An Introduction to English Sociolinguistics

An Introduction to English Sociolinguistics

An Introduction to English Sociolinguistics

An Introduction to English Sociolinguistics

Synopsis

This textbook, aimed primarily at beginning undergraduates obtaining degrees in English, provides an introduction to a range of sociolinguistic theories and their insight into varieties of English, past and present. Drawing on both qualitative and quantitative approaches to sociolinguistic variation, the book provides a systematic overview of topics such as: "English'"as a social and linguistic concept; the relationship between regional and social dialectology, and their application to the study of English; English historical sociolinguistics, from Old English to late Modern English; sociolinguistics and ongoing change in English; Englishes as contact varieties; English as an official language; and English, sociolinguistics, and linguistic theory. The book draws from studies of English as it is spoken around the world, facilitating a deeper understanding of linguistic variation in English and the social, political, and cultural contexts in which speakers and writers of English operate.

Excerpt

Most of you reading this book will have a fairly good idea of what English is, and what it represents, and this is true no matter where in the world you come from. One of the reasons for this is associated with the world-wide spread of English, and the status that English has as a global language. English is associated by many with power and prestige: it is seen as the language of electronic media, the language of business, the language people often turn to when other means of communication fail – English is the world’s lingua franca or common language. It fulfils a global function which other languages do not. There may be more speakers of Mandarin Chinese than there are of English, but Mandarin does not have the same kind of influence in the same number of countries as English does. The number of speakers of Spanish as either a first or second language might be growing rapidly on the American continent, but this does not match the total number of speakers learning English as a second language, in countries as diverse as Germany and Namibia. The spread of English, from its Germanic origins in the fifth century CE to its status as the only linguistic superpower of the twentyfirst century, is not simply a fascinating subject of intellectual inquiry; it has also meant that English has become the language in which much international intellectual inquiry is reported, in research papers at conferences or research articles in journals, irrespective of the topic.

But this global spread has not been cost-free. As English has forced its way into a number of different communities across the world, local languages – and with them, the culture that those languages embody – have died out. ‘Killer English’ is often thought of as a recent phenomenon: it has been linked to the rise of mass communication, and to the political and economic might of two countries, the United States and the United Kingdom, from the nineteenth century onwards. However, even at its inception, English has been linked with the displacement . . .

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