|All language events consist of a piece of language in a social context.|
|Every different social context determines that particular form of language.|
|The language used in particular situations determines the nature of that social event.|
Given these three points, the potential scope of the discipline of sociolinguistics is enormous. Indeed, given such a broad definition of the field, it would be difficult to see any linguistic situation that did not come within the concern of sociolinguistics. Though a theoretical argument can be made along these lines, it is clearly impractical for a book on sociolinguistics to be a book on the language of everything. We can even say that accepting the three points above means that the only way of proceeding in the exploration of language is by practical investigation. So this book explores the territory and boundaries of sociolinguistics by presenting real studies and real data.
In Section B (Development), sociolinguistic case studies are presented from the work of my undergraduate students. Section C (Exploration) sets out some sociolinguistic data for your own investigation. In the last section of the book (D—Extension), excerpts from professional published studies are presented. All of these sections thus allow you the freedom to conduct practical thinking and analysis, and present you with real examples of how to go about your own study. However, you will also need a map of the area and a toolkit for investigation, and these are provided in Section A.
One mistake that new students of sociolinguistics often make is to run off enthusiastically with recorder in pocket to collect some data, and then examine the transcript to see what they have caught. The problem with this ‘trawling’ approach is that they may not know what they have in their sociolinguistic net, may not be able to recognise it, classify it, nor know what to do with it, and they will not be able to claim anything believable about their fishing trip.
The fact is that successful explorations require a bit of planning and preparation. Fundamentally, this means knowing what you want to find out, and devising a plan of action to discover it. First, then, it is important to understand the theoretical