An Introduction to Sociolinguistics: 5th Edition (Paperback) book cover

An Introduction to Sociolinguistics

5th Edition

By Janet Holmes, Nick Wilson


538 pages

Companion Website
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pub: 2017-02-01
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In this best-selling introductory textbook, Janet Holmes and Nick Wilson examine the role of language in a variety of social contexts, considering both how language works and how it can be used to signal and interpret various aspects of social identity. Divided into three sections, this book explains basic sociolinguistic concepts in the light of classic approaches as well as introducing more recent research.

This fifth edition has been revised and updated throughout using key concepts and examples to guide the reader through this fascinating area, including:

  • a new chapter on identity that reflects the latest research;
  • a brand new companion website which is fully cross-referenced within this book, and which includes and video and audio materials, interactive activities and links to useful websites;
  • updated and revised examples and exercises which include new material from Tanzania, Wales, Paraguay and Timor-Leste;
  • fully updated further reading and references sections.

An Introduction to Sociolinguistics is the essential introductory text for all students of sociolinguistics and a splendid point of reference for students of English language studies, linguistics and applied linguistics.


"The 5th edition of this touchstone book covers the entire gamut of sociolinguistics with enticing illustrations and practical exercises. The world-wide breadth of coverage is matched by approachable language for uninitiated students. The book’s new online component provides multimedia examples and interactive exercises that every teacher can use to more fully engage students."

Kirk Hazen, West Virginia University, USA

"This truly user-friendly text has stood the test of time. It takes variation as the point of departure, with dual foci on the language user and language use. The revised edition contains up-to-date research from an international perspective. The new interactive companion website will further enhance its usability and global appeal."

Li Wei, Institute of Education, University College London, UK

"My students and I thoroughly enjoyed this textbook. We liked the engaging examples, the well-designed exercises with suggested answers, and the extensive glossary. Now this 5th edition offers even more innovations through its online companion! This is an ideal textbook on sociolinguistics."

Phoebe Lin, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong

"An Introduction to Sociolinguistics has been among the most approachable and yet insightful of all the textbooks on this subject since its first edition in 1992. It is engaging while never shying away from theory - a considerable achievement. The individual speaker is kept in focus, showing with great clarity how important Sociolinguistics is for our understanding of the human experience. This fifth edition maintains the virtues of its predecessors, while ensuring that the reader is bang up to date."

Paul Kerswill, University of York, UK

Table of Contents


The Online Companion

1. What do sociolinguists study?

Section I: Multilingual Speech Communities

2. Language choice in multilingual communities

3. Language maintenance and shift

4. Linguistic varieties and multilingual nations

5. National languages and language planning

Section II: Language Variation: Focus on Users

6. Regional and social dialects

7. Gender and age

8. Ethnicity and social networks

9. Language change

Interlude: identity in sociolinguistics

Section III: Language Variation: Focus on Uses

10. Style, context and register

11. Speech functions, politeness and cross-cultural communication

12. Gender, politeness and stereotypes

13. Language, cognition and culture

14. Analysing Discourse

15. Attitudes and applications

16. Conclusion


Appendix: phonetic symbols

Sociolinguistics: key words and concepts


About the Authors

Janet Holmes is Emeritus Professor in Linguistics at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand and a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Nick Wilson is Lecturer in Linguistics at Macquarie University, Australia.

About the Series

Learning about Language

Learning about Language is an exciting and ambitious series of introductions to fundamental topics in language, linguistics and related areas. The books are designed for students of linguistics and those who are studying language as part of a wider course.

This series was co-founded by Mick Short and Geoffrey Leech.  It is now edited by Brian Walker and Willem Hollmann who continue to consult with Mick Short.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Linguistics / General
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Linguistics / Sociolinguistics