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The University of Southampton

LING2011 Variation and Change in English

Module Overview

This module takes an empirical approach to questions such as: - Are there patterns of speech and language associated with males and females in varieties of English? - What is the role of teenagers in the propagation of change in English? - After a certain age are our accents ‘set’ or can we change over our lifespans? - How do migration and language contact lead to the birth of new English dialects? The module provides a comprehensive introduction to the sociolinguistic paradigm – the quantitative approach to linguistic variation. Through reference to seminal studies, as well as recent advances in the field, we examine how social factors such as age, gender, ethnicity and social network etc. impact on patterns of variation and change in English.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • • a good understanding of sociolinguistic phenomena which play a crucial role in the processes of linguistic variation and change;
  • • a good understanding of key differences in English morpho-syntax, phonetics and lexicon around the world.
  • • a good understanding of how linguistic variation may be quantified at different levels in English grammar: phonetic; morphosyntactic; discourse-pragmatic etc.;
  • • a good understanding of how social factors affect linguistic variation and change;
  • • a good understanding of how linguistic factors affect linguistic variation and change;


The module covers the following topics: • Sociolinguistic variables • Features of varieties of English • Language change • Age, gender, ethnicity etc. and linguistic variation • Social networks and language variation • The life-cycle of variation (dialect levelling; dialect death; and new dialect formation) • The acquisition of variation by young children

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • 1 lecture per week • 1 seminar per week The lectures will serve to introduce, analyse and investigate key aspects of sociolinguistics with respect to change and variation in the English language. The weekly seminar will be mostly student-led and will offer an opportunity to discuss key themes through discussion of various activities prepared individually and in groups.

Independent Study126
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

McMahon, A (1994). Understanding Language Change. 

Wolfram, W. and Schilling-Estes, N (2006). American English. 

Brinton, L. and Fee, M (2001). The Cambridge History of the English Language. Vol VI English in North America.. 

Holmes, Janet. (1992). An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. 

Milroy, J. and Milroy, L. (1993). Real English: The Grammar of English Dialects in the British Isles. 

Mesthrie, R., Swann, J. Deumert, A. and Leap, W. L. Introducing Sociolinguistics. 

Llamas, Carmen, Louise Mullany & Peter Stockwell (2007). The Routledge Companion to Sociolinguistics.. 

Coupland, Nicholas & Jaworski, Adam, (1997). Sociolinguistics: A Reader and Coursebook. 

Salikoko, M. The Ecology of Language Evolution. 

Wardhaugh, R. An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. 



Seminar Participation


MethodPercentage contribution
Blog  (1500 words) 15%
Presentation 35%
Reflective essay  (2500 words) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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