This course is required for all MA students doing sociolinguistics. It aims to give you a foundation in some of the primary methods often used in sociolinguistic research. We draw on a variety of methods & traditions, including quantitative and qualitative approaches, as well as those used in dialectology, variation, ethnography of speech, discourse & conversation analysis. The history of sociolinguistics is largely the development & refinement of an empirical method. We therefore draw on both classic & updated techniques, considering different ways to collect data & begin linguistic analysis.
This is a course about doing -- learning how to perform basic research tasks. It differs from other courses in that we will not so much survey an existing body of knowledge, as learn how to discover & create new knowledge. Readings are more often practical & technical than theoretical or investigative. It also differs from many modules in that the methods studied here do not belong to a particular sub-discipline, but can be applied to various existing, new or combined approaches.
Our survey plans to cover:
* Ethnographic observation and note-taking
* Methods of sampling populations of speakers
* How to approach informants
* The design and use of simple questionnaires
* The central role of sociolinguistic interviews...
* ...and of participant-observation techniques
* Problems in eliciting and recording natural speech
* Approaches to record-keeping and their consequences, and
* The ethics of (socio-)linguistic research (especially our responsibilities to the speakers and communities we study).
By the end of the course, you will (depending on your choice of assignments):
* Recognize and have experience of the stages of sociolinguistic research
* Have collected samples of naturally-occurring speech
* Have made some of the mistakes one can make in the field
* Understand some of the problems involved in recording speech interactions
* Have learned through experience to critique methods and assumptions of linguistic data collection, which will add to your understanding of other people's work
* Have developed abilities, materials, and a personal attitude towards community-based fieldwork, which will help you to plan and initiate research projects of your own.
Across the year, you will also acquire skills and experience useful outside of linguistics and academe:
* Familiarity with problem-solving skills (optionally, in a group setting);
* Awareness of how your social identity affects (speech) interactions you're involved in;
*Practice approaching and interacting with previously-unknown people, to whom you represent your project, and from whom you obtain speech data; and
*Interviewing, observation and note-taking techniques which may be transferable to other fields (e.g. Journalism, consulting, law or business).
Learning & Teaching Methods
One 2-hour session per week; varies between lecture, class and workshop.
2. Research experiences & paradigms. Doing sociolinguistics. Definitions & histories.
3. Methodological themes. Types of data & data collection. Criteria for surveys.
4. Digital recording, Microphones. Recording speech, I. Criteria for ethnography.
5. Observation. Sampling. Ethics I: Consent/releases. Descriptive reports.
6. Sociolinguistic interviewing. Records/archiving. Interview modules.
7. Ethics II: Case studies. Impressions vs measurement. Library training.
8. Reading week.
9. Style in language. Operationalizing style. Data annotation.
10. Principles of variation analysis. Linguistic variables; examples.
11. Ethics III: Principles, codes, responsibilities.
*Details of schedule and topics may change at instructor's discretion.
100 per cent Coursework Mark
Choice of 2 assignments from several titles, each worth an equal fraction of coursework mark, eg.:
* Case study
* Descriptive interview report
* Ethnographic observation
* Vernacular index
* Defining a linguistic variable
Mark is 100% coursework (50% Asst1 + 50% Asst2). Several small optional assignments occur which are unassessed. Details of assignments may be revised before start of term.
LG554 Rules of assessment: both items, equally weighted.
ITEM / WEIGHT
Assignment 1 - 50%
Assignment 2 - 50%
Exam Duration and Period
Course webpage for previous year contains much more detailed information about course, including calendar, assignments, reading lists, online notes and weblinks. Some information will change for the coming year. A recent coursepage is available online at: http://courses.essex.ac.uk/lg/lg554/index.htm
- Bayley, Robert & Ceil Lucas, eds. 2007. Sociolinguistic Variation: Theories, methods and applications. Cambridge UP.
JK Chambers, Peter Trudgill and Natalie Schilling-Estes, eds. 2002. The Handbook of Language Variation and Change. Blackwell.
Johnstone, Barbara. 2000. Qualitative Methods in Sociolinguistics. Sage.
Milroy, Lesley & Matthew Gordon. 2003. Sociolinguistics: Method and Interpretation. Blackwell.