‘Language and Society’ is an advanced (i.e. 300-level) course which focuses on the sub-discipline of linguistics known as ‘sociolinguistics.’ The course aims to explore the many and varied forms of mutual influence and interaction between language and society in different social contexts. As such, and in contrast to formalist approaches, this course puts context centre-stage. Some of the key questions considered in this course will include:

  • How do norms of language use differ between societies and cultures?
  • What is the relationship between language and individual or group identity?
  • What has language got to do with power?
  • Do people from different social classes use language differently?
  • Why do languages change? Why do they die?
  • How do dialects come about?
  • Do women really use language differently than men? (And why are we so busy with this search for difference in the first place?)


The aims of this course are to provide students with a comprehensive coverage of theory and practice in sociolinguistics, to inform their understanding of its historical develop­ment through a critical reading of a classic texts in the field, to equip them with the analytical tools needed to understand and evalu­ate contemporary sociolinguistic research, and to develop their awareness of the complex inter­relationships between linguistic and social structures.