Accessibility statement

Introduction to sociolinguistics



This module covers the basics of sociolinguistics, the subdiscipline of linguistics which deals with linguistic variability and the social use of language, as well as the relationship between these and language change.  The aims of this module are:

  • to give you an awareness of the causes and parameters of variation in language, and the roles of variation in communication
  • to familiarise you with key concepts, terminology and theories in sociolinguistics, particularly those pertaining to linguistic variation and language change
  • to introduce the methodologies used to investigate variation 
  • to give you experience in handling data collected from studies of language variation
  • to give you experience of the kinds of argumentation employed in interpreting empirical data
  • to allow you to explore how speakers use variation in their own speech to signal social identity, and how they evaluate other speakers’ identities through their perception of variation
  • to teach you something of the value of studying variation for the development of linguistic theory

Knowledge outcomes

  • a general understanding of the causes and effects of linguistic variation and change
  • a general understanding of methodologies for studying variation and change
  • a general understanding of how variation is structured geographically, socially and through time, in English and other languages
  • a general understanding of how studying variation and change contributes to linguistic theory, and vice versa
  • students will develop an awareness of the ethical considerations involved in performing empirical work in the field

Behavioural outcomes

  • students will learn to identify variation in spontaneous speech
  • students will be able to identify internal and external constraints on variability
  • students will be able to handle data quantitatively
  • students will develop an ability to interpret statistics
  • students will be able to conduct small scale research on variation



There are no prerequisites if you are taking this module in Year 1. However, Introduction to Syntax and Introduction to Phonetics and Phonology are co-requisites.

If you want to take this module in Year 2, you must already have completed Introduction to Syntax and Introduction to Phonetics and Phonology.

Information for visiting students: Basic knowledge of phonetics, phonology and syntax is required on this module.



Contact hours

The module is taught over three terms. There will be a weekly lecture supported by a weekly seminar. 

Teaching materials

  • Meyerhoff, M. (2006). Introducing Sociolinguistics. London: Routledge. 

Assessment and feedback

Assessment and feedback

Formative assessment

  • Submission of formative assessment will be required for progression to further modules in this strand.  This will include exploratory and analytical exercises as well as essays. An obligatory class test will take place in Week 1 of Term 2.

Summative assessment

  • A written project/report 
    • Date: Term 3, Week1
    • Weight: 40%
  • A 90 minute closed exam
    • Date: Term 3, Weeks 5-7
    • Weight: 60%

About this module

  • Module name
    Introduction to sociolinguistics
  • Course code
    L10C (LAN00010C)
  • Teacher 
    Andrew Euan MacFarlane
  • Term(s) taught
    All terms
  • Credits