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Reference texts

    Holmes, Janet. 1992. An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. London: Longman. 

    Wardhaugh, Ronald. 1992. An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. Second Edition. Oxford: Blackwell.

    (Students should purchase one of these. Holmes is easier to follow; Wardhaugh covers more research and will be useful for a longer time.)

Useful links Recommended reading
    Baker, Colin. 1992. Attitudes and Language. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. 

    Bernstein, Basil. 1970. 'Social Class, Language and Socialization'. Pier Paolo Giglioli ed. 1972. Language and Social Context. Harmondsworth: Penguin. 157-178. 

    Biber, Douglas. 1994. Sociolinguistic Perspectives on Register. New York: Oxford University Press. 

    Byram, Michael, and Veronica Esarte-Sarries. 1991. Investigating Cultural Studies in Foreign Language Teaching. Clevedon and Philadelphia: Multilingual Matters. 

    Chambers, J. K. and Peter Trudgill. 1980. Dialectology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

    Coates, Jennifer. 1993. Women, Men, and Language. A Sociolinguistic Account of Gender Differences in Language. London: Longman. 

    Coulmas, Florian. 1991. 'European Integration and the Idea of a National Language'. Florian Coulmas, ed. A Language Policy for the European Community. Prospects and Quandaries. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter. 1-37. 

    Coupland, Nikolas, Justine Coupland and Howard Giles. 1991. Language, Society and the Elderly. Oxford and Cambridge MA: Blackwell. 

    Crystal, David. 1987. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

    Crystal, David. 1988. The English Language Today. Harmondsworth: Penguin. 

    Fasold, Ralph. 1984. The Sociolinguistics of Society. Oxford: Blackwell. Gass, Susan M. 1996. Speech Acts Across Cultures.Challenges to Communication in a Secon Language. Berlin: De Gruyter. 

    Giglioli, Pier Paolo, ed. 1972. Language and Social Context. Harmondsworth: Penguin. 

    Graddol, David, Dick Leith and Joan Swann. 1996. English. History, Diversity and Change. London and New York:Routledge/IOpen University. 

    Halliday, M. A. K. 1978. Language as Social Semiotic. London: Edward Arnold. Heller, M. ed. 1988. Codeswitching: anthropological and sociolinguistic perspectives. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. 

    Holmes, Janet. 1986. 'Functions of you know in women's and men's speech'. Language in Society 15/1. 1-22. 

    Holmes, Janet. 1992. An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. London and New York: Longman. 

    Hudson, Richard A. 1980. Sociolinguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

    Joseph, John Earl. 1987. Eloquence and Power. The Rise of Language Standards and Standard Languages. London: Pinter. 

    Junyent, Carme. 1992. Vida i mort de les llengües. Barcelona: Empúries. 

    Kim, Young Yun. 1988. Communication and Cross-Cultural Adaptation: An Integrative Theory. Clevedon, Philadelphia: Multilingual Matters. 

    Labov, William.1969. 'The Logic of Nonstandard English'. Pier Paolo Giglioli ed. 1972. Language and Social Context. Harmondsworth: Penguin 179-125. 

    Labov, William. 1990. 'The Intersection of Sex and Social Class in the Course of Linguistic Change'. Language Variation and Change 2/2. 205-254. 

    Lakoff, Robin. 1975. Language and Woman's Place. New York: Harper Colophon. 

    Maybin, Janet, and Neil Mercer, eds. 1996. Using English. From Conversation to Canon. London and New York: Routledge/Open University. 

    Mackay, William Francis. 1976. Sociolinguistic Studies in Language Contact. The Hague: Mouton. 

    McKay, Sandra Lee, and Nancy H. Hornberger. 1996. Sociolinguistics and Language Teaching. Cambridge University Press. 

    McMahon, April M. S. 1994. Understanding Language Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

    Milroy, Lesley, and Pieter Muysken. 1995. One Speaker, Two Languages: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives on Code-Switching. Cambridge University Press. 

    Myers-Scotton, C. 1993. Duelling Languages: A Grammatical Structure in Codeswitching. Oxford: Clarendon. 

    París, Noemí. 1992. 'El renaixement de la llengua hebrea'. Carme Junyent, Vida i mort de les llengües. Barcelona: Empúries.119-131. 

    Preisler, Bent. 1986. Linguistic Sex Roles in Conversation. Berlin: Mouton De Gruyter. 

    Reding, Viviane (rapporteur). 1990. Rapport sur la situation des langues dans les Communautés européenne et celle de la langue catalane. Document A3-169/90, Documents de séance. Brussels: Communautés européennes. 

    Romaine, Suzanne. 1984. The Language of Children and Adolescents. Oxford: Blackwell. 

    Tannen, Deborah. 1990. You Just Don't Understand. New York: William Morrow. 

    Tannen, Deborah. 1994. Talking from 9 to 5. Women and Men at Work: Language, Sex and Power. London: Virago. 

    Turell, M. Teresa. 1984. Elements per a la recerca sociolingüística a Catalunya. Barcelona: Edicions 62. 

