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The study of language undoubtedly inevitably involves how it is being used, and under which circumstances. The field of Sociolinguistics focuses on the study of the effects of the environment on the use of language. This includes variables such as economic status, class or caste, gender, age, and other types of codes of usage in society.
Out of the three major sociological perspectives, Functionalism and Conflict Theory are the most effective to apply to an analysis of the social context of language and learning. Functionalism, or the study of how systems with together within one same society, can be used to analyze how groups of different class systems are able to co-exist and live as a community: how does a heterogeneous, yet, unified community affect the L2 learner? How can an L2 learner or an ELL blend in with the current system and become a productive part of it?
Conflict theory is also an effective sociological perspective to apply to this type analysis because it explores, and averts, the possibility of a clash of classes within the system. This theory analyzes, among other things, the balance with which different classes are treated; is there equity? Is society considering every group within society with the same amount of worth? Is there social justice, or social injustice in the present community? Those are the questions asked when you apply conflict theory to an analysis of social context.
Therefore, sociological perspectives help to frame the analysis of social context in language and learning. They also help the analysis maintain its focus on what trends and patterns may surface in the community, and how it may affect learners as its citizens of the future.
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