Topics in Sociolinguistics ENGLANG5111

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Critical Studies
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 1
  • Available to Visiting Students: No

Short Description

This Masters course explores the interface between language and society through the advanced study of a range of key topics in language variation and change including topics such as, the acquisition of variation, change across the lifespan and grammaticalisation. It also covers core methodological issues such as sampling and accessing participants for sociolinguistic research, including through ethnography. We will investigate a number of theories related to these topics, and how these can be tested practically in uncovering patterns of structured heterogeneity across a wide range of speech varieties.


One two-hour lecture/seminar/workshop each week over 10 weeks as scheduled on MyCampus.


This is one of the options for the MSc in English Language & Linguistics, and Speech, Language & Sociolinguistics, and may not run every year. The options that are running this session are available on MyCampus.

Requirements of Entry

Standard entry to Masters at College level

It is recommended that students will have taken a sociolinguistics course in their undergraduate/previous degree.




A critical report on a paper from the journal Language Variation and Change (1000 words)

A written assignment comprising an advanced synthesis of findings on one linguistic variable (4000 words)

Course Aims

This course will provide students with the opportunity to:

■ Gain a critical awareness of current issues in the field of sociolinguistic variation over the past 60 years, including quantitative and qualitative approaches to sociolinguistic study

■ Develop a detailed and extensive understanding of some of the key driving forces in language variation and change

■ Gain a critical understanding of the role of ethnography in current sociolinguistic research

■ Focus and apply the use of quantitative methodologies in the analysis and interpretation of speech data

■ Develop a critical understanding of theoretical processes in explaining language change.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ Identify and describe interpret variation in language use in a range of formats

■ Develop a detailed understanding of the key findings from a number of seminal studies in sociolinguistics

■ Identify, reproduce and critically assess a range of quantitative and qualitative approaches to sociolinguistic study, including the use of ethnography for sociolinguistic research

■ Interpret the results of quantitative analysis of speech data in a range of formats

■ Reproduce, summarize and critically assess a range of key theoretical processes, including social and linguistic influences, in explaining language change.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.