    Valdman, Albert, ed. 1977. Pidgin and Creole Linguistics. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 

    Wardhaugh, Ronald. 1987. Languages in Competition. Oxford: Blackwell.


    Language in Society (Cambridge University Press) 
    Language Variation and Change (Cambridge University Press) 
    Discourse and Society (Sage)

Introduction to variation: Names, varieties in domains.

Introduction to sociolinguistics. The nature of variation

Task: Write the names by which you are known.

There are no single-style speakers.

Styles vary according to domain.

Overview of basic concepts:

variation (think/tink, dont know/dunno, tomahto/tomayto). The production and use of variants, allowing semantic effects or identification of a social/regional location. 

variants Each of the terms entering into variation.

variables Factors that vary. In sociolinguistics, variables are either linguistic (e.g. rhotic / non-rhotic) or social (e.g. age, sex, class, drunkenness, writing).

variety  A blanket term replacing language, dialect, code.


Note: Language-learning problems usually concern homonyms: example of run into (the house, the wall, a friend, difficulty, problems, happiness?). Variation, on the other hand, involves different signifiers for the same signified. The semantic difference refers to the social variables usually associated with the variant.


Variation may happen on any level: phonetic, morphological, syntactic, textual, lingual.

Saussurean langue/parole is not much good, since variation would appear not to be working on the basis of pure differences between terms (Saussure did not consider the possibility of having two signifiers for the one signified). Indeed, the systemic nature of langue would appear not to be respected by variation, which can run across language boundaries.

American sociolinguistics of variation privileges phonetic variation (e.g. rhotic variants in New York). This is normal in a monolingual speech community, since it emphasises the identity of that community (the phonemes remain localizable in systemic terms). However, most speech communities are multilingual, and variation should also be seen as operating between languages (e.g. bueno, bé, buenoo in La Canonja). Indeed, the emphasis on phonetics may be seen as an imperialism of monolingual linguistics (each society has the linguistics it deserves).

Some application might be made of competence/performance, although no one learnt their many names from a grammar book.

 Variation and varieties in school

Revision: On the basis of names, variation is a basic fact of language. Variants changes according to domain. This means there are no single-style speakers.

Overview of basic concepts:

variation (think/tink, dont know/dunno, tomahto/tomayto). The production and use of variants, allowing semantic effects or identification of a social/regional location. 

variants Each of the terms entering into variation.

variables Factors that vary. In sociolinguistics, variables are either linguistic (e.g. rhotic / non-rhotic) or social (e.g. age, sex, class, drunkenness, writing).

variety  A blanket term replacing language, dialect, code.

This lesson focuses on the varieties used in primary schools, since this is the scene of the main historical debates of English-language sociolinguistics.

Account of the Catalan teachers talk in the Calaceite school:

The talk:

1. What language do we speak?

            - "chapurreao"

            - a mixture

            - bad Catalan

            - no name (i.e. not a language)

2. We must teach the Catalan that is spoken here! (defence of the local culture)

3. The childrens language is full of Hispanisms that must be countered

          cuchillo / ganivet etc.

          Women: at home we use the proper words.

4. The children must know when they are speaking Spanish and when they are speaking Catalan.i.e. there is a language to defend; there is a language to form (and the defence may be of both languages...).

5. Asks for money for the schoolbooks (the local variety must be written so that it can be taught).

Should school reproduce the language of the home? ... This was the claim first made.

Should school give the variety that gives access to social power? ... This is the final claim made.

But in the subtle switch between one and the other, the people have lost their specific language. Defence of diversity leads to resistance to change.

Better, the defence of variation (the in-between of language) gave way to the separation of languages, into standardized written varieties.

(False) problem of relativist vs universalist positions.

False question: Why are languages different?

Inuit snow and Arabic sand (Wardaugh p. 12)

English gardens and Italian lovers

Men and womens language

Real question: How are languages separated?

Derridas critique of Saussure in 1967: the exclusion of the written signifier was necessary for the illusory system. Sociolinguistic variation restores the conceptual geometry of this second signifier, this différance, if we must.

Systemic linguistics must suppress the in-between positions, the remainder (Lecercle). A sociolinguistics of variation might attempt to restore some of those non-binarisms, especially if carried out on a cross-lingual basis.

The geometry of variation is like that of ideal translation. What we find happening within one language, or within the simple exercise of proper names, may explain what is happening when we translate between languages.

But to see that, we must go beyond systemic linguistics, which separates the world and would separate intra- from inter-lingual processes.


1. Describe the language you used / were taught in school. Discuss the problem of the transition from the home domain to that of education.

2. Look at the examples studied by Bernstein and Labov. Try to see what the significant variables are. Try to identify which speakers belong to which social class.


Bernstein and Labov both studied the language of schoolchildren, but with very different aims. Bernstein found there was a difference between restricted and elaborated codes, such that the more working-class children would not explain explicit relations. Labov considered this unacceptable deficit linguistics, and highlighted the colour and narrativity of the Black English used in schools.] 

