LING433/ANTH433 (formerly LING434)

Spring 2007



Sociolinguistics II



Instructor:        Alicia Beckford Wassink                                 

Office:             A217 Padelford                                              

Office Hours:   Wednesdays 12:30-1:30 and by appointment

Office Phone:   616-9589  (Note: I rarely check voicemail; email preferred)

Dept. Phone:    543-2046 (Dept. of Linguistics Office)



Classroom:  SAV 153

Time: TTh 1:30-3:20

Course website:


Quick Links to other parts of this page:

Course Description = Required Work =Required Readings  = Topics Overview  = Methods Overview  = Logistical Information (Grading and Course Policies) = Syllabus  = Journal Formatting Requirements



Course Description


            This course has two main concerns. First, we will survey a range of field methods sociolinguists use in studies of "language on the ground"--i.e., language variation and change.  Building on basic concepts established in Sociolinguistics I, we will discuss the relationship between the objects of sociolinguistic research and sociolinguistic theory, and how these issues impact data collection.  We will focus on a few key pieces of classic literature from the sociolinguistic canon as our guides and seek to understand their contribution both to sociolinguistic methods and theory.  We will problematize the notion of  “speech community,” discuss the nature and composition of appropriate kinds of databases, the identification and selection of informants, merits and limitations of introspective data, issues of ethics and cultural expectations, and approaching and working with informants.


            The other main concern of this course is to continue to build familiarity with the classic literature in sociolinguistics. Our main topics of investigation will be:

Į     The classic Labovian (variationist)-style investigation of language variation and change

Į     Regionality

Į     Second dialect acquisition

Į     Immigration and language change

Į     Language attitudes

Į     Perceptual Dialectology


We will attempt to touch on areas of sociolinguistic research that connect with student interests.  For this reason, the syllabus for this class may differ slightly from year to year, and may be revised after the first week of the quarter.


            This course takes a practical approach to issues of data collection, and as such, is geared particularly toward those students who plan to conduct their own field research.  We will be concerned with targeting and designing a wide range of interview types for the collection of phonological, morpho-syntactic or discourse/conversational data.  We will give special consideration to the following methodological issues: design of materials used for eliciting large numbers of tokens; concerns about the quality of data for various types of analysis; how to move beyond word lists and reading passage tasks; use of census and other materials for random and judgment sampling.  We will explore the merits of using various types of recording equipment, and obtain some hands-on experience. Depending on students levels of skill, we will have at least one software demonstration (e.g., Principle Components Analysis, Plotnik, Akustyk, Transcription using ELAN or Praat)


Prerequisites:  LING 400 or equivalent, LING432/ANTH 432 (Sociolinguistics I), or instructor's permission.  General familiarity with variationist sociolinguistics, including stratification, network theory and audience design is assumed.


Required Work

Note: There are no quizzes or exams given in this course.


1.)  Research Design Project:


Į     Adopt a linguistic variable (10%)


Week 4.  All students will "adopt" a sociolinguistic variable by the fourth week of class (=April 17th), around which they will design a small-scale study.  In week four, all students will email the instructor with their proposed variable and tentative research question(s) (no firm decision on a research question is required until week 7). You may NOT change your variable after this date.


This project may be an outgrowth of a data collection project the student has previously completed. The student will design a project that will be ready to conduct by the end of the quarter. There will be no data collection for this project; rather the aim is to develop an abstract for the project to be turned in at the end of the quarter. The methodology will be refined in a journaling process (see “Journal Formatting Requirements” below), and the project may be piloted in the class, if desired by the student. 


Į     Submit regular journal entries (30 %)


Every two weeks (as noted on syllabus), each student will turn in a journal, with a written or typed entry related to the previous week's topic (for topics, see "Term Overview", below).  It is hoped that this will help the student begin a lifetime of good research practices!  Journal entries are to be used to work through theoretical issues associated with deciding on a viable research question; and with methodological issues associated with choosing their variable, assessing its collectibility, and sampling issues.  Most students find it convenient to keep two separate notebooks for this class (one notebook for recording reading and class notes to be brought to class daily, and a second for journaling).


Į     Submit final project: Abstract and Portfolio (20%) 


End of quarter (final exam period). All students will submit

1) A one page, 200-word abstract outlining a talk planned for a hypothetical sociolinguistics conference.

