Sociolinguistics at Penn focuses on linguistic variation and change in progress.
Research in this field looks into the causes of linguistic change, such as social factors and contact with other languages, and has implications for all other subfields.
Since the 1970s, Penn has led the world in the study of linguistic variation in society and its relationship to language change in progress. Retired faculty William Labov and Gillian Sankoff produced decades of groundbreaking research and a large group of graduates who now hold positions in sociolinguistics around the world.
Meredith Tamminga does research in sociolinguistic cognition, sociophonetics and sound change, and quantitative analysis of morphophonological variation in corpus data. She directs the Language Variation and Cognition Lab, where she and her students conduct experimental research on the perception and production of linguistic variation. She is also collaborating with Jami Fisher on the Philadelphia Signs Project to document regional features and ongoing change in Philadelphia ASL.
At Penn the study of language variation is a unifying thread across the department and curriculum. Nearly every faculty member’s research can be viewed as connected to variation and change in some respect.