Online course in Languages & Cultures

An Introduction to Sociolinguistics: Accents, Attitudes and Identity

Learn how sociolinguists explore the relationship between language and the expression of personal, social and cultural identity.

An Introduction to Sociolinguistics: Accents, Attitudes and Identity

  • Duration 4 weeks
  • Weekly study 4 hours

Learn what your attitude to accents and dialects says about yourself and society

We all have preferred accents and ways of speaking, but what makes something ‘good’ or ‘bad’ English? On this course, you will explore where our attitudes to language come from, how they are formed, and what they tell us about society.

You will be introduced to a range of sociolinguistic research methods and learn what these methods tell us about our individual sense of identity. You will also study their impact on social factors like gender, social class, and national affiliation. Plus, you will determine the real-world implications of language attitudes on our society as a whole.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 secondsHave you ever been mistaken for being from somewhere you’re not based on your voice? Or, have you ever tried to put on an accent (successfully or not)? Was this in order to tell a more compelling story, have a laugh - or perhaps it was an attempt to try to fit in with a particular community? These sorts of situations show that our accents play a crucial role in how we perform our identity, as well as how we’re perceived by others.

Skip to 0 minutes and 27 secondsMany aspects of our identity: from where we grew up, to our cultural background, or our sexuality, can be expressed and perceived through our speech. The connection between our voices and who we are has long been a focus of study for sociolinguists. Together in this four-week course, we’ll explore different accents, people’s attitudes toward them, and how accents relate to the expression of identity. I very much hope you can join us.

What topics will you cover?

  • Introduction to the study of language attitudes
  • How do you measure attitudes?
  • What is the relationship between language and identity?
  • Why language attitudes matter

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced
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What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Describe what is meant by accent and dialect and how attitudes to these are arbitrary
  • Reflect upon stereotypes about accent and dialect, and how these impact on real-world interactions
  • Develop a better understanding of the approaches used within Sociolinguistic research
  • Explore recent developments in the field of Sociolinguistics

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for school or college students who are interested in studying English language and linguistics at University. This course will also be of interest to English A Level and Advanced Higher teachers, and anyone with an interest in spoken language and accentism.

Who will you learn with?

Sam Hellmuth

Sam Hellmuth

I am a Senior Lecturer in Linguistics at the University of York. I teach phonetics and phonology, and my research explores variation in intonation patterns across English dialects.

Dom Watt

Dom Watt

I'm Senior Lecturer in Sociolinguistics at the University of York. I teach classes in phonetics, sociolinguistics, and forensic linguistics.

Claire Childs

Claire Childs

I am a Lecturer in English Language & Linguistics at the University of York. I teach modules in sociolinguistics and conduct research into grammatical variation and change in English.

Sarah Kelly

Sarah Kelly

I am a Research Assistant based at the University of York. I've also taught on modules in sociolinguistics, phonetics, and forensic linguistics.

Grace Cao

Grace Cao

I am a Research Assistant based at the University of York. I've taught modules in phonetics and phonology. My research mainly focuses on Hong Kong English and Sociophonetics.

Who developed the course?

The University of York combines the pursuit of academic excellence with a culture of inclusion, which encourages everyone – from a variety of backgrounds – to achieve their best.

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join: