LING 102: Introduction to Sociolinguistics      Summer 2007
    Marjorie Pak (mpak at
    Department of Linguistics
    University of Pennsylvania

    Office hours:
    Monday 1:15-2:15, or by appointment
    623 Williams Hall (Phonetics Lab)

Class meetings:
MW 10:00am-1:10pm
4 Williams Hall
7/2/07-8/8/07 (no class 7/4)

Course homepage:


General description: Ling 102 is an introduction to the study of human language viewed from a social and historical perspective. Students will acquire a variety of tools for linguistic analysis, covering phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax and discourse. The course will focus on linguistic changes in progress in American society, in both mainstream and minority communities. Students will engage in field projects to search for the social correlates of linguistic behavior, and will use quantitative methods to analyze the results. The course has no prerequisites, and satisfies the Quantitative Data Analysis Requirement, Society Sector. It is appropriate for any Penn student interested in language and its use.

  • All required readings will be distributed in class or made available online in PDF. For students interested in doing further background reading, I recommend Jean Aitchison's Language change: progress or decay? (Cambridge).
  • To complete the field projects, you'll need to have access to a computer with Excel or a comparable spreadsheet program. (campus computer labs)
  • It may be helpful to have recording equipment of some kind (laptop with microphone, portable tape/MP3 recorder, etc). If you don't, we can arrange for you to borrow it as the need arises.
Requirements: Due to the nature of the summer school schedule, we will be covering a lot of new material in each meeting. It is therefore very important that you attend every class and complete the readings and written assignments on time. Active participation in class is expected, and in general there won't be opportunities to make up late or incomplete work (except in case of a genuine medical or personal emergency, in which case you should contact me as soon as you can). There are four kinds of assignments that will be graded:
  1. Field project: Throughout the course, you will be collecting linguistic data from speakers in your community using various methods (site studies, rapid-and-anonymous elicitations, reading tasks, etc). We will pool the data we've collected as a class and use it to study variation in the pronunciation of /ae/ -- the vowel in cat, laugh, hammer, etc. -- according to demographic and linguistic factors. You will submit project reports in two stages:
    • a preliminary report (2-4 pages) to ensure that you have mastered the analytical techniques covered so far and to assess directions for further class research
    • a longer, more in-depth final report
    You are encouraged to work in pairs and submit joint reports. Grading will take into account the skill with which you carried out your fieldwork, your accurate and appropriate use of the analytical tools covered in class, your demonstrated understanding of the background theoretical issues, and the clarity of your written presentation.

  2. Homework and quizzes: In many of our meetings you will be asked to either complete a short homework assignment or prepare for a short in-class quiz for the following meeting. Homeworks and quizzes are designed to give you practice in applying the principles learned in class and are graded on a scale of Credit, Partial Credit, or zero, the idea being that you won't be penalized for minor errors. You are encouraged to discuss homework problems with other students, but you should write up your assignment independently unless otherwise instructed. We will go over each homework or quiz together in class immediately after it's been turned in. This means that late homeworks and quizzes cannot be accepted (unless you've made prior arrangements with me or there's a genuine emergency). However, your lowest homework/quiz grade will be automatically dropped from the calculation of your final grade at the end of the course.

  3. Exam: There will be a final exam on the last day of class, Wednesday, August 8. It will consist of short-answer, multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank questions covering data-analysis techniques, linguistic principles, assigned readings, and material from class presentations.

  4. Class presentation: Each student will give a brief (15-20 minute) presentation, supplemented by a handout, in an area of individual interest. Topics must be approved by me ahead of time and should be narrow in scope: for example, you could read and critically review a paper or two about a topic of particular interest to you; research the features of a regional dialect we haven't discussed; or use data you've collected to conduct a narrative analysis or explore an additional phonological variable. In some cases I'll provide a topic or reading and ask for a volunteer to present it the following week. Otherwise, you'll do your presentation in class on August 1.
Grading: Your final grade will be calculated as follows:
    Field project: 40%
    Homeworks/quizzes: 25%
    Final exam: 25%
    Class presentation: 10%
(Class participation is not a formal component of your grade, but it will be taken into account in determining whether borderline grades are rounded up or not.)

Some links of interest:

SCHEDULE (please check regularly for updates)

Week 1

July 2. Introduction: What is linguistics? What is sociolinguistics? Methods of data collection. Tense and lax /ae/. July 4. No class (holiday)

Week 2

July 9. Sounds of language and how they are organized. Vowels and consonants as sociolinguistic variables.
  • Finish collecting data for Assignment 1; fill in spreadsheet, including Columns H-J (you'll need to read through p. 10 of the 7/9 class handout in order to fill in Column J). Email spreadsheets to Marjorie by 5pm on Tuesday, 7/10.
  • Homework 1: Phonetics and phonology. Due at the beginning of class on Wednesday, 7/11.
  • Start reading Aitchison ch4-6
July 11. Phonetics and phonology continued. Issues in studying sound change (Labov 2007). Basic Excel skills.
Week 3

July 16. Guest presentation by Jonathan Wright: The Merger of Aspiration in Seoul Korean, A Change in Progress. sound1 sound2
Basic acoustic phonetics. Word structure. Variation in agreement and inflection. July 18. Presentation by Meredith Aska McBride: A rapid and anonymous study of /r/ in Philadelphia (Ellis et al. 2005).
Kinds of sound change. Age-grading vs. change-in-progress interpretations of age trends. Assessment of preliminary reports.
  • Prepare for in-class midterm quiz on Monday, July 23.
  • Collect pilot data for next stage of field project. Instructions have been emailed to you; let me know if you need them again. The individual interview form is here. Bring data to class on Monday, July 23.

Week 4

July 23. Midterm quiz. Review of pilot data from R&A and individual interviews.
Sentence structure. Using historical corpora to study syntactic change.
Chi-squared and t-tests for statistical significance.
  • Homework 3, due by email at 10am on Wed. 7/25.
  • Reading: Aitchison ch7-8.
July 25. Presentation by Peter Sobieraj: The sociolinguistics of British pop song pronunciation (Trudgill 1983). (slides)
Sentence structure continued.
Effective graphic presentation of statistical data.
Week 5

July 30. Guest presentation by Aaron Dinkin: Dialect geography and language change.
Negation, auxiliaries, tense and aspect in African American Vernacular English.
Statistical methods continued. August 1. Class presentations.
Marty's slides
Mona's slides
Randy's slides
Anthony's slides
  • Final field project due by noon on Sunday, August 5. (guidelines)
  • Reading: Winford, An introduction to contact linguistics, sections 1.4-1.5, 2.6-2.7
  • Begin preparing for final exam; bring questions to class on Monday.

Week 6

August 6. Guest presentation by Michael Friesner: Topics in language contact. (slides)
Wrap-up and exam review.

August 8. Final exam

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