Charting the history of applied sociolinguistics

SAYERS, Dave (2015). Charting the history of applied sociolinguistics. In: BAAL 2015 Conference. 48th Annual Meeting: Breaking Theory: New directions in applied linguistics, Aston University, 3 - 5 September 2015. (Unpublished)

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This paper presents an overview of applied sociolinguistics, from its first mention in Berghe (1966), through to its growth during the 1970s and 80s and its decline as a distinctive disciplinary label from the 90s onwards. Surprisingly, however, this decline did not come with a concomitant reduction in research where the findings of sociolinguistics are applied to the solution of real-world problems. If anything, sociolinguistic research which tackles issues of linguistic discrimination, helps improve human well being and addresses a variety of social injustices is alive and well.

It is within this context of disciplinary buoyancy that we discuss the current state of applied sociolinguistics, drawing on work by Wolfram et al. (2008), Macleod (2011) and Bucholtz et al. (2014). In doing so, we demonstrate that although the term ‘applied sociolinguistics’ has lost its place in the sun, this has not negatively affected the range and depth of work which falls under this particular disciplinary banner.

We also examine the field in light of the ‘impact agenda’ within the UK higher education context. This increasingly prioritised aspect of academic research has been ignored by sociolinguists, an unexpected state of affairs given how the ‘impact agenda’ has been scrutinised elsewhere in the arts and humanities. We suggest that it is important for sociolinguists to engage with these changes in order to better articulate the relevance of the subject in contemporary society.


  • Berghe, P. 1966. “‘Language’ and ‘nationalism’ in South Africa.” Unpublished paper.
  • Bucholtz, M. et al. 2014. “Sociolinguistic justice in the schools.” Language and Linguistics Compass 8: 144–157.
  • MacLeod, N. 2011. “Risks and benefits of selective (re)presentation of interviewees’ talk.” British Journal of Forensic Practice 13: 95–102.
  • Wolfram, W. et al. 2008. “Operationalizing linguistic gratuity.” Linguistic and Language Compass 3: 1109–1134.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Research Institute, Centre or Group: Humanities Research Centre
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Jill Hazard
Date Deposited: 26 Jun 2015 14:05
Last Modified: 26 Jun 2015 14:05

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