2)  A portfolio containing collected materials from the quarter (10-15 pages including journal, formal project report, appendices, and cassette copy of recorded data).  No late portfolios will be accepted!


****Final exam date/time: 2:30-4:20 p.m. Friday, Jun. 8, 2007****


2.) Class participation (20%)


The syllabus lists four in-class workdays (labeled “students’ research methods,” on syllabus). These are intended to provide students with an opportunity to discuss and obtain feedback on, their design project, and become familiar with the kinds of considerations inherent to other kinds of sociolinguistic projects.  In these reports, students talk in class about the methods they are developing for examining their variable, working from the contents of the journal (see syllabus for presentation dates). The success of this class (from a learning perspective) relies upon each student developing an interest in, and familiarity with, the projects of her or his peers. For this reason, students are graded on both presenting on their own projects, and providing careful thought and input on peers’ projects.


3.) Short Peer Feedback Report (20%)


In addition to the discussion expected above in (2), students must pair with one classmate, who is working on a different kind of linguistic variable than his/her own. They are a peer advisor to this person.  In the role of peer advisor, students are responsible for reviewing drafts of their peer’s abstract and making editing suggestions.  The comments must be turned in with the peer’s project (i.e., when turning in your portfolio, you will turn in a draft of your own abstract, with the comments of your peer advisor).



Required Readings

All readings are to be found in the coursepack, obtained at AVE COPYCENTER (4141 University Way NE, Suite 103,


Readings (in alphabetical order):

Agheyisi, R. and Fishman, J. (1970) Language Attitude Studies:  a brief survey of methodological approaches. Anthropological Linguistics, 12(5), 137-157


Bell, Alan. (2001)  Back in style: reworking audience design.  In, Style and Sociolinguistic Variation (Eckert, P. and Rickford, J. R., eds.) Cambridge: Cambridge UP. 139-169.


Chambers, J. K. (1992) Dialect acquisition. In, The sociolinguistics Reader (P. Trudgill and J. Cheshire, eds.) London: Arnold.


Chambers, J. K. (2001) Region and language variation, English World-Wide 21(2), pp. 169-199.


Dorian, Nancy. (1982) Defining the speech community to include its working margins.  In, Sociolinguistic variation in speech communities (S. Romaine, ed.) London: Arnold. 25-33.


Eckert, Penelope. (1997) Age as a sociolinguistic variable.  In, The Handbook of Sociolinguistics (F. Coulmas, ed.). Oxford: Blackwell. 151-167.


Giles, H. and Ryan, E. B. (1982)  Prolegomena for developing a social psychological theory of language attitudes. In, Attitudes towards language variation: social and applied contexts (E. B. Ryan and H. Giles, eds.)  pp. 208-223.


Gumperz, J. (1968) The Speech Community. In P. P. Giglioli, Language and Social Context.  New York: Penguin.


Harris, J. (1984) Syntactic variation and dialect divergence.  Journal of Linguistics 20.2. 303-327


Horvath, B. (1991) Finding a place in Sydney: migrants and language change. In  P. Trudgill and J. Cheshire, eds., The Sociolinguistics Reader, vol. 1. London: Arnold, pp. 90-102.


Kerswill, P. and Williams, A. (2002) Dialect recognition and speech community focusing in new and old towns in England.  In Preston, ed. Handbook of Perceptual Dialectology, vol. 2. Amsterdam: Benjamins, pp. 173-204


Labov, William. (1984)  Field Methods of the Project on Linguistic Change and Variation.  Language in Use:  Readings In Sociolinguistics.  Baugh, John and Sherzer, Joel, eds.  Englewood Cliffs, NJ:  Prentice-Hall. 28-53.


Labov, William. (2001) The study of linguistic change and variation in Philadelphia, ch. 2-3.  Principles of Linguistic Change: Social factors, vol 2. Oxford: Blackwell. 35-85


Lambert, W. (1967) A social psychology of bilingualism, Journal of Social Issues, 23.2. 91-109


Lippi-Green, Rosina. (1997)  Teaching Children to Discriminate:  What we learn from the Big Bad Wolf.  English with an Accent:  Language ideology, and discrimination in the United States.  London: Routledge, ch. 5.


