Article

Sociolinguistics

Kara Becker

in Anthropology

ISBN: 9780199766567
Published online September 2013 | | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199766567-0117
Sociolinguistics

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  • Anthropology
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Sociolinguistics is the study of language in culture and society, within the field of linguistics. In its broad goal of describing language and its relationship to society, social behavior, and culture, it overlaps with numerous other disciplines, most notably linguistic anthropology, but also sociology, philosophy, psychology, and dialectology. More specifically, sociolinguistics may be distinguished in having a narrower goal of advancing linguistic theory. Sociolinguists believe that the pursuits of linguistics, a field devoted to modeling the unique human faculty for language, cannot be accomplished without the incorporation of the social. This is not a view held by all linguists, in particular the formal linguists who work within the Chomskyan generative tradition, and so the work of sociolinguistics is in large part to incorporate the social as a central focus of linguistic inquiry. In contrast, other disciplines that focus on language in use may have the ultimate goal of sociological or anthropological description. This division according to ends is not so rigid in practice, so that sociolinguists can be thought of as part of a larger group of scholars of the social life of language. This broad characterization reflects the emergence of sociolinguistics as an identifiable discipline, generally acknowledged to have occurred in the 1960s in the United States. At that time, scholars from a number of fields worked together as part of a more general move in the social sciences to devote increased amounts of scholarly attention to the social study of language. Today, the term usually references a solidly linguistic enterprise, a result of the solidification of disciplinary boundaries over time. The goal of this article is to capture both the history of sociolinguistics as the study of the social life of language (sociolinguistics in the broader sense) as well as sociolinguistics as an integral part of linguistics (sociolinguistics in the narrow sense).

Article.  10194 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology ; Human Evolution ; Medical Anthropology ; Physical Anthropology ; Social and Cultural Anthropology

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