|it provides you with the necessary background of the history of the discipline;|
|it familiarises you with the main current research areas;|
|it allows you to see the sorts of methods and approaches that are used by different sociolinguists;|
|it gives you a model for how to express yourself in appropriate academic and scholarly language.|
Reading with a critical awareness (that is, reading and thinking rather than simply being a passive reader) allows you to see that different writers come to different conclusions and interpretations. This sort of critical engagement will spark your own ideas and allow you to see areas that need further investigation. The journey from being introduced to sociolinguistics to being a serious researcher doing valuable and innovative work is a short one, and by this point in the book you are already well on the way.
The ten readings in this section have been selected to give you a useful resource across the field of sociolinguistics. They range from surveys to specific details of research studies; they include classic articles as well as extracts that are more difficult to find; and they cover material which is accessible as well as writing that can give you a taste of complex analysis and argument. After each reading, some suggestions for thinking and critical engagement are offered. It is often useful if you make brief notes and ideas either in the margins (if this book is yours) or in a notebook. If you get into the habit of ‘reading with a pencil’ you will find you are never short of ideas.
The numbered sections roughly correspond with the corresponding sections earlier in this book, though sometimes the readings combine several areas of interest. The first reading, below, uses many of the terms introduced in A1, though Hamer also discusses issues of standardisation (A6, B6, C6) in relation to language change (B11, C11), and refers to Labov’s work (A5) in order to make a point about language and education (B12, C12).