Milroy, Lesley and Gordon, Matthew. (2003) Sociolinguistics: Models and methods, chs. 1,2,7,8.  Sociolinguistics: method and interpretation.  Oxford: Blackwell.


Payne, Arvilla (1980)  Factors controlling the acquisition of Philadelphia dialect by out-of-state children. In,  Locating language in time and space (W. Labov, ed.) New York: Academic Press.


**NOT YET AVAILABLE**Preston, D. R. (1996) Whaddayaknow?: The modes of folk linguistic awareness. Language Awareness 5, 40-73.


Rickford, John. (1986) Standard and non-standard language attitudes in a creole continuum. Society for Caribbean Linguistics occasional Paper, No. 16


Romaine, Susanne (1982) What is a speech community?  In, Sociolinguistic variation in speech communities (S. Romaine, ed.) London: Arnold. 13-24.




Other Useful Readings

We make reference to a number of other important reference works across the quarter. Here are citations for a few of these:

Bell, Alan  (1984)  Language style as audience design,  Language in society, pp. 145-204.


Chambers, J. K. (1995, 2001).  Sociolinguistic Theory:  Linguistic variation and its social significance.  Oxford, Cambridge, Mass.:  Blackwell.


Labov, William. (1972)   The Social Stratification of  (r ) in New York City department stores. In Labov, Wm. Sociolinguistic Patterns.  Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 43-69.


Milroy, L. and Gordon, M. (2003) Sociolinguistics, Method and Interpretation.  Blackwell.


Wolfram, W. and Schilling-Estes, N.   (1998)  American English:  Dialects and Variation.  Oxford:  Blackwell






Topics overview

The readings we take up this quarter will give us a further opportunity to consider the sociolinguistic phenomena associated with macrosocial groupings in Socio I as well as the issue of micro-level variation (within speaker variation in style):


1. Classic methods in the study of Language Change and Variation (LCV)

Philadelphia (Labov)

--Selectional issues in defining ethnicity

--Complementary sources of error

--Judgement vs. Random sampling

--Does this help us to think about sociolectal variation in situ (e.g., Native American, Chicano/a, AAE groups that do not participate in local forms?)



2.  Second Dialect Acquisition, Dialect Convergence and Regionality

Philadelphia—King of Prussia Study (Payne)

--Critical Period Hypothesis assumes adolescence as a key time in the reduction of neural plasticity with respect to language acquisition.  Does this study have anything to say about “linguistic change across the lifespan” (note that Gillian Sankoff has an ongoing project by this name).


3. Classic study on how immigrants contribute to language change

Sydney (Horvath)

--Affective, conative, and cognitive dimensions of language attitudes

--Remuneration and speech community interests in conduct of linguistic research


4. Language Attitudes, Perceptual Dialectology

Reading, Hull and Milton Keynes (Kerswill and Williams/Preston)

--Affective, conative, and cognitive dimensions of language attitudes

--Linguistic Insecurity

--Remuneration and speech community interests in conduct of linguistic research





Methods overview

As we work through the studies listed in the “Topics overview”, we will scrutinize the methods used by the sociolinguists who investigate these topics.  Listed are classic (old or newer) studies that set the precedents or apply particularly well, now-commonplace practices in sociolinguistics.  Each unit is organized into four sections: “Understanding the Study,” “Scrutinizing the Methods,” “Student’s Research Methods,” and “Best Practices Day.”  After discussing the research and findings of the classic study (Understanding the Study), we will take a day to have a closer, critical look at the methods of that study (Scrutinizing the Methods). We will then talk about students’ projects where these relate to the methods just discussed (Student’s Research Methods).  Finally, we will have a summary discussion of what now constitute sociolinguistic “best practices.”  The methodological topics we will address include:

1. Targeting the speech community; How theory structures methodology; Outlining the study; Targeting a speaker sample

2. Collectibility of linguistic phenomena: the phonological variable; the syntactic variable; language attitudes

3.  Working with informants:

            --Approaches, values and rewards

            --Human subjects issues


4. Data Collection Methods: One-on-one interviews; Participant-Observation Sessions


logistical information


The following UW grading scale will be used (

  Percent  =  Grade

     ≥ 95% =    4.0           88   =     3.3           81   =     2.6           74   =     1.9              67   =    1.2

