Sociolinguistics

 

Spring 2023

Applied Linguistics 8470; CRN: 20065
Thursday 12:45-3:15, 320 Sparks Hall

Instructor:   Dr. Stephanie Lindemann
Office: 25 Park Place, Room 1528
Phone: 404-413-5177
E-mail: lindemann@gsu.edu
Office Hours:  Monday 4-5 and by appointment

 

This is the official version of the syllabus.

 

Course Description:

This course is an introduction to sociolinguistics, the study of the relationship between language and society. We will look at variation at all levels of language and how such variation constructs and is constructed by identity and culture. An exploration of attitudes and ideologies about these varieties will be of particular importance to understanding this relationship. We will also consider some of the educational, political, and social repercussions of these sociolinguistic facts.

 

Course Reading:

The textbook for the course is available at the GSU bookstore:

Wardhaugh, Ronald & Janet M. Fuller (2021). An Introduction to Sociolinguistics (8th edition). Wiley Blackwell.

 

All other readings can be saved and/or printed from iCollege. Let me know right away if you’re having trouble accessing the readings.

Additional resources on the web can be found by accessing my “Linguistics Links” page at http://lindemann.gsucreate.org/links.htm.

 
 

Evaluation:

10% Class participation (includes preparation for class based on readings)

30% Observation project

25% Recorded discussion project

5% Presentation on final paper topic

30% Final Paper

 

The grading scale is A+ 98-100, A 94-97, A- 90-93, B+ 87-89, B 84-86, B- 80-83, C+ 77-79, etc.

 

Participation:

Effective participation requires preparation. It is crucial to come to class having carefully read and thought about the day’s reading. Discussion questions for the readings will be posted on the web syllabus each week to help guide you to think about the general ideas that I find particularly important about the readings. These will be a starting point for discussion, so you should take notes on and think about the questions before class. I may check or collect your answers to discussion questions, especially if I am dissatisfied with class preparation & participation.

 

If you tend to dominate class discussion, try stepping back and listening more to allow all to participate. If you are shy and don’t like to speak in class, try to do it anyway. It’s useful for everyone to hear how each other’s varied experiences and viewpoints relate to the reading. If you are having real difficulty speaking up, it is a good idea to come talk to me about the discussion questions and your own questions and thoughts about the reading (preferably before the class period when they will be discussed so that you can still take part in the discussion, if only indirectly). If you know you will need to miss class, you should e-mail me your responses to the discussion questions, plus any additional comments and questions you have, before class.



Observation Project (due February 23rd; topic & initial data due January 26th; coded data to be brought to class on laptop February 16th):

Work in pairs (of your choosing), or if necessary, alone, to prepare and submit an observation project that will explore variability in American English (if you are interested in looking at some other variety, discuss it with me before your topic is due on January 26th). The purpose of the project is for you to:

a)      become more aware of the types of variation in English (across dialects in the US, within ‘Standard’ American English in the US, and across and within world varieties of English)

b)      gain experience in basic analysis of language variation data and learn about some of the complexities involved

c)      discuss and analyze the variation you find in descriptive, rather than prescriptive, terms

d)      increase awareness of issues of concern to the ESL/EFL teacher, including the learner’s target variety, error/testing/assessment, and materials adaptation/lesson planning.

Working in pairs is strongly recommended, as you will need to collect at least 40 tokens of some linguistic variable, and this is easier if you have two sets of ears listening for them.

 

Observation Project Instructions:

 

1. Choose an item of American English that exhibits variability in the same linguistic and social context. Some examples are:

if I were” vs. “if I was”

real” and “really” or “good” and “well” used as adverbs

the use of objective (e.g., me) vs. nominative (e.g., I) case in object or subject position (particularly conjoined NPs such as “between you and I” or “Me and my brother went”)

pronouns used to replace singular nouns of unspecified gender (e.g., “Someone has left their books here.”)

the use of “whom”

speech acts, such as greetings, responses to “thank you,” apologies, requests, etc.

 

These are only a few examples. You have many options to choose from—think of your pet grammar peeve and you're likely to find a good topic. The most important criterion is that the item that you choose must exhibit variability. That is, it must be the case that there is more than one form used in the same context. For example, some people would say “between you and me” and other people would say “between you and I”. Or, the same person might say “between you and me” in some situations and “between you and I” in others. In addition, your item must be something that is typically taught in ESL classes.

 

2.      Collect data. Each time you hear (or see) a variant of your item, write it down with the utterance you heard it in (i.e. don’t just write down “who”, but write down “I don’t know who you’re talking about”). Keep your ears open (or your eyes—printed materials are sources too). Every time you record a token, also record demographic information about the speaker and addressee(s) (sex, age, race/ethnicity, place of origin, relationship between the two interlocutors) and information about the setting. This is very important. What you are trying to do is to uncover the patterns of usage of your variable. These patterns typically reveal themselves in the categories listed above. For example, Southerners may be more likely to say “y’all” for plural “you” than Northerners, and Northerners might be more likely to say “you guys”. If you collected lots of tokens of ways to say plural “you”, then you could look at the characteristics of speakers or settings to see who was using which variant in which setting. To help prepare for your analysis, enter each token with its data into a spreadsheet; see a template here.

