An Introduction to Sociolinguistics

An Introduction to Sociolinguistics
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First published in 1992, Janet Holmes" An Introduction to Sociolinguistics has established itself as the key introductory textbook in the field, and this new fourth edition has been updated and expanded to include new material.

It is divided into three sections. In the first, Janet Holmes shows how language is used in multilingual speech communities and explains the varying patterns of language use. She examines how and why languages change within society and highlights the factors that lead to the displacement of one language by another, and sometimes even the death of a language.

The central section gives a comprehensive and well-illustrated exploration of social reasons for language change, exploring language change in monolingual communities and the features of a variety of dialects. She shows how and why differing social and racial groups develop and maintain speech variations.

In the final section, Janet Holmes assesses how attitudes to language affect speech, and shows that linguistic responses depend upon a variety of contextual factors.

Written in an accessible way, this essential introductory text is and illustrated throughout with numerous examples.


Preface to Fourth Edition

Preface to Third Edition

Preface to Second Edition

Preface to First Edition

Author"s Acknowledgements

Publisher"s Acknowledgements

1. What do sociolinguists study?

What is a sociolinguist?

Why do we say the same thing in different ways?

What are the different ways we say things?

Social factors, dimensions and explanations

Section I: Multilingual Speech Communities

2. Language choice in multilingual communities

Choosing your variety or code


Code-switching or code-mixing

3. Language maintenance and shift

Language shift in different communities

Language death and language loss

Factors contributing to language shift

How can a minority language be maintained?

Language revival

4. Linguistic varieties and multilingual nations

Vernacular languages

Standard languages

Lingua francas

Pidgins and creoles

5. National languages and language planning

National and official languages

Planning for a national official language

Developing a standard variety in Norway

The linguist"s role in language planning

Section II: Language Variation: Focus on Users

6. Regional and social dialects

Regional variation

Social variation

Social dialects

7. Gender and age

Gender-exclusive speech differences: non-Western communities

Gender-preferential speech features: social dialect research

Gender and social class

Explanations of women"s linguistic behaviour

Age-graded features of speech

Age and social dialect data

Age grading and language change

8. Ethnicity and social networks


Social networks

9. Language change

Variation and change

How do changes spread?

How do we study language change?

Reasons for language change

Section III: Language Variation: Focus on Uses

10. Style, context and register

Addressee as an influence on style

Accommodation theory

Context, style and class

Style in non-Western societies


11. Speech functions, politeness and cross-cultural communication

The functions of speech

Politeness and address forms

Linguistic politeness in different cultures

12. Gender, politeness and stereotypes

Women"s language and confidence



The linguistic construction of gender

The linguistic construction of sexuality

Sexist language

13. Language, cognition and culture

Language and perception


Linguistic categories and culture

Discourse patterns and culture

Language, social class, and cognition

14. Analysing Discourse

Pragmatics and politeness theory

Ethnography of speaking

Interactional sociolinguistics

Conversation Analysis (CA)

Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA)

15. Attitudes and applications

Attitudes to language

Sociolinguistics and education

Sociolinguistics and forensic linguistics

16. Conclusion

Sociolinguistic competence

Dimensions of sociolinguistic analysis

Sociolinguistic universals


Appendix: phonetic symbols



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