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Hauptseminar Linguistik / Modul 6: Linguistics Seminar
Prof. Dr. Susanne Niemeier

Tue 16-18

First meeting: Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sociolinguistics may be broadly defined as the study of the relationship between language and society. Whereas many linguists aim at discovering universal aspects of language beneath the diversity of human languages, sociolinguists try to analyse the social factors that have led to language varieties. They are interested in language differences, and especially in variations within a language.

After a brief overview of the topics generally dealt with in sociolinguistics and after an introduction to the earliest sociolinguistic research - i.e. Bernstein’s deficit hypothesis and Labov’s answer to this theory - this seminar will mainly be concerned with questions of diversity within English. It will discuss the relationship of language and social class, it will look into the question of whether there is something like “the” English language or whether we should rather be talking about different Englishes, including pidgin and creole languages based on English. It will also deal with those factors that contribute and lead to language variation such as geographical location, age, occupation, socio-economic status, ethnic group or sex of the language users. Another topic is the phenomenon known as code-switching, i.e. when and for which purpose(s) do speakers use a certain language/variety and when and why do the accommodate to other speakers, if at all? In this context, we will also discuss individual and societal multilingualism.All these aspects certainly have an impact on the teaching of English. Which variety should teachers use in a given situation, and for what reasons? How can we prepare learners for the different kinds of English(es) and how can we help them to correctly interpret their usage, be it in real-life situations or in literature?
Please be prepared to attend regularly, to contribute actively to discussions and to give a short presentation in class. Information on the module exam will be given during the first meeting.

  • Meyerhoff, Miriam, 2006, Introducing Sociolinguistics. New York: Routledge.
  • Wardhaugh, Ronald, 2009, An Introduction to Sociolinguistics, 6th edition, Oxford: Blackwell.

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