Approaches to Language in Society

The details
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Thursday 08 October 2020
Friday 18 December 2020
14 May 2020


Requisites for this module



Key module for

MRESQ14512 Analysing Language Use,
MA Q14012 Language in Society

Module description

This module provides an overview of variationist sociolinguistic theory and findings which focuses on exploring social and linguistic constraints on variation in addition to addressing contemporary variationist theoretical challenges.

Module aims

The module will introduce various approaches to theorizing, analyzing and interpreting sociolinguistic data vis-à-vis language variation and change (LVC) and social identity.

Module learning outcomes

In this module you will gain an understanding of:
• the principles underlying the variationist perspective of language variation and change with an emphasis on external social and internal linguistic factors which mediate variation and change
• the ways in which linguistic theory intersects with, and is complemented by sociolinguistic data and theorizing
• the main research questions, concepts, premises and data foci within variationist LVC research

Module information

Module page on Moodle.

Learning and teaching methods

One 2hr lecture/discussion per week for 10 weeks


  • Labov, William. (c1972) 'The Social Stratification of (r) in New York City Department Stores', in Sociolinguistic patterns, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. vol. Conduct and communication, pp.43-69
  • Labov, William. (1994) 'The study of change in progress: Observations in real time', in Principles of linguistic change, vol. 1: Internal Factors, Oxford: Blackwell. vol. Language in society, pp.73-84
  • Meyerhoff, Miriam. (2019) 'Social networks and communities of practice. Chapter 9', in Introducing sociolinguistics, Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Eckert, Penelope. (1997) 'Age as a sociolinguistic variable', in The handbook of sociolinguistics, Oxford: Blackwell. vol. Blackwell handbooks in linguistics
  • Chambers. (c2003) 'Class, Network & Mobility', in Sociolinguistic theory: linguistic variation and its social significance, Oxford: Blackwell. vol. Language in society, pp.39-92
  • Bayley, Robert. (2002) 'The quantitative paradigm', in The handbook of language variation and change, Malden, Mass: Blackwell Publishers. vol. Blackwell handbooks in linguistics, pp.117-141
  • Ash, S. (2002) 'Social Class', in The handbook of language variation and change, Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers. vol. Blackwell handbooks in linguistics, pp.402-422
  • Patrick, Peter. (2002) 'The Speech Community', in The handbook of language variation and change, Malden, Mass: Blackwell Publishers., pp.573-597
  • Sankoff, Gillian. (c2004) 'Adolescents, young adults and the critical period: two case studies from "Seven Up"', in Sociolinguistic variation: critical reflections, Oxford: Oxford University Press. vol. Oxford studies in sociolinguistics, pp.121-139
  • Bailey, Guy. (2013) 'Real and apparent time', in The handbook of language variation and change, Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell. vol. Blackwell handbooks in linguistics, pp.239-262
  • Penelope Eckert and Sally McConnell-Ginet. (1992) 'Think Practically and Look Locally: Language and Gender as Community- Based Practice', in Annual Review of Anthropology: Annual ReviewsAnnual Reviews. vol. 21, pp.461-490
  • Cheshire, Jenny. (2002) 'Sex and gender in variationist research', in The handbook of language variation and change, Malden, Mass: Blackwell Publishers. vol. Blackwell handbooks in linguistics
  • Allan Bell. (1984) 'Language Style as Audience Design', in Language in Society: Cambridge University PressCambridge University Press. vol. 13 (2) , pp.145-204
  • Sharma, Devyani. (2011-09) 'Style repertoire and social change in British Asian English', in Journal of Sociolinguistics. vol. 15 (4) , pp.464-492
  • Watt, D. (2007) 'Variation and the variable', in The Routledge companion to sociolinguistics, London: Routledge., pp.3-11
  • Wagner, Suzanne Evans. (2012-06) 'Age Grading in Sociolinguistic Theory', in Language and Linguistics Compass. vol. 6 (6) , pp.371-382
  • Chambers, JK. (1995) 'Expressing Sex and Gender', in Sociolinguistic theory: linguistic variation and its social significance, Oxford: Blackwell. vol. Language in society

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   Essay  22/01/2021  100% 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Enam Al-Wer, email: enama@essex.ac.uk.
Enam Al-Wer
4.202b, 872240, enama@essex.ac.uk



External examiner

Dr Maciej Baranowski
University of Manchester
Senior Lecturer in English Sociolinguistics
Available via Moodle
Of 18 hours, 16 (88.9%) hours available to students:
2 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

Disclaimer: The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its Module Directory is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to programmes, modules, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include a change of law or regulatory requirements, industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key personnel, change in government policy, or withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to modules may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery or assessment of modules and other services, to discontinue modules and other services and to merge or combine modules. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications and module directory.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.