Macro-Sociolinguistics & Micro-Sociolinguistics

What does Sociolinguistics study & how does it study it ? What’s the subject matter of Sociolinguistics? What are the methodologies that are used in Sociolinguistics? What is Sociolinguistics & how can we define it?Sociolinguistics is a branch of Linguistics in its widest sense. We will be distinguishing between the Sociology of language (MACRO Sociolinguistics) & Sociolinguistics (MICRO Sociolinguistics).


  • Linguistic
  • Society
  • Sociolinguistic 
  • Different PIDGIN & CREOLE
  • Act of communication

Linguistics is a branch of knowledge that examines in a systematic way that phenomenon which is called “Language”. Linguistics has a number of sub-branches which are the following:

1. PHONETICS: Studies speech sounds; how they’re produced & how they articulate in general.
2. PHONOLOGY: Deals with speech sounds; how they form patterns (phonemes).
3. MORPHOLOGY: Deals with smallest meaningful units of language (morphemes).
4. SYNATX: The way words combine to form larger units (morphemes=> words=> phrases=> clauses=> sentences: Syntactic Structure).
5. LEXICON: Some total of the words that are found in a language. The difference between Linguistics & Sociolinguistics:

+Linguistics: Called also “Formal Linguistics” because it studies linguistic forms of different kinds in ISOLATION.
+Sociolinguistics: Studies language which is a set of linguistic forms in RELATION TO SOCIETY AT LARGE. 

Many scholars are interested in studying Sociolinguistics because it sheds lights on both the nature of language & the nature of society. So, any attempt to define Sociolinguistics should start by defining the two terms: Society & Language. Also, we need to know the relationship that links the two.

A/ what is “Society”:

A society is any group of people who are drown together for a certain purpose or for common ends. We need to adopt this very comprehensive view of society because of the different meanings of societies that exist.

PS: Sociolinguistics Study Guide is available in Link

=> How can we understand society by Language?

– Sociolinguistics is concerned with the study of Language in society & the relationship between Language & Society.

– A language that is created among groups of people who have no common language is called a PIDGIN.

– The difference between PIDGIN & CREOLE is that in Pidgins we have no native speakers, whereas in Creole we talk about the native speakers of that language.

– A language can define a society. In other words, the society can be defined by a language. Thus, Language is social & that it has a social function.

– In an act of communication, there is always one function which is predominant.

  • Conative function: when the speaker tries to influence the behavior of the addressee.
  • Expressive function: when you talk about your feelings & emotions. 
  • Transactional/Referential function: when you state facts in reality which has certain content. 
  •  Phatic function: the major aim of this function is to establish a pleasant atmosphere among the people who are interacting. For example, greetings & empty talks. We can say that the absence of greeting means the relationship isn’t going well. So, this function clearly shows that Language is social. 
  • Aesthetic function: when we create art by using Language, like poems etc… 
  • Metalinguistics/Metadiscoursal function: when Language is used to talk about other language (language referring to itself). For example: dictionaries…
Macro-Sociolinguistics & Micro-Sociolinguistics
Macro-Sociolinguistics & Micro-Sociolinguistics

Language is also a way of identifying social groups in various kinds. It characterizes different kinds of linguistics communities such as: Nations, Social classes, Ethnic groups.

– A linguistics community means a nation state which has a symbolic flag, an anthem, etc.

So, in what sense does language has a social function ?

1. It is used in the means of communication: transactional, phatic, conative, expressive, aesthetic and metalinguistic function.
2. It can be used to identify linguistics communities: nations (American, Arabic…) or larger than a state which is called “the common wealth”.
3. It can be used to identify ethnic groups: Italians in New York, Jews, and Hispanic…
4. It can be used to distinguish age groups: children, adults.
5. It can be used also to identify gender groups: men & women speak different varieties.

– Linguists are interested in Language which can be defined as a set of linguistic items of linguistic forms such as:

  • Sounds: (phonemes & allophones) is the use of allophones socially determined, like in the case of the glottal stops ? 
  • Morphemes: (words) do we find some words which are used by a group of people according to their backgrounds. 
  • Syntax: how the combination of words varies from a group of people to another.

– Anthropologists & social theorists are interested in understanding the relationship between people & societies like the norms, culture, customs & what is what is considered to be a normal behavior. They study the relations between these people can have, such as friendship.

– Socialists are also interested in understanding some concepts like: solidarity, corporation, competition, intimacy, politeness and positive/negative face.

– Linguists try to find the relationship between linguistic items & social concepts.

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