What is Sociolinguistics?

Sociolinguistics is the study of the relationship between language and society.
Sociolinguistics can help us understand why we speak differently in various social contexts, and help uncover the social relationships in a community. 

For example, you probably wouldn't speak the same to your boss at work as you would your friends, or speak to strangers as you would to your family.

Sociolinguistics may also wonder whether women and men speak the same as each other.
Or why do people the same age or from the same social class or same ethnicity use similar language?
Sociolinguistics attempts to explain all these questions and more.
Ultimately, sociolinguistics is everywhere!

To explain all these questions there are many different micro and macro approaches of sociolinguistics such as:

Sociolinguistics is a move towards studying language performance, and there are two arguments on why this should be studied within language:
  • Language is an interactive and cultural phenomenon which should be studied.
  • Actual language use is highly structured and not at a random.
These arguments split into two strands of sociolinguistics:

Click the links above to see how sociolinguistics can be researched in different ways, or alternatively see Who does Sociolinguistics?

              
KEY TERMS:
Language performance
- A speakers actual use of language in actual situations
Macro - large scale
Micro - small scale
Conversation analysis - Study of talk interaction
[1] Dialectology - The branch of linguistics concerned with the study of dialects.