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Language Acquisition: Sociolinguistics


Admission Requirements



The study of language variation has revealed how people use, evaluate and perceive language and speech. The first major sociolinguistic investigation was by William Labov in the 1960s. He looked at the use of English in New York department stores and found that people adjusted their speech to listeners, for various reasons. Most importantly, he proved that pronunciation variation that seemed random was in fact quite systematic, and predictable on the basis of speaker characteristics and social circumstances. Many other investigations into English and other languages have since been performed, all of which have had their own angle: evaluation, perception, description, and various others. Sex, social class, and age have been the most important variables studied, but other variables have also been investigated. In this MA course, sociolinguistic articles – mainly on English language variation – will be discussed, as well as relevant sociolinguistic theory. Through real-life examples and small-scale experiments, students will be exposed to sociolinguistic research.

Course Objectives

  • learn to read and interpret sociolinguistic literature;

  • understand the most relevant aspects of sociolinguistic theory;

  • learn to present and discuss research and write critically on this research.


The timetable will be available from July 1 onwards on the Department website.

Mode of Instruction

Two-hour seminar per week.


  • Presentations (40%)

  • Homework (20%)

  • Course paper (40%)
    The course can be extended to 15 ECTS through an exam on the book.


This course is supported by Blackboard.

Reading list

  • Introducing Sociolinguistics, Andrea Deumert, Joan Swann, Rajend Mesthrie, William Leap, (latest edition)


Students can register through uSis.

Register for Contractonderwijs

Contact information

English Department, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 103c. Phone: 071 527 2144, or mail: