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SEL2091 : Sociolinguistics and the Sociology of Language

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Daniel Duncan
  • Lecturer: Professor Karen Corrigan, Dr Heike Pichler
  • Owning School: English Lit, Language & Linguistics
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


The module aims to:
o       Introduce the basic terms, concepts and premises underlying: (i) Labovian sociolinguistics (ii) Fishman's sociology of language paradigm (iii) World Englishes.
o       Give a broad understanding of fieldwork techniques used within these sub-disciplines and offer students the experience of preparing for and conducting their own sociolinguistic interview from which the data is to be transcribed using an established protocol.
o       Emphasis will also be placed (particularly in seminars) on acquiring skills for the resolution of linguistic analyses and the interpretation of tables/graphs.

Students will learn to:
o       Apply the terminological distinctions, principles, methods and concepts used within these sub-disciplines to actual and novel case studies that explore the inter-relationships between language and society.
o       Outline the major difficulties with the Labovian paradigm in terms of the way in which it handles linguistic and extralinguistic variables.
o       Examine alternative approaches to the Labovian paradigm.
o       Understand the principles and practicalities of collecting, coding and transcribing vernacular data.
o       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 an 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.

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 effect which this has on the perception of language as a social problem and resource.

Topics include:
- Fieldwork methods in paradigms associated with understanding language and its function in society.
- The linguistic variable.
- Extralinguistic variables.
- The Labovian paradigm: its problems and competitor approaches.
- Multilingualism and language contact/shift.
- Language standards and standardisation.
- Attitudes and ideologies towards language(s).
- New Englishes.
- Pidgins and Creoles.
- Review.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion145:0045:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture241:0024:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading160:0060:00N/A
Guided Independent StudySkills practice110:0010:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching121:0012:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork31:003:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity120:0020:00inc. 10 hours directed groupwork
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study126:0026:00N/A
Jointly Taught With
Code Title
SEL8163The Sociolinguistics of Language and Society
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

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/poster presentation skills and build team-work. Fieldwork projects will also be planned and developed in seminars.

FIELDWORK: Will be used to build skills in interview techniques, data collection and transcription.

STUDY GROUPS: Between the lecture and the seminar, students will participate in self-directed study groups where they will discuss topics relevant to the module.

SURGERIES: Will be provided for students throughout the module (particularly with regard to problems encountered with the fieldwork and plans for other assignments).

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
PC Examination601A40Unseen
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise1M40Transcription assignment
Prof skill assessmnt1M20This will either take the form of a collaborative Pecha Kucha oral presentation or an individual poster presentation
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

-The transcription assignment assesses fieldwork and data collection/analysis skills not assessed in the unseen exam or in the oral/poster presentation skills assignment.
-The group presentation skills assignment assesses the student's ability to synthesize information concisely and present it coherently in oral/written form. It also assesses the student's ability to work collaboratively.
-The unseen exam tests written communication skills; analytical/problem solving skills; critical thinking/conceptual understanding/knowledge and ability to construct a logical argument.

Reading Lists