 

3.      Once you have collected at least 40 tokens/examples, look for variation. First, identify all the variants you have found. Next, look for patterns. This means that you will look at, for example, how often different social groups (for example, groups by age or gender) used each of the variants and then compare groups to each other (for example, men to women). You might find, for example, that women use “whom” somewhat often and that men rarely do. You should also look at other variables such as settings or regions of origin. You might find, for example, that “whom” only occurs in print and never (or rarely) in spoken language. Your data probably won’t fall into discrete categories, but you will notice tendencies for there to be factors that condition the occurrence of specific variants.

 

4.      After doing the analysis, prepare a written report to be handed in on the observation project due date. I will provide a link to a sample paper here (not including the appendix with the full data set) once everyone has turned in their topics with their intial data. The report should describe:

a)      the aspect of American English that you have collected your data on

b)      how you collected your data

c)      the variants you discovered

d)      an analysis of your data with a table for each of the analytic categories that you found to demonstrate patterning (e.g., Table 1: the variant as it is distributed by gender, Table 2: the variant as it is distributed by age, Table 3: the variant as it is distributed by setting)

e)      how your results compare with explanations given in 3 different ESL textbooks (many different textbooks are available for your perusal in the library and in the AL GA lounge; I also have several in my office. You may also use online materials, although you will need to say something about where you found them/why they are potentially good materials, or ones that you might reasonably consider using)

f)       the implications of your findings for teaching ESL

g)      a table in an appendix that shows all the data that you have collected (i.e. the variants and all the related demographic information for each token). The appendix can simply be the spreadsheet you used to collect and analyze your data.

 

In the discussion of your results, consider what you already know about variation from the literature (i.e., what we’ve read in this course) and how your results fit in. Notice that your report will have six sections—the six described above—plus an appendix. You and your partner will turn in one paper and both receive the same grade for the project, so be sure that you pick someone with compatible work habits and/or someone you know will share the work!

 

When you turn in your topic, you should include: what variable you are observing, at least 2 possible variants of that variable, and all data on the first few tokens you have collected in an Excel spreadsheet. Click here for an example.

 

*** This project is not one that you will want to put off until the last minute. Students who have done this project in the past have found that it was interesting and rewarding, but that the data analysis in particular took a lot of time.

 

We will spend some time in class on February 16th looking at how to analyze and present your data, so you should bring a laptop with all of your data collected thus far (one laptop per pair working together; if neither of you has access to a laptop, let me know ahead of time so we can find other options for you). If you collected data for which you had more than four or so possible variants (e.g. greetings), you should do preliminary coding/categorizing the data into no more than five categories for further analysis before class so that you can begin looking at how to analyze the data further and create tables. You can check out the sample paper (to be posted here, the same as the paper to be linked above) for an example of how previous students categorized their many variants and explained/justified that categorization.


Language Humor Project (due April 6th):

Collect examples of memes and jokes about different languages or different dialects of English and share these with me. I will share a collection of these jokes with the class; you will write a paper analyzing their language ideologies. More detailed instructions will be provided when I share the collection of jokes with the class. The purpose of the project is for you to:

a)      reflect on the readings in a more personal way; relate the readings to your experience with reactions to humor about different varieties, considering whether your findings support the claims made in the readings and how and why they might differ

b)      consider the implications of reactions to language varieties

c)   gain experience in qualitative data analysis

 

Paper (due April 27th, 11:59pm):

Write a library research paper of ~15 (12-18) pages on a sociolinguistic topic of your choice. The purpose of this assignment is to give you an opportunity to explore in depth a topic that you have found interesting. For the presentation (April 23rd, or in a few cases, April 16th), provide a handout that clearly shows what you looked at and what the main questions, findings, and/or problems are. It should also include a list of the references you are planning to use. You can also do a handout that you just show on the docucam instead of making copies for everyone, but you must provide me with a handout at the beginning of your presentation. The presentation itself should be no longer than 5 minutes (in order to allow everyone to have time to present).

 

General requirements for written work:

1.      All work should be typed and double-spaced. Each paper should be turned in as a Word document attached to an email, with your last name as the first part of the file name. Papers should be emailed to me from your student email accounts before the class period that they are due.

2.      Use APA format (you can use a paper published in any major applied linguistics journal as an example to follow and/or find resources on the web), including non-sexist language. If you need more information about what constitutes sexist language and how to avoid it, you can consult the APA manual or talk to me.

3.      Any material taken from a source needs to be identified as such, even if you have changed the wording. Failure to attribute material to its original author will be considered plagiarism and will result in a zero grade. Read the university policy on academic honesty online at https://deanofstudents.gsu.edu/document/policy-on-academic-honesty/?wpdmdl=4950/. Make sure you understand the appropriate use of sources in your work; if you still have questions after reading the policy, be sure to ask!

