Instructor:  Prof. Alicia Beckford Wassink

Classroom:  EEB 003


Meeting time:  M T W Th F 9:10-10:40am

Office:  PDL A217


Office Hours:  TTh 11:15-12:15 and by appointment (with sufficient notice)


Course discussion list:

Review Terms:

Course website:


Catalyst Site:

Course prerequisites:  LING 200, LING 400, or equivalent.  Recommended:  LING 450.

Last rev. 8/9/10


Course Description:

Students will be introduced to methods of studying the relationships between language variation and social structure and to the major findings of sociolinguists who have examined these relationships. The course will focus largely (but not exclusively) on quantitative methods developed in the tradition of variationist sociolinguistics, pioneered by William Labov, that are designed to reveal the way language change is rooted in synchronic variation. The class will study reports of research which focus variously on everyday social interaction, on larger scale patterns of social dialect variation, and on patterns of code choice in bidialectal and bilingual communities. Relationships between language and social class, language and gender, and language and ethnicity will be discussed. Other topics covered will be language and style and larger scale social, educational, and political issues associated with the process of language standardization.





Policies and Expectations:

You are expected to do all readings before class in order to facilitate discussion and give you time to ask any questions you may have.  You are also expected to check your email in order to keep up with any announcements or reminders that I may send through the course email discussion list.  Please bring your notes and any other materials you may need with you to class.  Cell phones and laptops should remain off during class (see Fried 2008 in Computers and Education).  If for some reason you must show up to class late, please be as quiet as possible out of respect for your fellow students.  If you are absent, it is up to you to contact another student to find out what you have missed.


Special Needs:

To request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact Disabled Student Services, 448 Schmitz, 543-8924.  If you have a letter from DDS indicating that you have a disability which requires special academic accommodations, please present the letter to me as soon as possible so we can discuss what accommodations you might need.


Course Requirements:

1.  Daily Readings


2.  Participation – 10%


3.  Homework – 30%


4.  Article Presentation – 20%


5.  Sociolinguist Trading Card Project – 15%


6.  Quizzes – 25%



The following UW grading scale will be used:

  Percent  = Grade

   ³ 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 =  failing


Note:  It is university policy that I cannot discuss your grades over email.  If you would like to talk about your grades, you are welcome to come to my office hours or see me after class.


Academic Integrity:

Students are expected to maintain the highest standards of academic ethics, honesty and integrity. Academic misconduct includes (but is not limited to) plagiarism, harassment, cheating, or representing another personÕs work as your own and will not be tolerated. It is your responsibility to read and understand the UniversityÕs expectations in this regard (which you can find online at:

Any student found to be in violation of proper academic conduct will be dealt with in the strictest manner in accordance with University policy.


Useful Resources for Sociolinguists:

Journal of Sociolinguistics, Blackwell       

Language in Society, Cambridge University Press

Language Variation and Change, Cambridge University Press

Journal of English Linguistics, Sage

English World-Wide, John Benjamins

International Journal of the Sociology of Language, Mouton de Gruyter

Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, Multilingual Matters





Reading Schedule


Readings are to be done by the date listed (so they may be discussed in class).  [#] indicates the number of pages of required reading for a given day.









Th 7-22

Introduction and orientation, aims and scope.


Trading Cards Project explained

Chambers 1-11 [11]


-       inductive vs. deductive reasoning

-       Trading cards

F 7-23


Sociolinguistics and adjacent fields; language as emblematic

Chambers 11-26, Coulmas 2001 [33]



M 7-26

Methods and goals; the 'linguistic variable'; variation and linguistic theory

What is theory, anyway?

Chambers 26-38, Labov (1972c) ("Study of language in its social context," pgs. 283-298) [27]


T 7-27

Speaker variable I:

social class

Chambers 39-59 [20]


W 7-28

Labov (1972b) ("Social stratification of (r)") [27]

TC pres: Labov, Article Presentation:  Labov

Th 7-29

Speaker variable II: social network

Chambers 74-115 [41]

7-29:  Homework 1 Due


F 7-30

Labov (1972a) ("Linguistic consequencesÉ" pgs. 255-267) [12]

7-30:  Quiz 1


M 8-2

Milroy & Milroy (1978)  [18]

Article Presentation:  Milroy & Milroy

T 8-3

Speaker variable III: gender, interactions between independent variables

Cheshire (2004) [18]

TC pres:  Milroy

W 8-4

Eckert (1998) [11]

8-4:  Homework 2 Due, TC pres:  Eckert

Th 8-5

Gal (1978) [15]

Article Presentation:  Gal

F 8-6

Speaker variable IV: age

Llamas (2007), Roberts (2004) [22]

TC pres: Sankoff


M 8-9

Speaker variable V: geographic mobility

Chambers 59-74, Tuten (2007) [21]

TC pres:  Trudgill

T 8-10

Nichols (1998) [20]; *Bortoni deleted*

Article Presentation: Nichols

W 8-11

Style and register: terms of address

Fasold (1993) (pgs. 1-30) [30]

8-11:  Quiz 2


Th 8-12

Style and register: individual variation,

Accommodation theory

Bell (2007), Bell (1984) [16]

TC pres:  Coupland, Bell

F 8-13

Dialectal variation and language ideology: prescriptivism and language policy; linguistic prestige; 'Standard' and 'Non-standard' varieties

Milroy (2007), Bello (1847) [15]



M 8-16

North America's regional, ethnic, and social dialects

Wolfram & Schilling-Estes (1998) [31]

8-16:  Homework 3 Due

T 8-17

Ethnicity:   The case of African American English (AAE)

Wolfram (1998a) (ŅLanguage Ideology and DialectÓ), Smitherman (1998)  [24]


W 8-18

Ethnicity:  Structure and origins of AAE

Rickford & Rickford (2000) [32]

8-18:  Quiz 3


Th 8-19

Ethnicity:  Housing discrimination

Purnell, Idsardi, and Baugh (1999) [20]

Article Presentation: Purnell, et al.

