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Advanced Topics in Language Variation & Change - LAN00002H

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  • Department: Language and Linguistic Science
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. George Bailey
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25

Module summary

This module builds on the first-year and second-year sociolinguistics content to introduce you to a range of advanced topics in the field of language variation and change. The topics can change from year to year, but there is usually a focus on language and dialect contact (how is the way you speak determined by the people you come into contact with?), plasticity and lifespan change (in what ways do we modify our accents depending on short- and long-term changes in our social situations?) and methods in dialectology (how has the study of dialectology developed over the years, and what insights can be gained from modern methods?).

Related modules

Pre-requisite modules

Co-requisite modules

  • None

Prohibited combinations

  • None

Additional information

With respect to prerequisites the following modules are equivalent:

Second year modules

  • Intermediate Language Variation and Change, Sociolinguistics

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2024-25

Module aims

The module demonstrates how a sociolinguistic approach can benefit our understanding of language change. It emphasises language contact, dialect contact, demography and social structure. There is a focus on the critical analysis of advanced case studies in a number of areas of language variation and change, and there are opportunities to develop skills in data analysis and the option to put those into practice for a small-scale research project.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • demonstrate knowledge and understanding of qualitative and quantitative approaches in the domains of language contact, dialect contact, and sociolinguistic models of change

  • give a critical account of linguistic phenomena arising from contact, describing and contrasting them based on data contained in published articles.

  • show an understanding of the problem of language change from several standpoints, including change derived from contact, the transmission of language from adults to children, and change within individuals during adulthood

  • perform analysis on sociolinguistic datasets of natural language use, including appropriate basic statistical techniques and the interpretation of results

  • show awareness of how methods in the study of dialectology have developed over the years, and of the various strengths and weaknesses of different approaches to the study of regional variation

Module content

The exact topics covered in this module sometimes differ from year to year, but here are some indicative topics that are often covered:

  • Internal/external motivations for language change

  • The role of contact in language change

  • How changes move through time and space

  • Methods in dialectology

  • Plasticity and lifespan change


Task Length % of module mark
1000 word Data analysis report
N/A 30
3000 Word Essay
N/A 70

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Reassessment essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

Written feedback will be provided within 25 days of submission. For the formative assignment, feedback may be a combination of written feedback returned via email and oral feedback during the essay-writing workshop seminars in Week 11.

Indicative reading

Hazen, Kirk (2011). Labov: Variation and change. In Wodak, Ruth, Johnstone, Barbara & Kerswill, Paul. SAGE handbook of sociolinguistics. London: Sage. 24–39.

Kerswill, Paul (2004). Social dialectology. In Klaus Mattheier, Ulrich Ammon & Peter Trudgill (eds.) Sociolinguistics/Soziolinguistik. An international handbook of the science of language and society, 2nd edn., Vol 1. Berlin: De Gruyter. 22–33.

Tagliamonte, Sali (2011). Variationist sociolinguistics: Change, observation, interpretation. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. [Chapter 2, but especially pp. 25–38].

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.