An Introduction to Sociolinguistics

Janet Holmes
Januar 2008
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An Introduction to Sociolinguistics
4 Januar 2013 30.30


Examining the way people use language in different social contexts provides a wealth of information about the way language works, as well as about the social relationships in a community.  An Introduction to Sociolinguistics explores both these aspects of sociolinguistic study. This updated, expanded third edition is the number one introduction to socio-linguistics on the market.


  • The number one bestselling introduction to sociolinguistics
  • Extended coverage including approaches to discourse analysis, more coverage of globalisation and new technology.
  • Updated examples and references.
  • Expanded and improved glossary and improved referencing.

Table of Contents


Author’s Acknowledgements    

Publisher’s Acknowledgements    


1.    What do sociolinguists study?    


Section A: Multilingual speech communities

2.    Language choice in multilingual communities    

3.    Language maintenance and shift    

4.    Linguistic varieties and multilingual nations    

5.    National languages and language planning   


Section B: Language variation: focus on users

6.    Regional and social dialects    

7.    Gender and age   

8.    Ethnicity and social networks     

9.    Language change    


Section C: Language variation: focus on uses

10.  Style, context and register   

11.  Speech functions, politeness and cross-cultural communication      

12.  Gender, politeness and stereotypes    

13.  Language, cognition and culture   

14.  Analysing Discourse

15.  Attitudes and applications    

16.  Conclusion    



Appendix I: phonetic symbols    

Appendix II: preface to first edition

Appendix III: preface to second edition



Back Cover

A perfect book for an introductory undergraduate class: accessibly written, dense with examples, and comprehensive, both in terms of topic and geographic focus.

Scott Kiesling, University of Pittsburgh

'Those who, like me, use Janet Holmes’ inspirational Introduction to Sociolinguistics… will be delighted with this thoroughly revised and updated new edition. It is just as much fun to read as the previous editions, has the same clear, lively writing style and contains an even more comprehensive survey than before of the different topics that excite sociolinguists. The brand new chapter…broadens its appeal still further.'

Professor Jenny Cheshire, Queen Mary, Universityof London 


Learning about Language

General Editors: Geoffrey Leech and Mick Short, LancasterUniversity


What is sociolinguistics?

Sociolinguistics is the study of the interaction between language and society. In this classic introductory work, Janet Holmes examines the role of language in a variety of social contexts and considers both how language works and how it can be used to signal and interpret various aspects of social identity. Written with Holmes’ customary enthusiasm, the book is divided into three sections which explain basic sociolinguistic concepts in the light of both classic approaches and the most recent research.

Section A examines the varying patterns of language use within multilingual speech communitiesand considers the ways in which languages change within society, highlighting the factors that can lead to language displacement and, sometimes, to language death.

Section B explores some of the social reasons behind language variation in monolingual communities and looks at the ways in which different ethnic, gender and social groups develop and maintain speech variations. The relationship between language variation and language change is also described.

Section C assesses how attitudes to language affect speech behaviour and shows that appropriate linguistic responses take account of a variety of contextual factors – for example, the relative status of addresser and addressee.  

This third edition has been updated thoroughly and new examples have been added to enhance understanding. A major addition to this edition is an extended chapter on discourse analysis which outlines a number of different approaches to analysing spoken language in its social context. Supported throughout by a range of exercises and suggestions for further reading, An Introduction to Sociolinguistics is an essential introductory text for all students of sociolinguistics and a splendid point of reference for students of applied linguistics. It is also an accessible guide for those who are simply interested in language and the uses we put it to.

Janet Holmes holds a personal Chair in Linguistics at Victoria University of Wellington where she teaches a range of sociolinguistics courses.



Janet Holmes holds a personal Chair in Linguistics at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, where she teaches a variety of sociolinguistics courses.