The nature and the scope of sociolinguistics SOCIOLINGUISTICS

The nature and the scope of sociolinguistics
 = the study of language in its relation to society
“a discipline concerned with linguistic diversity from the point of view of
social factors “ (Pavlík: 29)
“an attempt to find correlations between social structure and linguistic
structure” Gumperz 1971)
 Issues:
o role of language in society
o language variation in relation to social factors
Task: explain the causality of the covariation between the structures and functions
of society and language
Working assumption:
both society and language are structured and functional systems, and not
collections of individuals and/or items
Relationship between language and society - 5 perspectives:
- unidirectional:
1. language determines the structure of society
e.g. non-standard language → low class
2. society determines the structure of language
cf. the “Sapir and Whorf hypothesis”
- bidirectional:
3. Language and society co-determine each other
4. Language and society are determined by other factors
e.g. psychological, physiological, cognitive, etc.
B. Independence
5. Language and society are independent with no relation between them
cf. Chomskyan attempt at ´asocial´ linguistics
Rise of sociolinguistics – 1960s in opposition to Chomsky´s generativism:
o ideal speaker/hearer
o homogeneous community
o language competence is subject of linguistic theory
Claim: language is subject to variation (geographical, social, situational, gender, … )
Subject of study of sociolinguistics =
D. Hymes´ model of CC:
A.Language Competence
1.Organizational Competence
a/Grammatical Competence = knowledge of language resources on all
structural level
b/Textual Competence = knowledge to produce out of them well-formed
structures above the sentence-level
2.Pragmatic Competence
Illocutionary Competence = the ability to comprehend speaker´s intent
and to produce structures to convey one´s own intent
Sociolinguistic Competence = the ability to produce messages appropriate to
the social contexts of their use.
B.Strategic Competence
determines communicative goals,
assesses resources,
involves planning and executing plans etc.
Branches of sociolinguistics:
A. Theoretical vs. applied
o Theoretical s.
Focus: models and methods used in the analysis of language in society
o Applied s.
Focus: implications of language variation (political, social, national…)
implementation of theory into l.planning, standardization, education…
B. Descriptive vs. dynamic
o Descriptive s.
Focus: description of WHO uses WHAT language to WHOM in WHAT
o Dynamic s.
explanation of the reasons for l. variation in social environment
C. Quantitatvive vs. Qualitative
o Quantitative/Variational/correlational/Labov´s paradigm
based on W. Labov´s work, traditional, dominated
o Qualitative/interpretational/interactional/ethnographic
approach/understanding soc.
based on D.Hymes´s communicative competence and ethnomethodology
(incl. Sack´s Conversation Analysis)
Synthesis – “Gumperz´ interpretative approach”
Point of departure:
abstract system, distribution of items in
relation to social factors (class)
empirical theories
l.factors are determined by social f.
l. is a mirror of society:
l.=dependent variable
souiety = independent variable
social categories (gender, age) as
always relevant
speaker, whats/he performs through the
use of l. forms
teleological explanations
l. is a part of social processes
using l. = performin a social act
phenomena studied
selected l. forms (phonological)
entire varieties (cf. code switching,
bilngualism), everything that is relevant
for speakers themselves
social phenomena
selected (class, gender, race …)
all which are made relevant by speakers
Lang. vs. society
particular identities are relevant only
The scope of sociolinguistics:
= variability of language caused by social factors:
A. in a NARROW sense:
 Social factors:
→ social linguistics
o social class, age, gender, ethnicity, race
disciplines: Social Dialectology
Correlational Sociolinguistics
B. in a BROAD sense:
→ sociolinguistics “proper”
Social factors:
→ social linguistics
o social class, age, gender, ethnicity, race
disciplines: Social Dialectology
Correlational Sociolinguistics
Geographical factors:
o birth place, residence
disciplines: Regional Dialectology
Situational factors:
→ situ(ational)linguistics
o style, register (medium, field, mode), setting
disciplines: Stylistics
Conversation Analysis
Ethnography of Communication
Discourse Analysis
→ geolinguistics
Crystal, D.2003. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language. Cambridge: CUP.
Holmes, J. 2008. An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. Longman/Pearson.
Gramley, S. and Patzold, K.-M. 2006. A Survey of Modern English. London and New York:
Pavlík, R. 2006. Elements of Sociolinguistics. Bratislava: UK.
Trudgill, P. 2000. Sociolinguistics. London: Penguin.
Wardhaugh, R. 1992. An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. Blackwell.