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The sociolinguistics is a branch of linguistics . It is closely related to applied linguistics and general linguistics and, depending on the definition of "applied", is either included in one or the other of these two main linguistic disciplines. If linguistic phenomena are examined from a diachronic point of view, there is also a reference to historical linguistics . Sociolinguistics also has technical overlaps with sociology , anthropology , social psychology and educational science.

The subject of the sociolinguistic studies is on the one hand the social, political and cultural significance of linguistic systems and the variations in linguistic usage, and on the other hand the culturally and socially determined influences on language.


The term sociolinguistics

The word is a scientific neologism and is made up of linguistics for linguistics (formed in Latin lingua = tongue, language ) and the prefixoid socio- (consisting of the Latin root soci- for society and the compositional joint element -o- ) with the Importance to society . The term was first used in English as Sociolinguistics in 1952 by Haver C. Currie in his Projection of Sociolinguistics: Relationship of Speech to Social Status .

Some significant work

The actual beginning of sociolinguistics goes back to the work of Basil Bernstein in the 1960s, who examined the language of the social lower class as well as the middle and upper classes. The result was his so-called deficit hypothesis , which basically says that members of the lower class only use the language to a limited extent (less vocabulary, simpler syntactic structures, etc.). However, the linguist William Labov saw this as an illegitimate evaluation and, as a reaction to Bernstein, formulated the so-called difference hypothesis, which regarded the linguistic differences as equivalent. The distinction made in the German-speaking area between “ language sociology ” and “sociolinguistics” did not exist in the Anglo-Saxon area.

In 1973 the linguist Hugo Steger looked at the variability in languages ​​and the forms in which they generally occurred. At the same time, the German sociolinguist Norbert Dittmar examined the social conditions and the application of linguistic and social science methods. In 1997, Dittmar also emphasized the social importance in language systems and differentiated the sociolinguistic issues. Mention is made of sociology (with its categories of social systems, image, prestige and stigmatization), dialectology, the ethnography of communication (also: ethnography of speaking) and interaction analysis .

Subject areas of sociolinguistic research

The categorization models of sociolinguistic content are very different due to the diverse relationships with neighboring disciplines. Essentially, the core domain can be viewed from two perspectives:

  • Macro area:
The social status and social function of language are examined. The guiding principle of investigations in the field of the sociology of language was formulated by Joshua Fishman with the following question: Who speaks which language, how and when, with whom, under which social circumstances and with what intentions and consequences?
  • Micro range:
  1. The Varieties describes variation and changes of language use and explains the function and use of dialects , sociolects and Regiolekten etc.
  2. Under interactional sociolinguistics refers to the social importance of linguistic action in the interaction . Constituent processes of language production and language understanding in the mutual interaction of actors are examined. Interactional sociolinguistics includes discourse analysis , ethnography of speaking (also: ethnography of communication), conversation analysis and intercultural communication .

There are other ways of classifying sociolinguistic research work with regard to its neighboring and / or sub-disciplines and are very diverse. The following should be mentioned:

  • The philosophical-anthropological sociolinguistics regards language as a carrier of an important function in the areas of worldview, culture and society.
  • Psychological sociolinguistics deals with human thinking in connection with language and looks at language acquisition, language education and the relationship to language.
  • Sociolinguistics in the social sciences deals with the structure of society. The language within groups, ethnic groups or minorities is a central issue here.
  • The interactionist-communication-theoretical sociolinguistics deals with the analysis of conversations.
  • The actual linguistic sociolinguistics identifies and analyzes the language system .
  • German sociolinguistics relates to language in German-speaking society.

Sociolinguistics deals with specific topics that often affect other linguistic disciplines. Priority questions are for example:

When examining language in connection with social factors, these are particularly important: social stratification / class, age, gender, education, social group ( special languages ), social role (gender, social position, ...)

Since the questions of sociolinguistics concern both the language system itself (description of language under social influences) and non-linguistic practice (social effects of language use, language policy implications, ...), the assignment of sociolinguistics to general linguistics or applied linguistics is not clear.

Especially with regard to the concerns of feminist linguistics (“women's language” vs. “men's language”) or the topic of the definition of language vs. Dialect and its political effects (e.g. struggle for the recognition of language varieties as a separate “language” and their legitimacy, for example as an official language ), the term sociolinguistics is often equated with the sociology of language .

See also

Sources and literature

  • Sabine Bastian et al. (Ed.): Sociolinguistique urbaine: identités et mise en mots / [Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie]. (= Language - culture - society. 6). Meidenbauer, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-89975-231-1 .
  • Norbert Dittmar: Sociolinguistics. Groos, Heidelberg 1996, ISBN 3-87276-753-4 .
  • Joshua A. Fishman : Sociolinguistics. Brief Introduction. Rowley / Mass. 1970.
  • Dell Hymes : Sociolinguistics: On the ethnography of speaking. Frankfurt am Main 1979, ISBN 3-518-07899-2 .
  • William Labov: The Social Stratification of English in New York City. Washington DC 1966.
  • Angelika Linke among others: Study book linguistics. 5th edition. Niemeyer, Tübingen 2004, ISBN 3-484-31121-5 .
  • Heinrich Löffler : German sociolinguistics. 3. Edition. Erich Schmidt, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-503-07935-1 .
  • Brigitte Schlieben-Lange : Sociolinguistics. An introduction. 3. Edition. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1991, ISBN 3-17-011237-6 .
  • Peter Trudgill: Sociolinguistics: An introduction to language and society. 4th edition. Penguin, London 2000, ISBN 0-14-028921-6 .
  • Werner H. Veith: Sociolinguistics. A work book. 2nd Edition. Narr, Tübingen 2005, ISBN 3-8233-6198-8 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Sociolinguistics  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations