Language and Linguistics


Sociolinguistics Types of sociolinguistic variation



Sociolinguistics is the Scientific field that concerns linguistics and sociology.There are four types: phonetic-phonological variation, syntactic variation, lexical variation and speech variation will discuss later.Defining itself as the study of the influence of society on language , including cultural norms, expectations and the context in which speakers move.

Study the difference between the sociolect of groups separated by certain social variables such as religion , educational level, socioeconomic level, the origin of the speaker, for example, city-countryside. When this is linked to a particular culture it is sometimes called ethnolect, for example, yidis is usually considered a dialect of German.

Sociolinguistics studies language in relation to society. Its objective of analysis is the influence that the factors derived from the various situations of use have on a language, such as age, sex, ethnicity, social class or the type of education received by the interlocutors, the relationship that there is between them or the time and place in which linguistic communication occurs.

Sociolinguistics was born from interest in going beyond studies that considered language as an abstract system, isolated from the speaker and society. The sociolinguistic term appears for the first time in 1952 in the title of a work by HC Currie; However, one of the most important dates at the beginning of the discipline is 1964, the year in which several important meetings were held in the United States – convened mainly by linguists, sociologists and anthropologists – that aroused the interest of many specialists and promoted the discipline development. As of this date, a relentless activity began around sociolinguistic studies in the United States, Canada and England.

At the birth of sociolinguistics, the interests of different disciplines such as linguistics, anthropology or sociology came together. W. Labov questioned the Chomskyan competition / performance dichotomy for understanding that it was impossible to separate the system from the language of its realization. Similarly, if N. Chomsky affirms that linguistic goal is the competence of an ideal speaker-listener who belongs to a homogeneous community and is not affected by outsiders, W. Labov insists on the importance of variation linguistic and affirms that the justification for this variation is the interrelation between linguistic and social factors. It limits the concept of sociolinguistic competence , which he described as the result of the sum of the internal level of language (competence), the external level (performance) and social factors.

Broadly speaking, there are two aspects within sociolinguistics: an empirical one, which is mainly responsible for data collection and possibly responsible for the current development of the discipline; and a theoretical one, whose objective is the reflection on these data. Research in sociolinguistics is mainly developed in three fields: that of urban quantitative sociolinguistics or variationism (this branch studies the linguistic variation associated with social factors that occurs in a speaker or in a community of speakers ), that of language sociology  and that of the Ethnography of communication .  Among these currents there are important theoretical and methodological differences. In addition, each country has schools, traditions, study conventions and particular sociolinguistic situations that determine research.

Some linguists, given the existing disagreement about which plots are subject to sociolinguistic study and which would be outside their scope of study, have proposed that sociolinguistic studies can include from the study of interpersonal communication, for example speech acts or the sequencing of sentences (micro sociolinguistics) , until the study of linguistic planning, the choice of language in bilingual or multilingual communities or linguistic attitudes (macro sociolinguistics) .

The relations between sociolinguistics and language learning have been numerous and fruitful. On the one hand, sociolinguistics has been interested in the processes of language acquisition (first and second) since the social context is one of the most influential factors in this process. On the other hand, language teaching has included the basic approaches of sociolinguistics: linguistic variation must be reflected in the teaching of a language and it is therefore necessary to pay attention to the language in its social context. In language teaching it is essential to highlight the sociolinguistic components of communication both in the production and in the reception of the language by students. The Common European Framework of Reference for Language she points out that students of a foreign language must develop the knowledge and skills necessary to be able to use the language in their social dimension, that is, to develop their sociolinguistic competence .


The use of these linguistic varieties can be used to categorize individuals into social class, social or socioeconomic classes, although the same individual can use different varieties of the language according to the social situation and the context in which the interaction takes place.

We would say that sociolinguistics encompasses dialectology, in the first instance, to then study the various combinations: it starts from the self, but immersed in society .


Sometimes a distinction is made between sociolinguistics and the sociology of language , whose focus is on the effect of language on society. Also, synchronous sociolinguistics focuses on the sociolinguistic structure and linguistic variations that depend on the situations and attitudes of speakers, while historical or diachronic sociolinguistics deals with linguistic change, acquisition and dissemination of languages.

Among the international sociolinguists, William Labov can be mentioned, considered by some to be the father of the discipline, Dell Hymes and Deborah Tañen . In Spanish , it is worth mentioning the professor at the University of Alcalá de Henares, Francisco Moreno .

Applied Linguistics

Branch of linguistics that deals with the problems that language poses as a means of social relationship and from which three branches or fields of action derive: mother tongue teaching, second language teaching and computer-assisted language teaching, Computer Assisted Language Learning ( CALL ).

There are a multitude of approaches, including the communicative approach, the TBLT task-based approach, for its acronym in English and the cooperative language learning approach. All of them are based on two major theoretical branches: in the area of ​​linguistics Structuralism and the currents of Constructivism and Cognitivism in the area of ​​education.

During the 1950s and 1960s he focused on concrete errors and contrastive analysis. During the 1970s , with the failure of this analytical contrast method as a theory to predict errors, applied linguistics began to adopt Noam Chomsky’s theory about Universal Grammar to explain the phenomenon of learning a second language. In the 1990s, a growing number of researchers began using study methods based on cognitive psychology .

