This seminar offers an introduction to two related disciplines of linguistics that are both concerned with language variation. While Dialectology studies language variation across space, investigating the geographical distribution of linguistic features that differ from the standard variety of a given language, the focus of Sociolinguistics is on the correlation between language use and social variables, such as socio-economic class, occupation, gender and age. We will look at different types of variation found within the English language, depending on where, by whom and for which purpose it is used, in order to detect principles of variation that apply to all living languages. We will discuss central concepts and issues that affect the study of variation, such as the difference between ‘dialect’, ‘accent’ and ‘language’, the bias between prescriptivism and real language use, the treatment of linguistic minorities, and the social implications of using a certain variety or feature in everyday speech. We will look at different models that have been used to describe the mechanisms of variation, different methods of data collection, the work of renowned variational linguists, and some major linguistic projects from the two fields. Finally, you will also get some hands-on experience with recordings and transcripts of real language data. The course is open to all students who have successfully completed Modules A/II and C/III.

Preparatory readings:

J. K. Chambers and Peter Trudgill (1980) Dialectology. Cambridge University Press.

William Labov (1963) “The social motivation of a sound change.” Word 19:3, 273–309.

Also note the lecture "Language Variation and Change" by Prof. Buchstaller (Wed 12-14)