Sociolinguistic Variation

Instructor(s): Penny Eckert

Linguistic variability is a fundamentally important mode of social expression, carrying information about such things as the speaker's identity, emotions, and stance. It is also an essential mechanism for linguistic change, structuring the gradual transition from old to innovative forms. Finally, variability emerges from cognitive and articulatory processes in the course of speech production and perception. This course will present an approach to variation that brings these factors together, but will focus particularly on the role of variation in social practice.

Survey studies of variation show broad patterns that reflect the importance of global categories such as gender, age, class and ethnicity in structuring language use and the spread of innovation. At the same time, ethnographic studies focusing on variability in speech across small communities, groups, and individual styles, have shown that variation can express very subtle and local social meanings that are not directly related to global categories. This course will focus on the interactions between local and global patterns, bringing together quantitative and qualitative approaches to the study of social indexicality.

This course presupposes no training in sociolinguistics, but it does presuppose basic training in linguistics, particularly phonetics.

Course ID:

Mon & Thu 1:30-3:15

Classroom: MUEN E 0046

Areas of Linguistics:
Sociolinguistics and Anthropological