The module engages you in empirical studies of real-world speech communities. You will describe regional and social dialects of English, with a particular focus on Coventry and the West Midlands. You will gather language data through a variety of methodologies, including collecting written surveys, conducting face-to-face interviews, and data-mining social media. You will deepen your knowledge about types of language change, motivations for it, and models to describe it. You will be challenged to create high-quality research outputs that advance knowledge, and hone qualitative and quantitative analytic skills that will be essential to your dissertation and other linguistic work.
Upon successful completion of this module, you will be able to:
- Describe features of major regional and social dialects of British and other Englishes.
- Describe important, regularly occurring patterns of language change.
- Discuss competing theoretical perspectives on the concept of the “speech community.”
- Formulate a hypothesis regarding a linguistic variable.
- Identify sites for studies of specific linguistic variables.
- Defend methodological decisions, based on the variable being studied, the characteristics of the speech community, and principles for ethical research.
- Evaluate the suitability of various data collection techniques for studying different communities and research questions.
- Construct a variety of instruments for collecting language data from a speech community.
- Collect real-world language data from a speech community.
- Analyse language data using basic descriptive and inferential statistics.
- Interpret quantitative results.
- Report findings from a study of a speech community in a formal academic paper.
Core content will be presented during weekly 1-hour lectures.
The centerpiece of the module is weekly 2-hour workshops. During these small-group meetings, we will collaboratively design and build research instruments, and compile and analyse data we have collected during a series of real-world "micro projects."
You will complete small-scale data collection and analysis projects throughout the term. These “micro projects” provide essential practical experience in dialectological work to support your learning, and typify the module’s emphasis on project-based learning. You will submit as instrument you’ve created on the model of one of these micro projects for formal assessment. This forms 10% of your mark.
You will conduct an independent research project and present results as a short academic article. This forms 50% of your mark.
The final examination will take mastery of core module content. This forms 40% of your mark.
- Boberg, Charles, John Nerbonne & Dominic Watt (eds.). The Handbook of Dialectology. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
- Chambers, J.K. & Peter Trudgill. 2012. Dialectology. 2nd edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Exemplary student projects
- “Accentless” in Coventry
- Are there functional differences across British English dialects’ use of well as a discourse marker?
- Attitudes toward regional variants in British English based on negation
- A Comparison Between Birmingham accent and London accent
- The different uses of like and their distribution within the UK
- Exploring the language attitudes held towards a Warwickshire dialect with the presence of a guise
- Vowel variation among speakers of Singaporean English
- "Well, how do we use it?": A sociolinguistic questionnaire study on the usage of well in differing social contexts