Trudgill hold that Bernstein does not do sociolinguistics; Labov does. Is there any basis for such a position?






Review:      variety (see Wardhaugh for discussion of definitions)





                 Two views of society: systemic or fragmented.


Notion of variety styles/codes in domains:



  • Domain-Addressee-Setting-Topic-Mode-Variety/code
  • family-friendship-religion-education-employment

(Holmes p. 24)

Get students to guess each others answers.

Any one factor may become decisive.

Social distance: according to addressee / mode

Domain leakage: according to topic. What language do you count in?

Check results for tu/vosté.


Little fundamental difference between mono and multilingual communities here?


Problems in the observation of variation

PROBLEM: If there are no single-style speakers, how can we observe language on this level?

Labov: The Observers Paradox: The aim is to observe language as if it were not being observed.

ACTIVITY: Interview a native speaker.

Minimal pairs: car/ ca: , test / tess, water /wader, think / tink, running/runnin, dont / don, what / wha. 

Words: culture, car, driving, water, running water, test, what, best, mother, literature, think, I dont know.


Literature is an important part of culture.

The best washing is done with running water.

I test my car by driving it.

The best thing is to have no wars.

I dont know what you think.

-Tell us if you have ever been in a situation where you feared for your life.


Assess results for different tests. (different groups looking for different variables)


Compare with Labov in NY (Holmes p. 268)

Phenomenon of hypercorrectness:

     - people know what is correct but choose not to use it

     - social mobility is reflected in changing choices

     - the role of women in hypercorrectness.

Interviewees are always aware of being interviewed: cf. Pere Navarro pp. 30, 32.


1. People know what is correct but they choose not to.

2. The role of women in hypercorrectness?


Pick a variable for your language and interview someone on at least two levels: Write up the report in half a page.



Labov in New York


Labov, William. 1972. Sociolinguistic Patterns. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvalia Press. Chapter 2, The Social Stratification of (r) in New York City Department Stores

Labov, William. 1994. Principles of Linguistic Change. Internal factors. Oxford UK & Cambridge Mass.: Blackwell. 86-94.

Nature of stratification: What are the criteria of prestige (in Tarragona)?

Money, dress, speech, language, location? Does it vary with age? With profession.

In New York study: social differentiation and evaluation. What does this mean?



Easy to compare different professions. Harder to do a comparison within the one profession.

Selection of the three department stores (Saks, Maceys, Klein)

How would we select fashion shops in Tarragona? Or hotels?

Labovs criteria based on:

1. Location

2. Placement of publicity

3. Prices

4. Presentation of prices

5. Use of space

6. Pay scale Contradiction: Saks pays less than Maceys since white-collar employees borrow prestige from the people they interact with.


Selection of dependent variable (r):

In 1930s the prestige variety in NY was New English non-rhoticism (cf. films of 1930s). This changed to the Mid-West rhoticism as the prestige variety (as a result of the War? Of rising nationalism? Of reaction against international English?) The aim is to map the social stratification of this change.

Hypothesis (p. 44):

If any two subgroups of New York City speakers are ranked in a scale of social stratification, then they will be ranked in the same order by their differential use of (r).

Method: (carried out on two afternoons in 1962)


Interviewer: Excuse me, where are the womens shoes?

- On the fourth floor.

Excuse me?

- On the fourth floor.

Move away and write down:

Four values for (r): preconsonantal / final :: casual / emphatic (see p. 50)


sex, estimated age, foreign accent, shop and floor (variation in (th)), occupation, race. 

Interviewing of 264 subjects in 6.5 hours. Value of rapid and anonymous observations.



Three groups: all (r-1), some (r-1), no (r-1)

p. 51: overall stratification (transparency)

The hypothesis is thus confirmed.

p. 52: % of (r-1) for the four positions (transparency)

This can be used as an indication of linguistic security.

For independent variables:

- correlation with race (table 2.3 transparency. But few blacks in prestige store)

- correlation with job (table 2.)

- correlation with floor in Saks (2.)


- correlation within group of native New York white saleswomen (2.3)

NOTE: Labov discusses race but not sex!


- no correlation with age (2.5)

Why not? this is where research can lead to something new.

Is there a pattern here? Apparently not. But this changes with bivariate analysis (age groups within individual stores) and further data from a wider survey (2.6).

Now a pattern is visible.

Conclusion: Middle-age speakers adopt the new prestige variety AND there is a generation gap between the social strata.


Revisited in 1986. Fowler replicates the experiment and finds WHAT?

- all levels are higher, particularly in Saks

- but the patterns are much the same

- more age-grading than generational change, so

- the speech community has been remarkably stable over the 14 years.




Take Labovs study and suggest how it could be applied to:

            - fashion shops in Tarragona (Catalan / Castilian)?


            - use of English in hotels.


            - any other public use of language?

Form groups according to each topic and decide:

- Dependent variable

- Independent variables

- Hypothesis

- Method

- Time schedule

 Present research projects to the whole class.


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