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MA Linguistics / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
The Sociolinguistics of English

Unit code LELA70232
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Linguistics & English Language
Available as a free choice unit? No


The course introduces students to the quantitative study of linguistic variation and change, also known as variationist sociolinguistics. The focus is on variation and changes currently occurring in English. A number of classic studies in the field are reviewed, and quantitative methods are used to account for the role of linguistic and extra-linguistic factors, such as socio-economic status, gender, age, ethnicity, and region. The course includes data collection by students, multivariate statistical analysis, and provides a foundation for postgraduate work in variationist sociolinguistics and urban dialectology.


A course in phonetics/phonology (or equivalent independent reading)


  • To introduce sociolinguistics as the study of language variation and change
  • To introduce the main linguistic and extra-linguistic correlates of variation
  • To introduce key issues in linguistic data collection and analysis
  • To explore social variation and changes currently in progress in English
  • To prepare students for independent research in sociolinguistics

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • A systematic understanding of the key theoretical issues which have a bearing on the analysis of Language Variation and Change
  • Demonstrate self-direction and originality in the application of a variety of approaches to the analysis of data and evaluate the usefulness of different theories and frameworks for his/her own work.
  • Demonstrate an ability to design and conduct a small research project in the Language Variation and Change paradigm


  • Stable sociolinguistic variation
  • Language and socioeconomic status
  • Linguistic change in progress
  • The role of gender in language variation and change
  • Ethnicity in language variation and change
  • Dialect contact and dialect levelling
  • Transmission of linguistic variation
  • Statistics
  • Sociolinguistic field methods

Teaching and learning methods

  • Data collection practice
  • Data analysis practice
  • Online statistics quizzes

Knowledge and understanding

  • ·         An understanding of sociolinguistics as the scientific study of language variation and change

    ·         An understanding of both internal (linguistic) and extra-linguistics factors governing variation, such as gender, age, social class, ethnicity, and region

    ·         An understanding of the use and interpretation of quantitative methods of data analysis

    ·         An understanding of the changes occurring in present-day dialects of English

    The course provides a foundation for students’ independent research in sociolinguistics at postgraduate level

Intellectual skills

The successful completion of this unit will enable students to develop:

-          analytical skills

-          the ability to empirically test abstract ideas in sociolinguistics;

-          argumentation and presentation skills, both orally and in written form;

-          problem-posing and problem-solving skills;

-          the ability to obtain additional information about relevant topics;

-          critical awareness;

-          creativity and originality of thinking

Practical skills

Details should be listed of the specific expected learning outcomes, for a student studying this course unit, in relation to the students' practical skills.

·         ability to collect and code sociolinguistic data

·         ability to analyse sociolinguistic data using quantitative methods, including multiple logistic regression

preparing and delivering presentations

Transferable skills and personal qualities


  • Microsoft Excel skills
  • Multivariate statistics

Assessment methods

Assessment task

Formative or Summative


Weighting within unit (if summative)

Research paper




Group presentation




Statistics assignment





Feedback methods

  • Individual written feedback on statistics assignment, summative
  • Individual written feedback on research paper, summative
  • Oral feedback on presentation, summative

Recommended reading

Labov, William. 1972. Sociolinguistic Patterns. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press;

              Labov, William. 2001. Principles of Linguistic Change Volume 2: Social Factors. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.

              Tagliamonte, S. 2012. Variationist Sociolinguistics: Change, Observation, Interpretation. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 128

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Maciej Baranowski Unit coordinator

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