Language in Society

The details
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 4
Monday 13 January 2020
Friday 20 March 2020
25 April 2019


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA QX31 Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL),
BA QX41 Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) (Including Foundation Year),
BA QX51 Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) (Including Placement Year),
BA QXH1 Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) (Including Year Abroad),
BA QV3C English Language and History (Including Year Abroad),
BA QQ13 English Language and Linguistics,
BA QQ15 English Language and Linguistics (Including Placement Year),
BA QQ16 English Language and Linguistics (Including Foundation Year),
BA QQ3D English Language and Linguistics (Including Year Abroad),
BA QQ23 English Language and Literature,
BA QQ24 English Language and Literature (Including Foundation Year),
BA QQ32 English Language and Literature (Including Year Abroad),
BA QQ35 English Language and Literature (Including Placement Year),
BA QB36 English Language and Language Development (Including Year Abroad),
BA QQ3C English Language and Language Development,
BA QQ3F English Language and Language Development (Including Placement Year),
BA Q100 Linguistics,
BA Q101 Linguistics (Including Year Abroad),
BA Q102 Linguistics (Including Foundation Year),
BA Q103 Linguistics (Including Placement Year),
BA L390 English Language and Sociology (Including Year Abroad),
BA LQ31 English Language and Sociology,
BA RQ93 Modern Languages and English Language,
BA RQ99 Modern Languages and English Language (5 Years Including Foundation Year),
BA RQ91 Modern Languages and Linguistics,
BA RQ98 Modern Languages and Linguistics (5 Years Including Foundation Year),
BA P510 Journalism and English Language,
BA P511 Journalism and English Language (Including Placement Year),
BA P512 Journalism and English Language (Including Year Abroad),
BA QP10 English Language with Media Communication,
BA QP11 English Language with Media Communication (Including Year Abroad),
BA QP12 English Language with Media Communication (Including Placement Year)

Module description

This module provides an introduction to the role of variation in the language system, and the techniques and concepts required to study the way language varies and changes, including geographically (geographical dialect), according to social context (social dialect), and across time – that is, to the basic principles of sociolinguistics and language variation. We begin by defining language, dialect, and other varieties, and considering myths about language.

Topics include language attitudes and ideologies; the fundamentals of measuring language variation; variation across time, regions, and social categories; social patterns and social functions of language variation; speaker variables; models and methods of studying language change; and the relationship of variation to language change. Examples are drawn from the whole history of English dialect usage and change in the British Isles, and varieties of English worldwide.

Module aims

The module aims to:
• Introduce the basic concepts of language variation and change
• Address some popular myths about language
• Investigate attitudes to language and ideologies about language
• Introduce fundamental techniques for describing and measuring language variation (across time, region, and social category)
• Describe the social patterns and social functions of language variation
• Illustrate the relationship of language variation to language change

Module learning outcomes

Students will be able to:
– Understand the role variation plays in language systems
– Analyse variation in vernacular data and explain its systematic patterning
– Approach the primary academic literature on how social categories affect language use
– Understand how attitudes to language are intertwined with language use and structure
– Relate synchronic variation to models of language change
– Critically view the social functions and values of dialects and vernacular language usage

Module information

No additional information available.

Learning and teaching methods

2 hour lecture, and a 1 hour class, every week x 10 weeks


  • Garrett, Peter. (2007) 'Language attitudes', in The Routledge companion to sociolinguistics, London: Routledge., pp.116-121
  • Labov, William. (1989) 'The child as linguistic historian', in Language Variation and Change. vol. 1 (01) , pp.85-
  • Wardhaugh, Ronald; Fuller, Janet M. (2015) An introduction to sociolinguistics, Chichester: Wiley Blackwell.

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   Exercise 1  03/02/2020  16.66% 
Coursework   Exercise 2  24/02/2020  16.66% 
Coursework   Exercise 3  16/03/2020  16.66% 
Coursework   Essay   20/04/2020  50% 
Exam  120 minutes during Summer (Main Period) (Main) 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
50% 50%


Coursework Exam
50% 50%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Peter Patrick, email: patrickp@essex.ac.uk.
Prof Peter Patrick & Dr Ella Jefferies
Prof Peter Patrick, Office: 4.328, Tel: 01206 872088, Email: patrickp@essex.ac.uk - Dr Ella Jefferies, Office: 4.207, Tel: 01206 873762, Email: e.jeffries@essex.ac.uk



External examiner

Dr Christopher Lucas
University of London
Senior Lecturer in Arabic Linguistics
Available via Moodle
Of 68 hours, 68 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

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