Sociolinguistics

Sociolinguistics is the study of language in social context. Faculty and student interests in this concentration include, but are not limited to: language and social interaction, language variation and change, discourse analysis, cross-cultural communication, narrative and oral history, language and identity, language and dialect contact, endangered and minority languages and dialects, language and aging, language and health care, language and business, language and education, and forensic linguistics.

Sociolinguistics Faculty

Affiliated Faculty


1. Foundational knowledge and skills in linguistics. Sociolinguistics draws upon foundational knowledge from linguistics, and our faculty and students value a broad-based understanding of a range of scholarly domains within linguistics. In foundational knowledge, Georgetown Sociolinguistics (SLI) Ph.D. students will demonstrate basic understanding of important topics and theories, as well as familiarity with the nature of data and the methods of research, in the domains of linguistic analysis of sound, form, and meaning; applied linguistics; and computational linguistics.


2. Content knowledge in sociolinguistics. The diversity of emphases that characterizes sociolinguistic scholarship is reflected in the range of research and teaching interests of SLI program faculty and students.
Breadth of knowledge in Sociolinguistics: SLI Ph.D. graduates will demonstrate general understanding of the variety of domains that constitute the discipline of sociolinguistics, including familiarity with diverse linguistic, cognitive, and social issues of interest to the field as well as the theoretical and epistemological approaches to their investigation. As part of this general understanding, SLI Ph.D. graduates will demonstrate understanding of the history and development of the field of sociolinguistics.
Depth in one area of Sociolinguistics: In addition, SLI Ph.D. graduates will have achieved mastery of knowledge within at least one specific area of sociolinguistics, typified by (a) comprehensive coverage of the key elements within a given knowledge-base, (b) knowledge of the history and development of the specific area, (c) critical engagement with cutting-edge developments in the area, and (d) the contribution of both established and new knowledge to important questions, gaps, or problems in the area.
Understanding of the interrelations between language and society, including how linguistic and social factors shape and are shaped by one another: SLI Ph.D. graduates will have gained understanding of qualitative and quantitative approaches to studying the interrelations between language and personhood, interpersonal relations, and social groups, structures, actions, and ideologies. As a crucial part of this understanding, they will demonstrate understanding of the patterned nature of language variation and change, as well as the ways that linguistic features pattern in social interaction.


3. Research skills. Expertise in research methodology is emphasized in Georgetown’s SLI program and is a hallmark of our faculty and students. SLI Ph.D. graduates will have achieved advanced skills in designing and utilizing research methods appropriate for their specific areas of interest, and they will promote high-quality research practice among other researchers (through peer review and teaching, conference attendance and presentations, dissemination of academic publications, etc.). Research expertise incorporates valid design of studies, meaningful data collection, accurate data analysis, and adherence to ethical standards.
Empirical literature base: SLI Ph.D. graduates will have acquired deep familiarity with historically deep and diverse bodies of literature in sociolinguistic research that they can draw from for future lifelong research and which can be built upon in their foreseeable future, for example, in careers in academia, business, the law, healthcare, public service, or other sectors. SLI Ph.D. graduates will be capable of understanding and articulating the impact that choices of theoretical approach and research methodology have on the development of knowledge in sociolinguistics.
Practical research skills: SLI Ph.D. graduates will have acquired research skills that are applicable to future research endeavors (e.g., academic positions at Research I universities, leadership positions in government agencies and other organizations conducting research on language and society), to future professional endeavors (e.g., leadership positions in agencies and organizations relying heavily on deep understanding of language and multi-modal communication, including in government, business, legal, medical, and educational settings), and to communicating with others about the role and value of language and linguistic diversity for individuals, societies, and human culture and cognition more broadly.


4. Professional skills. The SLI program emphasizes the development of skills critical to the professions of Sociolinguistics, including in particular academic writing and teaching.
Writing: SLI Ph.D. graduates will have honed their skills as excellent academic writers, capable of (a) synthesizing the research of others in ways that are clear and appealing to an audience of academic or professional peers; (b) writing across different genres that are prominent in sociolinguistics circles (including research articles, book reviews, peer review reports, newsletter pieces, grant proposals, IRB applications, and letters of recommendation); (c) writing up one’s own research and being able to succeed in publishing in academic and professional venues (e.g., refereed journals in sociolinguistics and general linguistics, and newsletters of professional associations); and (d) providing high-quality feedback on the writing of peers and students.
Teaching: SLI Ph.D. graduates will have developed into confident instructors of sociolinguistics and general linguistics. They will have acquired a repertoire of pedagogical techniques for teaching linguistics courses in their areas of expertise. They will know how to present material effectively in the classroom (or other forums for dissemination, like conference presentations), how to structure student-centered learning of content matter in linguistics, and how to foster student learning and critical involvement in lifelong learning about issues at the intersections of language, culture and society.


5. Professional engagement and collaborative ethos. The SLI program values a commitment to the profession of sociolinguistics, and its faculty and students regularly engage in outreach, service, and the promotion of excellence in the field. SLI Ph.D. graduates will demonstrate a commitment to professional engagement and will be recognized for excellence in their specific areas of sociolinguistics, including participation in professional events, dissemination of research in various forums, and service contributions that enhance scholarly exchange and practical application of their and others’ scholarly work. Further, SLI Ph.D. graduates will value and be able to create/sustain collaboration, both when carrying out research projects and when sharing ideas with others working in the same field and topics, whether at professional gatherings, through journals, chapters and/or books, or through participation in professional associations and research bodies. In particular, sociolinguistics is characterized by a long and continuing tradition of sharing knowledge about language and society with communities outside of academia, and SLI Ph.D. graduates will share this commitment and, concurrently, commitment to the Georgetown University Mission to “be reflective lifelong learners, to be responsible and active participants in civic life and to live generously in service to others.”