What is sociolinguistics? Expand upon its scope and areas of investigation.

Expert Answers
wordprof eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Of the many subtypes of the study of linguistics – the study and description of word formation (as inflection, derivation, and compounding) in language, the most relevant to current social inquiries is sociolinguistics – looking at how language uses vary with reference to social classes, geography, and political orientations – gender differences, occupations, bilingualism, etc. When we speak of accents (high-class, Brooklyn, Southern, “foreign,” etc.) we are referring to sociolinguistic variation from what might be called “standard English” pronunciation and use. But the term itself is socially suspect, putting some make-believe standards in place that have very little “authority” to a claim of superiority. Besides “pronunciations,” there are also variations in the use of suffixes, prefixes, and other word parts – we may not think the Southern uses “you all” or “y’all” are “proper” language elements, for example. Studying these linguistic variations – their derivation, their localizations, their legitimacy in formal discourse, their identification signature, etc., is the province of those sociolinguists specializing in this subset of the more general study of morphology in language.