After finishing my first year at the University of Reading, I realised that studying English Language here was one of the best decisions I had made during my A-levels. My modules as a part one student consisted of Sounds Grammar and Meaning, English Language in Use, Techniques and Skills for Applies Linguistics and English Language in Society. The module I particularly enjoyed was English Language in Society, which I now have the opportunity to further my study in, through my core part two module Sociolinguistics. Sociolinguistics is a great module for those who want to understand the deeper or implied meaning behind language, and how this affects us as individuals, our social groups and the culture around us. I find it fascinating to see how one small word or sentence can have such a great effect on the world around us, and how every individual can take or draw something different from those words.
As Sociolinguistics is a core part two module, everyone on the English Language course was obliged to take it. It helps to further your knowledge from your compulsory first year module, English Language in Society; so it’s actually less a question of learning new content, but rather applying the content you have learnt during the first year to a range of different situations and scenarios. For example, we look at everything from language in advertising to language change, gender and power. The areas within Sociolinguistics I particularly enjoy studying are language in advertising, and language and power. My interest in these areas started whilst studying language in power when doing my A-level exams, and it has only grown more as I have developed a new understanding of how language really can make a difference in society, depending on the way we use it.
Another aspect of Sociolinguistics I have really enjoyed is taking part in the group project, which makes up for 30% of our overall module grade. The group project allows you to analyse the language of any TV show or film you wish, and then within your group create a website to present your findings and conclusion. You will be looking at the different varieties of English, and the key phonological and grammatical aspects of these varieties, as well as how characters use features such as a particular linguistic style to convey their identity. You will also develop this further by showing how these features actually create stereotypes and ideologies relating to particular varieties, such as Received Pronunciation and African-American vernacular English, and the affect this has on society.
With only a few weeks left of this module, one tip I can give you is to look behind the language when you are next watching a TV show or a films. What are the characters or individuals really trying to say? Is what they are saying actually having an impact, or even changing the way you view something? Asking yourself these questions will only help to further your understanding of the power that language has. Finally, if you’re looking to start early on some reading around this topic a great start would be Homes, J. (2013), An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. It’s a great book to get a feel for what this module is all about.