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 taken their own approach: 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 social and geographical 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.
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
Mode of instruction
2-hour weekly seminar
Participation and Homework (30%)
Course Paper (30%)
Rajend Mesthrie, Joan Swann, Andrea Deumert & William Leap (2009). Introducing Sociolinguistics. 2nd edn. Edinburgh University Press.
Students should register through uSis
Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.