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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, and it has contributed significantly to theories on language change. 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 less straightforward variables have also been investigated, such as various types of mobility.

In this MA course, students will be discovering sociolinguistics by reading not only an introduction into sociolinguistics but journal articles on sociolinguistic experimental research as well. They will get hands-on experience in doing sociolinguistic research by collecting empirical data and analysing them. They will thus receive a broad theoretical and practical introduction into this field which relies heavily on real-life language data.

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 by June 1st at

Mode of instruction

A two hour seminar per week.

Assessment method

  • Participation (30%)

  • Course paper (30%)

  • Exam (40%)


This course is supported by Blackboard. A detailed course description can be found there, as well as homework and presentation overviews, etc.

Reading list

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

  • Articles (will be posted on Blackboard)


Students should register through uSis.

Contact information

Departmental Office English Language and Culture, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 102C. Tel. 071 5272144; mail:
Coordinator of Studies Master: Ms. K. van der Zeeuw-Filemon, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 103C.


No remarks.