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This content is taken from the University of York's online course, An Introduction to Sociolinguistics: Accents, Attitudes and Identity. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 3 seconds Sociolinguistics, at its core, focuses on the relationship between language and society. Language is naturally diverse - it varies from place to place, over time, between different social groups, and on an individual level.

Skip to 0 minutes and 22 seconds We also know that people speak differently based on their social context, or when they are trying to communicate something about themselves to an audience. This kind of language variation is completely normal and all around us. As sociolinguistic researchers, we can investigate this diversity in how people sound or the words or grammar they use, to learn more about different communities and how members of these communities are seen by others. We can explore why people speak differently in different situations, and how language is used to communicate social meaning.

Skip to 0 minutes and 58 seconds For example, as I’m talking to you now, I’m making conscious decisions about my language use that are influenced by my current social context. I’m aware that I’m being recorded, and I want what I say to be understood by an audience of people that I haven’t met before. In these sorts of situations, people might try to speak more ‘carefully,’ perhaps by slowing down their speech, or by using words which are likely to be more widely known. But there are also aspects of my identity that are being communicated to you as I speak which are perhaps beyond my control.

Skip to 1 minute and 31 seconds When we listen to people speak - or read what someone has written - we can infer information about the sort of person who produced that language. For example, you might be able to detect where someone is from based on their accent. That said, as we’ll see in this course, the link between how people express their identity through language – and how they are actually perceived by others – is not always straightforward. To begin with on this course, we’ll listen to a recording of a conversation. As you listen to the speakers, think about what sort of things you can tell from their speech, and how you were able to infer that information. We’ll discuss our thoughts shortly.

What is sociolinguistics?

Here, Dr Claire Childs explains how Sociolinguistics is a subject which covers a wide range of topics, such as what drives language variation.

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This video is from the free online course:

An Introduction to Sociolinguistics: Accents, Attitudes and Identity

University of York

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