Jacob ThøgersenInge Lise Pedersen
Table of contents

Broadly speaking, sociolinguistics is primarily the study of variation in language practices, to the extent this variation can be correlated with, or determined by, social variables. There are clear connections, albeit not simple ones, between language practices and language attitudes and thus sociolinguistics is secondarily the study of language attitudes. Much sociolinguistic work has focused on variation in linguistic practices between men and women, adolescents and adults etc. And very often also class – specifically working class and middle class and/or socio-economic class – has been used as a sociolinguistic variable. In more recent times, the use of class has been questioned; first and foremost because of its debatable validity for late modern, post-industrial societies. In the analysis of a stable class-based society like early-industrialized Britain, class had its merits as an analytic tool. But in more fluid societies where one's parents’ jobs and education do not determine one's own career choices, norms and values associated with class membership cannot be taken for granted. As a consequence, an analysis based on the assumption that subjects with equal economic possibilities will also share norms and values, may come up short. This is why sociolinguists have tried to find new ways to talk about the value systems that could traditionally be characterized in terms of class. One of these approaches to value systems as social emblem is lifestyle.

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