Some of the questions we will explore in the course include: How do we understand difference and diversity in language? What is the difference between a language and a dialect? Do languages really exist? What is the social significance of variation in language? Is language change a form of progress or decay? Are some languages or varieties of language better than others? How is language linked to culture and world-view? Should we care about language loss/endangerment and if so, why? How and why do people speak differently in different contexts? When and why do people mix languages (so-called ‘code-switching’ or ‘polylanguaging’? We will also explore some local sociolinguistic questions in the Hong Kong context: e.g. Is Hong Kong English best viewed as a problem or a resource? How can we make sense of the linguistic landscape in Hong Kong? How do speakers interact across cultural, social and linguistic boundaries? Can language be planned or managed through policy? What impact are modern communications technologies having on linguistic behaviour and ways of thinking about language?



The goals of this course are three-fold. First, students will be introduced to the fundamentals of sociolinguistics (key terms, major concepts and sociolinguistic methodology), enabling them to understand the perspective and development of the discipline. Second, students will be trained to analyze sociolinguistic studies and engage in critical thinking about the process of scholarly research. Third, students are encouraged to explore the connections between the discipline and their world, and build awareness of power and discrimination issues related to language use globally as well as in the Hong Kong context.




1. Periodic in-class assignments - 20%
2. Group presentation (max. group 5 persons) - 30%
3. Sociolinguistic research project/extended essay (max. 2500 words) - 50%




Textbook recommended for students who had no prior linguistic or sociolinguistic background:

Mesthrie, Swann, Deumert and Leap (2000) Introducing Sociolinguistics. UK: Edinburgh University Press. (Main Library 306.44 I61 m or via netlibrary, please check and for new or used copies).

Other course material will be available electronically via Moodle or in the library. Suggested readings will also be announced throughout the term.



Last updated: 8 January 2018