Introduction to Sociolinguistics
This course examines the underlying foundations of and recent developments in sociolinguistic approaches to the study of language. The aim is to examine in detail sociolinguistic debates at a number of levels. We consider how sociolinguistics differentiates itself from practices in asocial approaches to linguistics as well as looking at debates that rage both within sociolinguistics as a whole and within individual sub-branches of the discipline. The course considers topics such as: competence and performance; the role of intuition in language study; the role of variability, change and diachrony; description and prescription; social identity; language ideology; authenticity; and indexicality.
It aims, then, to examine the foundational building blocks of sociolinguistics – why it emerged when it did, how and why it differentiates itself from other forms of linguistics, and some of the fundamental debates that are going on within sociolinguistics. It is, therefore, largely (meta)theoretical. By the end of the course, students should know why sociolinguists do what they do (they won’t necessarily have to *agree* with them, though…), and the sorts of themes that sociolinguists are still grappling with, fifty years after the foundations of the discipline. It is, therefore, an overview course, and one aiming to give a sense of the basic principles of sociolinguistics.