94      =    3.9           87   =     3.2           80   =     2.5           73   =     1.8              66   =    1.1

93      =    3.8           86   =     3.1           79   =     2.4           72   =     1.7              65   =    1.0

92      =    3.7           85   =     3.0           78   =     2.3           71   =     1.6              64   =    .9   

91      =    3.6           84   =     2.9           77   =     2.2           70   =     1.5              63   =    .8          

90      =    3.5           83   =     2.8           76   =     2.1           69   =     1.4              62   =    .7

89      =    3.4           82   =     2.7           75   =     2.0           68   =     1.3          (< .7 is a failing grade)



Į     Readings

The assigned readings are to be read in advance of the lectures. The readings complement the lectures and provide the necessary background; however, you should not assume that they will be fully summarized or reviewed in class. Students should be prepared to evaluate, integrate, or respond to the readings in class discussions.

Į     Special needs

To request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact Disabled Student Services, 448 Schmitz, 543-8924 (V), 543-8925 (TTY), If you have a letter from DSS indicating that you have a disability that requires special academic accommodations, please present the letter to your instructor as soon as possible so the proper accommodations can be discussed and met.





Note:  Journals are always due on Tuesdays.

You may wish to consider attending the Sociolinguistics Brown Bag, an informal discuss and research support forum for UW Sociolinguists. This group regularly holds meetings or tutorials on topics like those listed below.  Join the email discussion list by emailing a request to wassink@u...

- Visit with a representative from UW Human Subjects

- Akustyk tutorial

- Readings on current topics in Sociolinguistics

- Feedback for lab members undertaking research





Prepare for Today



Introduction and overview

Required work

Student interests








Preliminary background:

Assumptions about intra-speaker variation: Audience design vs. attention to speech

Bell, 2001; Milroy and Gordon 8



Classic Study 1: Philadelphia—LCV Study (Labov)


Understanding the study

Change in progress in Philadelphia

Labov, 2001

(ch. 2, part of ch. 3)



Scrutinizing the Methods

Asking questions of ourselves: What do we want to know? How theory structures methodology.

Outlining the study: targeted data (linguistic variables)


Milroy and Gordon 2003, ch. 1; Labov 1984



ABW AWAY—reading day

(read Romaine 1982; Dorian 1982; Gumperz 1968)




Scrutinizing the Methods, cont.

Asking questions of ourselves, cont.: What do we want to know? How theory structures methodology.

1. The notion of speech community

2. Data types in sociolinguistic research

3. Outlining the study: a.) targeting the speech community and selectional issues in representing ethnicity;

b) targeting informants (the use of neighborhoods)


discuss Romaine 1982; Dorian 1982; Gumperz 1968




Students’ Research Methods

1. Types of communities of interest to students.

2. definitions, and what your definition says about your theoretical orientation

3. Regionality and Geographic mobility


Journal due (wks 1,2)

Chambers, 2001



Best Practices Day

Targeting a speaker sample:

1. sampling procedures (judgement vs. random)

2. enumeration frames

3. complementary sources of error


Milroy & Gordon, ch. 2



Classic Study 2: Philadelphia—King of Prussia Study (Payne)


Understanding the study

Age and dialect acquisition


Payne, 1980

Journal due (wks. 3, 4) should include the idea for a speech community to target, and a linguistic variable to investigate;




Understanding the study, cont.

Chambers, 1992




Scrutinizing the Methods

Reconsidering age as a sociolinguistic variable


Eckert, 1997



Students’ Research Methods

Targeting age cohorts:

1. Rationales

2. Lifemodes





Best Practices Day:

The collectibility of linguistic variables I:

The phonological variable:

1. traditionally targeted variables;

2. lexical frequencies of syntactic, phonological and morphological variables


Milroy, ch. 6

Journal due (wks 5,6)

should include thoughts regarding the analysis of your variable data. Note: If you have not yet recorded a final research question in your journal, you MUST record one today.




