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ET216: Sociolinguistics


Why do we speak differently in different situations? Can you identify the different features of a Geordie and a Liverpool accent? Do men and women really speak differently, and, if so, what underlies these differences? In this module, we explore questions like these as we examine the relationship between language use and social context. This course builds on Language in Society but goes deeper to help you develop a greater understanding of and more tools for analysing the relationship between language use and its social context. It also provides you with an opportunity to conduct your own sociolinguistic research study. After taking this module, you will be apply a set of theoretical ideas and research skills to be able to address questions such as those above and explore your own questions in relation to how language works in our world.

This module can be taken as ET328 in your final year if you have not studied ET216 in your second year.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this module, you will be able to:

  • Develop a deeper understanding of and appreciation for how language carries social meaning.
  • Learn and critically evaluate theoretical concepts that help to explain the relationship between language use and society.
  • Be able to comment on sociolinguistic practice by applying theoretical concepts to the linguistic practices of a range of social groups, communities, cultures and/or countries.
  • Explore the social consequences of decisions about the use of language at macro (country-wide) and micro (in smaller social groups) levels.
  • Debunk stereotypical views of language and society.

Learning Experience


Core content will be presented during weekly 2-hour lectures.


We will meet in a weekly 1-hour small-group seminar to practice and apply course concepts.


2000 word assignment
2500 word assignment in final year

2-hour written examination (50%)

Preparatory Reading

  • Ball, M. J. (Ed.). (2010). Routledge handbook of sociolinguistics around the world. New York: Routledge.
  • Bayley, R., Cameron, R., & Lucas, C. (Eds.). (2013). The Oxford handbook of sociolinguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Exemplary student projects

  • The Netflix generation! Will we all end up speaking American English? Evidence from a lexical choice analysis of young UK adults.
  • Men are from Mars, women are from Suffolk? Do men or women from Suffolk draw more on the local dialectal features, and why?
  • Is Wenglish on the way back? Accounting for the rise in Welsh slang terms in the speech of young girls from Wales.
  • Language and Ethnicity: an investigation into the distribution of phonological features associated with MLE in Greater London
  • Americano, Americano, Americano: do Italian learners of English really favour American English?
  • Eee by gum: Is there a decline in the use of Yorkshire dialect across the younger generation?
  • The emerging influence of American English: has American English increased in Hong Kong since the British handover?

Academic Staff

Kieran File