Skip to main content



What Is Sociolinguistics?, 2nd Edition

Gerard Van Herk

ISBN: 978-1-118-96073-8 November 2017 Wiley-Blackwell 288 Pages


How is our language affected by our ethnicity, gender, and region? How are our conversations and other interactions structured? How does society view and regulate language? How do we use language to present ourselves to others? In this revised and updated second edition of the popular What Is Sociolinguistics? Gerard Van Herk explores these and other intriguing questions about language, how we use it, and its relationships to society. Van Herk guides the reader on a tour through the major issues that define the field, including region, status, gender, time, language attitudes, interaction, and style, at the same time exploring the sociolinguistics of multilingualism, culture and ethnicity, language contact, and education.

This second edition has been revised and updated to include new and more exercises, discussion questions, and suggested readings, as well as expanded chapters exploring gender duality and Latino English. Key readings are introduced in Van Herk’s clear and engaging voice, which accompanies the text throughout, providing an accessible point of entry for those new to, or less familiar with, sociolinguistics. Chapter summaries and textboxes are similarly employed to signpost and illuminate learning. A companion website features PowerPoint slides for each chapter with suggestions for framing class discussions and exercises, further examples of concepts discussed, additional reading suggestions, and ready-to-go slides for class presentation. 

Packed with the latest research and practical teaching aids, What is Sociolinguistics? Second edition retains the highly-praised character of its predecessor and provides an essential up-to-date text for both students and instructors alike.

Related Resources

Acknowledgments vi

About the Companion Website vii

1 Introduction 1

2 Language and Society 11

3 Place 27

4 Social Status 51

5 Time 64

6 Ethnicity 81

7 Gender 96

Interlude 117

8 Style 120

9 Interaction 134

10 Multilingualism 146

11 Language Contact 158

12 Attitudes and Ideologies 171

13 Language as a Social Entity 187

14 Education 203

Epilogue. What is Sociolinguistics? 217

Glossary 220

Bibliography 238

Index 261