Classic Study 3: Sydney Study (Horvath)


Understanding the Study

Immigration and language change


Horvath, 1991




Scrutinizing the Methods

Communities within communities

1. Principle Components Analysis





Students’ Research Methods

Communities within communities





Best Practices Day: Principle Components Analysis using Praat & Akustyk

The collectibility of linguistic variables II: The syntactic variable


By the end of today’s class, each student will have a targeted community for study, external to the university community, and a set of linguistic variables to target.


Journal due (wks 7,8); Milroy & Gordon, ch. 7; Harris, 1984



Classic Study 4:  Reading/Hull/Milton Keynes (Kerswill and Williams)


Understanding the Study

Collectibility of linguistic variables III: language attitudes

1.) Language attitudes vs. language ideologies

2.) How to isolate “mental” information; multi-valued nature of attitudes toward language


Kerswill and Williams, 2002




Scrutinizing the Methods:

1.) Types of attitudinal information

2.) Question types tapping into number 1.)


Journal due (wk 9); Agheyisi and Fishman, 1970; Preston, 1996; Giles and Ryan, 1982.




Students’ Research Methods

Confronting language attitudes in other types of linguistic study


SKIM for research questions and methods: Rickford, 1986; Lippi-Green, 1997; Lambert, 1967






2:30-4:20 p.m. Friday, Jun. 8, 2007

Portfolios Due, location TBA in class




Sociolinguistics II (LING433/ANTH 433)


Journal Formatting Requirements

1.) Most students find it convenient to keep two separate notebooks for this class (one notebook for reading and class notes to be brought to class daily, and a second for journaling).

2.) Journals may be kept and turned in in either written or electronic form:

Recommended written form - Exercise book with entries indexed by date. Entire journal is turned in every two weeks. Limitation(s): 1 - you may wish to write a journal entry while the exercise book is being graded and therefore is away from you and with the instructor; 2 - you MUST number your pages (you will want to keep a list somewhere of pages where you address different topics, so you can find them later and create your Table of Contents). Advantage(s): 1 - You have everything together in one place; 2 - some people find the physicality of writing helps them think, 3 - You can scribble, doodle, etc. make diagrams, which you can’t do easily on an electronic page.

Recommended electronic form - Computer file with entries listed by date.  Current weeks’ entry is printed out and turned in.  Limitation(s): You need to find a good system for clearly indicating the dates of entries. Advantage(s): You can write repeatedly on a topic across the quarter, and then cut and paste your entries to keep topically-related material together, for ease of future reference.

2.) Because they are regularly turned in and away from you for a while, journals are to be kept separate from your main course notes. 


3.) Required headings and content (not necessarily in the order in which they must occur in the journal or portfolio):

Notes: - In organizing your journal, you may add your own subheadings below the main headings listed here.

            - The point is to keep track of your thought process so you can recall it later

      - Journal entries must incorporate the comments made by peers on your project’s methodological issues--you will be graded on this!

      - When turning in your portfolio at the end of the quarter, you MUST insert a Table of Contents at the beginning of your journal (either

      a plain sheet of paper pasted inside the front cover of a written journal, or a typed sheet at the beginning of an electronic printout, giving

      page numbers for each heading below)




My variable


 - 2-3 eligible variables you considered adopting; reasons you’re thinking about them; theoretical questions they would enable you to investigate. 

-  Cite literature you can use to reference work on these variables.

- Write a reading list for yourself

- What “collectibility issues” pertain to your variable(s)

- Factors motivating ultimate decision to/not to adopt a variable.

- Summarize any course reading material relevant to this heading


- Sample type appropriate for your variable (judgment or random)

- How will you target an appropriate speech community?

- How will you recruit respondents in this community?

- Remuneration

- Summarize any course reading material relevant to this heading

Independent Variables

- What explanatory variables should be accounted for in investigating your variable(s): ethnicity, age, gender, mobility, network/regionality, social class, etc., place of birth, linguistic experience

- What language-internal constraints may be in operation (e.g., word position, phonological environment, clause type, etc.)

- Summarize any course reading material relevant to this heading

Ethical Issues

- Considerations pertaining to working in your speech community

- Human Subjects concerns

- Summarize any course reading material relevant to this heading

Data Collection

- What type of data do you seek? (words, phones, noun phrases, etc.)

- What tasks are appropriate for eliciting appropriate data?

- How will you code your data?

- How will you summarize your data?

- Summarize any course reading ( get the idea J!)