Sociolinguistics is the study of the relationship between language and society.

It is the study of language in relation to social factors, including differences of regional, class, and occupational dialect, gender differences, and bilingualism.
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:

  • There are two approaches to the study of sociolinguistics ‘micro’ and ‘macro’.
  • Sociolinguistics focuses on ‘linguistic performance’.
  • It is studied in relation to the actual language that is produced and the way it is used in its wider social context.
  • As a fairly new discipline areas of inquiry in the past primarily studied language in relation to ‘linguistic competence’.


The social and linguistic influence on specific linguistic features. They look at individual differences and the way they are used e.g. the variation between ‘singing’ and ‘singin”.  Studies about language and communication more generally. Look at language data on a wider scale which leads to generalisations and conclusions to be identified e.g. the choices made about conversational structure.



Competence: Study of language in relation to:

  • Linguistics Competence
  • I – Language

Noam Chomsky argued that the focus of linguistics should address the innate capacity humans have of language. He proposed his theory of ‘Universal Grammar’ which he defined as “The systems of principles, conditions and rules that are elements of properties of all languages… The essence of human language” (Chomsky: 1976)


Performance: Study of language in relation to:

  • Linguistics Performance     
  • E – Language  

The way language is used in social and cultural contexts is structured in a way to fulfill particular social goals.

The focus for a linguistic study must have a purpose and that purpose must be to answer a particular linguistic or social question. The way in which it is studied is through sociolinguistic theory and linguistic data, however any conclusions that are drawn from this must be based on empirically tested evidence to be of any sociolinguistic significance.
So, how do sociolinguists collect speech data for scientific and empirical analysis?

               Field work conducted within a community to study the linguistic behaviors between different cultures and social groups through observation and interpretation by which a recoding device is used to document the findings. This type of observation strives to collect natural speech data and uncover what social factors may influence it e.g. age, gender, social class, ethnicity etc.

Language can be extremely dependent on social context for example we manipulate our speech depending on the receiver, so in other words we wouldn’t speak to our manager or work colleague in the same way we might talk to a friend or family member.

However one problem in trying to elicit natural speech data when they know they are being observed is labelled ‘observers paradox’ which refers to the presence of the observer affecting the language produced, the speaker may become self-conscious which raises the question, how natural is the speech data? One way to overcome this problem is by conducting research using the sociolinguistic interview developed by William Labov.




The Sociolinguistic Interview (Variationist):

This sort of methodology is used to collect different styles of speech in the format of an interview. Examples of speech data are elicited by either reading a passage, reading a word list, reading minimal pairs or through an emotionally driven interview.

Participants are generally less self-conscious and pay less attention to their speech when they become involved in an emotionally engaging narrative. They become so immersed in the content of what they are saying they almost forget that they are being observed therefore producing more natural spontaneous speech for example “Have you ever been emotionally, verbally or physically attacked?”


Statistics enables the researcher to quantify masses amounts of data and find out what they mean by using numbers.

An understanding of statistical depends on four notions:

1.    Population: This is also referred to as a sample which consists of people that are important to a researcher based on some quality, which is usually a demographic quality such as gender, age, ethnicity etc.

2.    Characteristic: Some sort of characteristic of the population e.g. linguistic diversity. Another name for a characteristic is a variable and there are two different sorts – ‘independent variables’ and ‘dependent variables’.

3.    Quantification: This is a way of measuring the data. For example ‘matched guise questionnaires’ and ‘verbal guise tests’ are helpful in finding out about attitudes towards language accent and dialect. Using questionnaires to find out demographic information can reveal patterns between a demographic value e.g. social class, gender, age etc and the variable under study.

4.    Distribution:  A way of calculating an average of the measurements (scores). Descriptive statistics is useful in finding out the distributions within a set of data as it calculates the mean (adding the scores for every person within the sample then dividing it by the total number of the sample size) and the standard deviation (how the scores are positioned in relation to the mean e.g. a small standard deviation means they are close to the mean and a large standard deviation means that they are more widespread i.e. a few further away from the mean).


  • “There are several possible relationships between language and society. One is that social structure may either influence or determine linguistic structure and/or behavior. . . .

    “A second possible relationship is directly opposed to the first: linguistic structure and/or behavior may either influence or determine social structure. . . . A third possible relationship is that the influence is bi-directional: language and society may influence each other. . . .

    “Whatever sociolinguistics is, . . . any conclusions we come to must be solidly based on evidence.”
    (Ronald Wardhaugh, An Introduction to Sociolinguistics, 6th ed. Wiley, 2010)

metaphor noun definition in Linguistic devices topic from the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary


noun: Linguistic devices topic

a word or phrase used to describe somebody/something else, in a way that is different from its normal use, in order to show that the two things have the same qualities and to make the description more powerful, for example She has a heart of stone; the use of such words and phrases a game of football used as a metaphor for the competitive struggle of life the writer’s striking use of metaphor

metaphor noun – See dictionary definition

Explore synonyms and entries related to Linguistic devices




Ethnography of communication is related to language. It was introduced by Dell Hymes (ethnography of speaking). It studied base on speech community.

Speech community is a group of people that tied with at least one language / variety language and they also have norms.

Speech community consists of:

1.    Ways of speaking; it is tied by norm. It is the most general or primitive term.


2.    Speech situation; it is not related with speech but it’s a kind of umbrella. Many situations associated with or marked by the absence of speech. Example: Javanese wedding party: ceremonies, meal, etc.


3.    Speech event; it is activities or aspect of activities that are directly governed by rules or norms for the use of speech. Example: In Javanese wedding party. There is speech event hat related to language, such as atur pambagyo and ular-ular.


Speech act; it is not related to sentence and grammatical level but it implicates both linguistics and social norms.

         Example: ular-ular in Javanese wedding party is giving advice to the couple, joke and even singing traditional songs. They are having close relationship.

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