Accessibility statement

Language variation and change



To provide a broad introduction to sociolinguistics, with a focus on fundamental concepts and approaches involved in the study of the links between language and society. You will learn about the main ways of describing language variation, conceived primarily as variation within a single language in a speech community (e.g. social, geographical and stylistic differences in spoken English). You will also delve into contemporary approaches to identity and language attitudes, drawing from both sociolinguistics and social psychology.



Contact hours

The module is taught during the Autumn Term. There will be a weekly one hour lecture and a two hour seminar.

Teaching programme

The lectures will present material, pausing to encourage discussion as well as doing mini-tasks.

The seminars will comprise, in different weeks, further points for discussion and the presentation and discussion of set articles.

We also consider the roles of a number of concepts, such as society, social class and gender – all in the context of the speech community. The methods used in sociolinguistics, particularly language variation and change, will be introduced, and a number of key areas of the discipline will provide examples of links between linguistic and social concerns, include language ‘death’ and language shift. You will explore the distinction between sociolinguistics as a ‘way of doing linguistics’ and as a field with primarily sociological concerns.

Teaching materials

There is no set text for this module, but you are recommended to buy one of:

  • Meyerhoff, Miriam (2007). Introducing sociolinguistics. Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Bell, A. (2013). The Guidebook to Sociolinguistics. Wiley Blackwell.



Formative assessment

  • Short written exercises, and paired oral presentations

Summative assessment

  • 2,500 word essay 

About this module

  • Module name
    Language variation and change
  • Course code
    L19M (LAN00019M)
  • Teacher 
    Andrew MacFarlane
  • Term(s) taught
  • Credits