F 8-20

Loose ends, conclusions, directions for the future, course evaluations

Wolfram (1998b) ("Scrutinizing Linguistic Gratuity") [8]

8-20:  Homework 4 Due













Bell, A.  (1984)  Language style as audience design.  In Coupland, N. and A. Jaworski (1997, eds.)  Sociolinguistics:  a reader and coursebook, pp. 240-50.  New York:  St. MartinÕs Press Inc.

Bell, A.  (2007)  Style and the linguistic repertoire.  In Llamas, Carmen, Mullany, Louise, and Stockwell, Peter (eds.) The Routledge Companion to Sociolinguistics, pp. 95- 100.  London:  Routledge.

Bello, A.  (1847)  Prologue:  Grammar of the Spanish Language.  In L—pez-Morillas, F.M. (1997, ed.)  Selected writings of Andrˇs Bello.  London:  Oxford University Press.

Bortoni, S.M.  (1991)  Dialect contact in Brasilia.  International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 89.  Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 47-59.

Chambers, J.K.  (2002)  Sociolinguistic Theory.  Malden, MA:  Blackwell.

Cheshire, Jenny.  (2004)  Sex and Gender in Variationist Research.  In Chambers, J.K., Trudgill, Peter, and Schilling-Estes, Natalie (eds.) The Handbook of Language Variation and Change, pp. 423-443.  Malden, MA:  Blackwell.

Coulmas, Florian.  (2001)  Sociolinguistics.  In Aronoff, Mark and Rees-Miller, Janie (eds.) The Handbook of Linguistics, pp. 563-581.  Malden, MA:  Blackwell.

Eckert, P.  (1998)  Gender and sociolinguistic variation.  In Coates, J. (ed.) Language and Gender:  a reader.  Oxford, UK:  Blackwell, pp. 64-75.

Fasold, R.  (1993)  Address Forms, The sociolinguistics of language, ch 1.  Oxford, UK:  Blackwell, pp. 1-38.

Gal, S.  (1978)  Peasant men canÕt get wives:  language change and sex roles in a bilingual community, Language in Society, 7(1), pp. 1-16.

Labov, W.  (1972a)  The linguistic consequences of being a lame, Language in the inner city, ch. 7.  Philadelphia:  U Pennsylvania, pp. 255-292.

Labov, W.  (1972b) The social stratification of (r) in New York City department stores. 

In Sociolinguistic Patterns.  Philadelphia:  U Pennsylvania, pp. 43-69.

Labov, W.  (1972c) The study of language in its social context.  In Giglioli, P.P. (ed.) Language and Social Context.  Harmondsworth:  Penguin, pp. 283-98.

Llamas, Carmen.  (2007)  Age.  In Llamas, Carmen, Mullany, Louise, and Stockwell, Peter (eds.) The Routledge Companion to Sociolinguistics, pp. 69-76.  London:  Routledge.

Milroy, James.  (2007)  The ideology of the standard language.  In Llamas, Carmen, Mullany, Louise, and Stockwell, Peter (eds.) The Routledge Companion to Sociolinguistics, pp. 133-139.  London:  Routledge.

Milroy, J. and Milroy, L.  (1978)  Belfast:  Change and variation in an urban vernacular.  In P. Trudgill, (ed.), Sociolinguistic patterns in British English.  London:  Edward Arnold, pp. 19-36.

Nichols, P.C.  (1998)  Black women in the rural south:  conservative and innovative.  In Coates, J. (ed.) Language and Gender:  a reader.  Oxford, UK:  Blackwell, pp. 55-63.

Purnell, T., Idsardi, W., and Baugh, J.  (1999)  Perceptual and phonetic experiments on American English dialect identification, Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 18(1), pp. 10-30.

Rickford, J.R. and Rickford, R.J.  (2000)  History. Spoken Soul:  the story of Black English.  New York:  John Wiley and Sons, pp. 129-160.

Roberts, Julie.  (2004)  Child language variation.  In Chambers, J.K., Trudgill, Peter, and Schilling-Estes, Natalie (eds.) The Handbook of Language Variation and Change, pp. 333-348.  Malden, MA:  Blackwell.

Smitherman, G.  (1998)  Ebonics, King, and Oakland:  Some folk donÕt believe fat meat is greasy, Journal of English Linguistics, 26(2), pp. 97-107.

Tuten, Donald N.  (2007)  Koineization.  In Llamas, Carmen, Mullany, Louise, and Stockwell, Peter (eds.) The Routledge Companion to Sociolinguistics, pp. 185- 191.  London:  Routledge.

Wolfram, W.  (1998a)  Language ideology and dialect:  understanding the Ebonics controversy.  Journal of English Linguistics, 26(2), pp. 108-121.

Wolfram, W.  (1998b)  Scrutinizing linguistic gratuity:  issues from the field, Journal of Sociolinguistics, 2(2), pp. 271-279.

Wolfram, W., and Schilling-Estes, N.  (1998)  American English, ch. 4.  Dialects in the US:  past, present, and future.  Oxford, UK:  Blackwell, pp. 90-123.


For Trading Card presentations:

[Sankoff]  Sankoff, Gillian & Blondeau, Helene (2007). ŅLanguage change across the lifespan: /r/ in Montreal FrenchÓ, Language 83(3): 560-588

[Coupland] Shepard, Carolyn A., Giles, H. & LePoire, Beth (2001) Communication Accommodation Theory, ch. 1.2.  In, The New Handbook of Language and Social Psychology (W. P. Robinson and H. Giles, eds.). Chichester: Wiley. 34-51.