ELL217 : Sociolinguistics

Convenor(s): Dr Gerry Howley


Please note: This module may or may not run in any given semester. Please check with the tutor.

General Information

Sociolinguistics explores the relationship between language and society, and this module will introduce you to variationist approaches to this discipline. Variationists are concerned with measuring the relationship between language features and social identities. We will address (and challenge) questions such as: Why do working class people use more localised language features than middle class people? Do women use more linguistic innovations than men? To what extent do speakers adapt their speaking style and what causes them do so? We will also consider how language change occurs over time and explore how language change spreads across social groups. Who are the movers and the shakers in language change? We will begin by exploring the origins of the field (in particular, exploring sociolinguists’ criticisms of mainstream linguistics) and go on to consider the quantitative research methods developed by sociolinguists to explore the relationship between key social factors (social class, gender, age, ethnicity) and language. This course will train you in sociolinguistic techniques and provide you with the skills to undertake your own research at Level 3.


The course is taught by 1 weekly lecture and 1 weekly seminar. The weekly seminar will follow upon the lecture material. Seminars will be student-centred and include group work, reading tasks and presentation-orientated tasks.


Assessment will be by a series of research tasks. These will include: extracting data and analysing audio recordings from a corpus of interviews; analysing which social factors correlate with language variation; and devising a proposal for your own sociolinguistic study.

Contact Details

0114 222 0216


Information last changed: Tuesday 21st of March 2017 :: 03:18:07 PM (GMT)


The University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield, S10 2TN, UK