)
• Apply the terminological distinctions and principles of the paradigm to actual and novel case studies that explore the inter-relationships between language and society.
• Outline the major difficulties with the Labovian paradigm in terms of the way in which it handles linguistic and extra-linguistic variables.
• Critically examine alternative approaches to the Labovian paradigm.
• Understand and be able to apply a range of advanced techniques for collecting, coding and transcribing vernacular data.

Specific to Paradigm (2.)
• Further explore specific issues raised at the individual level in Labovian Sociolinguistics at the community/national level. The focus will therefore be on language(s) rather than idiolect/sociolect/dialect. Particular attention will be paid to promoting a critical understanding of the relationship between language and nationalism/ethnicity as well as questions of language loyalty, attitude, status and the power relations apparent in language contact situations.
• Apply the terminological distinctions and principles of this paradigm to actual and novel case studies that explore the inter-relationships between language and society.

Outline Of Syllabus

Two major themes are addressed:
(i) the nature and mechanisms of linguistic change within speech communities;
(ii) the symbolic function of language and the affect which this has on the perception of language as a social problem and resource.

Topics include:
-Fieldwork Methods in Sociolinguistics
-The Linguistic Variable
-Extralinguistic Variables
-The Labovian Paradigm: its Problems and Solutions
-Fieldwork methods in the Sociology of Language
-Language Contact

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion1150:00150:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture201:0020:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching101:0010:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork32:006:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery141:0014:00N/A
Jointly Taught With
Code Title
SEL2091Sociolinguistics and the Sociology of Language
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Rationale and Relationship to Learning Outcomes

Lectures will be used, primarily, to impart information and provide overall coherence for the module.

Seminars will be used, primarily, to build skills in linguistic analysis and will, therefore, focus on problem-solving/numeracy. They also aim to enhance interpretation of sociolinguistic approaches to language and society,
improve oral presentation and build team-work. Fieldwork projects will also be planned and developed in seminars.

Fieldwork will be used to build skills in data collection and transcription techniques.

Other: individual consultation with students at set times throughout the module (particularly with regard to problems encountered with the fieldwork.)

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1A603,000 words
Case study1M40Transcription exercise
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

1. Transcription assignment. Ethically collect, code and transcribe 60-90 minutes of data from two speakers of Tyneside or Northumbrian English).
2. An essay of 3,000 words on any aspect of the module (excluding tables, graphs and examples).

Since this is primarily an information-led module at PG level, the most suitable method of assessment is by means of submitted work testing independent learning ability as well as written communication skills; analytical/problem solving skills; critical thinking/conceptual understanding/knowledge and ability to construct a logical argument. The transcription assignment is required to assess fieldwork and data collection/analysis skills not assessed in the essay(s) that will be relevant to future independent research

Reading Lists