BA Linguistics and Social Anthropology

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Variationist Sociolinguistics

Course unit fact file
Unit code LELA20502
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Linguistics & English Language
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The course introduces students to the scientific study of linguistic variation and change, also known as variationist (or quantitative) sociolinguistics. The focus is on variation and changes currently occurring in English. A number of classic and recent studies in the field are reviewed, focussing on the role of linguistic and extra-linguistic factors, such as socio-economic status, gender, age, and region, in language variation and change. The module introduces students to the use and interpretation of quantitative methods of analysis, including tests of statistical significance. Topics also include 2nd-dialect acquisition and language change across the lifespan. The course includes data collection and analysis by students and provides a foundation for further work in variationist sociolinguistics and urban dialectology.


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
History and Varieties of English LELA10342 Pre-Requisite Compulsory


The principal aims of the course unit are as follows:
  • to learn about the ways in which the English language varies in the present, and the types of factors (both language-internal and language-external) that may condition that variation. These aims are met through exposure to a number of case studies in the literature as well as through your own data analysis;
  • to learn about the effects of age, gender, social class, identity, geographical region, and internal linguistic factors on phonetic, phonological, lexical, and morphosyntactic variables;
  • to learn about and experience the different methods by which sociolinguistic data can be gathered; 
  • to become familiar with statistical tests and methodology for quantitative data analysis in MS Excel.

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course students will:
  • be aware of the central issues in variationist sociolinguistics
  • be familiar with and able to comment critically on the major linguistic studies within the field
  • have an understanding of the standard methods using in variationist research

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:
  • critically judge and evaluate evidence
  • recognize flaws in arguments and assess the merits of contrasting explanations

Practical skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:
  • analyse existing sociolinguistic data and evaluate the methodologies used in the studies within the field
  • apply standard data analysis techniques and background concepts to new data

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this course students will be able to:
  • interpret information presented in the form of diagrams, tables and graphs
  • apply and interpret tests of statistical significance
  • successfully conduct self-directed study and research, with appropriate time management

Assessment methods

Exam 70%
Field Project: Data collection and quantitative analysis assignment; group submission 30%
Statistics quiz; online NA (formative)


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or summative

Personalized written feedback from course instructors on the fieldwork project submission;


Feedback from instructors during lectures and tutorials

Global feedback in class on the statistics quiz; individual quiz score.



Recommended reading

  • Labov, William. 2001. Principles of Linguistic Change: Social Factors. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Levon, Erez. 2010. Organising and processing your data: The nuts and bolts of quantitative analysis. In Lia Litosseliti (ed.), Research Methods in Linguistics, 68-92. London: Continuum.
  • Meyerhoff, Miriam. 2011. Introducing Sociolinguistics. 2nd edition. London: Routledge
  • Tagliamonte, Sali A. 2012. Variationist Sociolinguistics. Change, Observation, Interpretation. Chichester: Wiley-Backwell

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 1.5
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 165.5

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Maciej Baranowski Unit coordinator

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