Term Paper: Introducing to a Student the Academic Discipline of Sociolinguistics

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Few students even know what Sociolinguistics is, much less its practical applications and relevance to other fields of study. This is unfortunate because sociolinguistics is a very exciting discipline that studies the effect of any and all aspects of society, including cultural norms, expectations, and context on the way language is used. Sociolinguists are interested in the social implications of the use and reception of language (Shuy, 1969). To understand these implications, they research language variation, sensitivity and acquisition of social groups such as ones based on social status, age, race, sex, family, friendship units and other variables. Some of the topics covered by sociolinguistics include dialect geography, bilingualism, linguistic interference, social dialectology (including studies of social stratification and minority group speech), and language situations (language rivalries, standardization language as a means of group identification and functional styles and attitudes toward language) (Shuy, 1969).

Sociolinguistics is important because language is so important. We use language almost every minute to send vital social messages about who we are, where we come from, and who we associate with (Wolfram). Understanding how we use language may sound relatively simple, but in fact it is far more complications for a variety of reasons. The ways in which language reflects behavior can often be complex and subtle and the relationship between language and society affects a wide range of encounters -- from broadly based international relations to narrowly defined interpersonal relationships (Wolfram).

Because the field of sociolinguistics is so broad, sociolinguists often specialize in a particular area. According to Wolfram, specializations are increasingly coinciding with the mergence of more broadly-based social and political issues. For example, specializations in language and nationalism, language and ethnicity, and language and gender have corresponded with the rise of related issues in society at large. Specialists are applying the results of their studies to the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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