4.      Assignments will be graded on depth of coverage (comprehensive/ thorough treatment of the topic reflecting a clear understanding of the subject), presentation (clear, concise, readable prose), and argument (strength of evidence, and attention to counter arguments where necessary).

5.      In case of an emergency that interferes with your work in this class, talk to me as soon as you can. I normally don't accept late assignments; when I do, I may take off points for each day late.

 

Program learning outcomes

Evaluation

Demonstrate knowledge of the linguistic systems of English phonology, grammar, and discourse

Observation project, possibly final paper (depending on topic)

Use cultural knowledge in second language learning and teaching

Class discussion, possibly final paper (depending on topic)

Analyze and critique theory and practice of L2 teaching and learning

Class discussion, observation project, possibly final paper (depending on topic)

Connect theory and practice

Class discussion, observation project, possibly final paper (depending on topic)

Communicate effectively in both written and oral language

All assignments

Use technology effectively in research

Spreadsheet for observation project, research for final paper using online databases

quote

Schedule

 

Date Topic Assignment due on first day listed
1/12 Introduction (Wardhaugh & Fuller Ch 1)
quotations discussed in class
1/19 Varieties and Groups Wardhaugh & Fuller pp 3&4 (Knowledge of Language);
Chs 2 & 3

different uses of the term 'dialect' from in-class discussion
1/26 Language Variation & Change Wardhaugh & Fuller Ch 5, Snell 2010
Observation project topics (including initial data) due


handout on language ideological processes begun in class January 26th, to be discussed in class February 2nd

vowel shifts
old-school dialect map
more recent maps from the Atlas of North American English (Telsur project; Labov, Ash & Boberg):
cot-caught merger
pin-pen merger
hill-heel merger
witch-which contrast maintenance
Telsur project home page

class vs. style
sample table from Snell, like tables for observation project
2/2 Ethnography & Discourse Analysis Wardhaugh & Fuller Chs 6 & 7
2/9 Languages in Contact Wardhaugh & Fuller Chs 8 & 9
2/16 Nation & Migration; English as a Lingua Franca Wardhaugh & Fuller Ch 10, Kachru & Nelson 1996 (pp. 71-80), Jenkins 2009
Bring (coded) observation project data to class on laptop
2/23 Pragmatics Wardhaugh & Fuller Ch 4
Observation projects due via email; attach Word doc & Excel xls
3/2 Sociolinguistics & Language Teaching; Translanguaging Pennycook 2000; Li 2017
3/9 Language ideologies Lippi-Green (2012) Ch5, Lippi-Green 1997, Hill 2008
3/16 Spring break NO CLASS
3/23 AAVE Lippi-Green (2012) Ch10, Rickford & King 2016
3/30 Sociolinguistics & Education

Wardhaugh & Fuller Ch 12, Flores & Rosa 2015

4/6 Gender & Sexuality Wardhaugh & Fuller Ch 11
Language humor project
due
4/13 Language Policy & Planning Wardhaugh & Fuller Ch 13
4/20   Presentations
4/27   Final papers due, 11:59 pm

 

 

Readings available on iCollege:

Flores, N. and J. Rosa (2015). Undoing appropriateness: Raciolinguistic ideologies and language diversity in education. Harvard Educational Review 85(2): 149-171.

Hill, Jane H. (2008). The Everyday Language of White Racism. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 119-157, 191-194.

Jenkins, Jennifer (2009). English as a lingua franca: Interpretations and attitudes. World Englishes 28 (2), 200-207.

Kachru, Braj B. & Cecil L. Nelson (1996). World Englishes. In Sandra Lee Mc Kay & Nancy H. Hornberger (eds.), Sociolinguistics and language teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 71-102 (pp.71-80 are assigned).

Li Wei (2017). Translanguaging as a practical theory of language. Applied Linguistics. doi:10.1093/applin/amx039

Lippi-Green, Rosina (1997). English with an Accent: Language, Ideology, and Discrimination in the United States. New York: Routledge, 217-239.

Lippi-Green, Rosina (2011). English with an Accent: Language, Ideology, and Discrimination in the United States, 2nd edition. New York: Routledge, Chapter 5 66-77, Chapter 10 182-213.

Pennycook, Alastair (2000). The social politics and the cultural politics of language classrooms. In Joan Kelly Hall and William G. Eggington (eds) The Sociopolitics of English Language Teaching. Buffalo, NY : Multilingual Matters, 89-103.

Rickford, J. R. and S. King (2016). Language and linguistics on trial: Hearing Rachel Jeantel (and other vernacular speakers) in the courtroom and beyond. Language 92(4): 948-988.

Snell, Julia (2010) From sociolinguistic variation to socially strategic stylisation. Journal of Sociolinguistics 14(5), 630-656.

 

End-of-term course evaluations
Your constructive assessment of this course plays an indispensable role in shaping education at Georgia State University. Upon completing the course, please take the time to fill out the online course evaluation. Comments and suggestions are especially helpful.

 

The course syllabus provides a general plan for the course; deviations may be necessary.