Finding Out More

Here are some accessible resources if you have taken an interest in sociolinguistics and wish to research the topic further…


General overview

This book by Janet Holmes offers an easy-to-understand overview of what sociolinguistics is and why Sociolinguists study the topic. It also goes further into the relationship between sociolinguistics and gender, age and ethnicity.

  • Holmes, J. (2001) An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. Pearson Education Limited. Essex

Who studies sociolinguistics?

This book gives an insight into Gumperz and Hymes, just two sociolinguists out of many who studied this topic.

  • Gumperz, J.J. and Hymes, D., (eds) (1972) Directions in Sociolinguistics: The Ethnography of Communication. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston

When is sociolinguistics studied?

  • Chambers, J.K. and Trudgill, P., (1998). Dialectology. 2nd edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Dittmar, N., (1976). Sociolinguistics; A critical survey of theory and application. London: Edward Arnold.
  • Fisherman, J.A., (1971). Advances in the sociology of language.
  • Hudson, R. A., (1980). Sociolinguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Williams, G., (1992). Sociolinguistics: A social critique. London: Routledge.

Where is sociolinguistics studied?

It might prove quite tricky to get find out about some of the early stuff – we are taking it back a couple of thousand years – but the ones we used for India [1] and Germany [2] are listed below. As for the American studies, it is best to look at the researcher’s individual works and also the websites of the universities they now work at.

  • [1] McConnell, Grant D., (1991). A Macro-Sociolinguistic Analysis of Language Vitality: Geolinguistic Profiles and Scenarios of Language Contact in India. Sainte-Foy, Canada: Les Presses de l’Université Laval
  • [2] Chambers, J.K. and Trudgill, P., (1998). Dialectology. 2nd edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Why is sociolinguistics studied?

For further reading into why sociolinguistics is an important topic of study for linguists, and why society should be interested in sociolinguistics, take a look at a few of the books listed below!

  • Giglioli, P. P., (1972). Language and social context. Australia: Penguin Books.
  • Holmes, J., (1992). An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. New York: Longman Publishing.
  • Hudson, R. A., (1980). Sociolinguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Todd, L., (1987). An Introduction to Linguistics. Essex: Longman Group Limited.
  • Trask, R. L., (1995). Language: The Basics. London: Routledge.
  • Trudgill, P., (1974). Sociolinguistics: An Introduction to Language and Society. Harmondsworth: Penguin Group

Sociolinguistic Variable

A good place to look is at the man himself Labov who came up with the definition for the sociolinguistic variable.

Variationist sociolinguistics

If you’re interested on variationist approaches to sociolinguistics, then these might be of interest to you:

  • Eckert, P., (2000). Linguistic Variation as Social Practice: The Linguistic Construction of Identity in Belten High. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
  • Labov, W. (2008) Quantitative reasoning in linguistics. Available from: <>

Jenny Cheshire

Here is where you will find Jenny Cheshire’s study:

  • Cheshire, J., (1982). Linguistic Variation and Social Function. In: Romaine, S. (ed) Sociolinguistic Variation in Speech Communities. London. Edward Arnold Ltd. p.153-166

William Labov – New York rhoticity

Interested in finding out more about Labov’s 1966 research? Here are a couple of references, along with a journal article which looks at Labov’s research, and further research into rhoticity in New York:

  • Thomas, L. et al., (2004). Language, Society and Power: An Introduction. London: Routledge.
  • Labov, W., (1966). The Social Stratification of English in New York City. Washington: Center for Applied Linguistics.
  • Mather, P. A., (2011). The Social Stratification of /r/ in New York City: Labov’s Department Store Study Revisited. Journal of English Linguistics. 2 (1). pp. 1-19

Penelope Eckert

Learn in even more detail all about the ‘jocks’ and the ‘burnouts’ in Eckert’s book on her study:

  • Eckert, P., (2000). Linguistic Variation as Social Practice: The Linguistic Construction of Identity in Belten High. Malden. MA: Blackwell

William Labov – Martha’s Vineyard

This A-level book is a great introduction to basic concepts and studies in Sociolinguistics:

  • Gardiner, A., (2008). Revision Express, English Language (New edition) Essex; Pearson Education Limited

Zimmerman and West – Language and Sex

To get a more thorough account of how Zimmerman and West carried out their research you can search for their paper:

  • Zimmerman, D. H., and West, C., (1975) Sex roles, interruptions and silences in conversation, Language and sex: Difference and dominance. pp: 105- 129. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

There are many works which challenge the ideas of Zimmerman and West including:

  • Cameron, D. (2007). The Myth of Mars and Venus: Do men and women really speak different languages? New York: Oxford University Press Inc.
  • Hyde, J. (2005). The Gender Similarities Hypothesis. American Psychologist. pp: 581-592.
  • Talbot, M. (2010). Language and Gender. Cambridge: Polity Press

Sociolinguistics in the news

BBC news articles can give an up-to-date account on sociolinguistics in the world today and peoples view on language variation.

If you have found this section interesting, you may enjoy reading these articles:

The Guardian also give an account of sociolinguistics within articles:

Websites and other useful links

Looking at the work of university professors can give an insight into current up-to-date work on sociolinguistics.

This includes the work of Joan Beal, who’s study of the language used in Arctic Monkeys (a band from Sheffield) songs represents a change in language between different generations.

Dr Emma Moore has also carried out much work on sociolinguistics:

If you’re interested in other topics related to sociolinguistics and language variation, then you might want to check out Varieties of English which includes interesting information on the different dialects in the UK.

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