Today, this field of study is an interdisciplinary mix mainly of linguistics, anthropology , psychology and education. The International Association of Applied Linguistics is a forum that covers a wide spectrum of researchers in this area. Some publications in this area include “Studies in Second Language Acquisition”, “Modern Language Review”, “Language Learning”, “Applied Linguistics”, ” AILA Journal ” and the ” TESOL Journal “.

Types of sociolinguistic variation

There are four types: phonetic-phonological variation, syntactic variation, lexical variation and speech variation.

Phonetic-phonological variation

Since this is not affected because of problems of meaning, the phonological variation was the first to be analyzed. This is very important because it makes it the easiest to study.

Syntactic Variation

The nature of the syntactic variation is not analogous to the phonological one [1] for the following reasons:

  • It is less syntactic variation than phonological in languages.
  • The low frequency with which a context of occurrence can be counted and the difficulty of obtaining examples of the use of one or another variant, make the syntactic more difficult to measure or quantify.
  • In the syntactic variation the contexts of occurrence are more difficult to identify or define.
  • Possible differences in meaning between variants are a problem in syntactic variation.
  • Syntactic variation is usually not stylized or socially stratified, this is determined by completely linguistic factors.

Lexical Variation

His study faces the same problems as syntactics. Among them, the establishment of equivalences between variants stands out, which leads us to the old discussion about the existence or not of synonymy. The lexical units may be semantically neutralized, but it is very difficult to demonstrate that two or more variants are equivalent. This is further complicated when the use of a certain form is influenced by connotations, own impressions, communicative uses, that is, when the issuer applies criteria to his lexical selection that may go unnoticed by listeners. The study of lexical variation seeks to explain the alternation in the use of lexical forms in certain linguistic and extralinguistic conditions.

Variation in speech

It is difficult to establish where the lexical or morphological variation ends and the variation in the discourse begins. The change of referent, shift or emphasis are some variables of discursive type.

Morphological type

Those that affect morphology , especially grammatical, whose variation does not usually involve pragmatic and syntactic levels.

Category Type

These are the ones that sometimes affect morphological elements and, almost always, syntax, whose variation usually involves the semantic and pragmatic levels.

Functional type

These are the ones that influence syntax and, partially, morphology. These are not usually related to other semantic factors, they are usually determined by geographical, sociolinguistic, historical and stylistic factors.

Positional type

The intonation is usually involved in all of them, and here lies its importance.

Most studied variants


Start a methodology by applying the study of five phonological variables in New York , and this will be imitated later by other researchers.


He insists on the simplicity of the “Labov” variant concept. An example was the studies carried out on some English dialects in which the variation of r at the end of a syllable was analyzed, in which an important difference of these was not taken into account: whether or not r influences the syllable vowel . This causes a loss of information at the linguistic level. Several authors concluded that the initial position of the word is more important than the next.

Different Factors

Social factors

As for social factors, it is hypothesized that the tense variant imitation of the correct sound is more frequent the higher the sociocultural level.

Linguistic factors

There are three groups of linguistic factors that can determine phonological variation.

  • Contextual: they are made up of the elements that follow or precede the variable.
  • Distributional refers to the place where the phoneme appears.
  • Functional: it has to do with the nature of the grammatical categories in which the variable is included.


It is the way of speaking characteristic of each person when the expression is in writing is called style. It manifests itself in a particular selection of lexicon, and grammar, and also in peculiar words, phrases and turns, and in variants of intonation and pronunciation. Each of these traits is called idiotism.


The idiolects fulfill the function of making compatible the need to communicate with others, with the need for each person to express their particular way of being and thinking, their tastes and their needs. Each human being has an idiolect, or several if it is bilingual, trilingual. An idiolect always has, at a minimum, areas of contact with an ecolect, a sociolect, and a dialect or language.

Your situation in semiotics

If the classical structuralist semiotic analysis is applied, an idiolect is, already from the approaches of Ferdinand de Saussure, an act that corresponds to speech, that is, an implementation, in practice, of the most normative, common and standardized axis of the language .


It is assumed that an idiolect reflects the individual characteristics of the subject, it is said that it is the own and particular use that each one makes of the language, however, the subject with “[his]” idiolect is strongly often unconsciously conditioned by his family environment in particular, by his parents, social and cultural, and also by the situation for example of health in which he is.

Speech Circumstances

A person will not talk in the same way, for example, with a small child, than with an adult whom you are dealing with, but as this is common to all speakers , they are considered to be different records or situational varieties. Nor will the idiolect of a subject be exactly constant according to his emotional state, like any other form of personal expression . An idiolect , however peculiar, is constrained by circumstances and their future.

New experiences

The acquisition of new experiences – obviously – usually influences idiolects, or more specifically, ideology, resignifications whose code is almost always understood only by speakers of this or that ecolecto that in this way can quickly understand their respective idiolects.

On the other hand, an idiolect is usually influenced by other varieties of language, for example the sociolect and the chronolect of the speaker.


The idiolects, ecolects, sociolects, usually have more equal or very similar elements than differences with the common language, so they can usually be understood by any speaker of the same language without difficulty, with the only condition that it is not a word or phrase only, but of a discourse that allows establishing a context.

In any case, idiolects usually have several levels of reading. That is to say, that a person who does not know an idiolect well, ecolecto will understand the essential, but it is very likely that he does not capture all the nuances, and, in this sense, one can speak of different readings, which is what linguists call several polysemic possible meanings or at the same time.


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button