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Be as up-to-date as you can on material here.  General “reading around” about language will benefit you hugely in A Level assessments.

See this excellent blog for language news of the week, maintained by a teacher of A Level English Language.

Other useful links are collected here.

Basil Bernstein - Codes & Class (1961)

Focus: grammatical constructions, judging contexts & class

Method: theory only.  Examples offered are invented examples of “typical” code use, not actual data.

Findings/conclusions: Working class families do not cultivate elaborated code (necessary for clarity in some situations), hence WC kids are disadvantaged in school.

William Labov (Martha’s Vineyard, 1962)

Focus: Accent features of native inhabitants

Method: Interviews - different ethnic groups and ages.

Findings/conclusions: Younger speakers (31-45), esp. male were using more traditional features to differentiate themselves from the “summer people”.


William Labov (New York, 1966)  

Focus: Post-vocalic “r” & social class

Method: Created environment where shop staff need to say “fourth floor”.  Created pressure by inducing repetition.  Used in 3 stores of different classes.  (This was only a part of a much larger project)

Findings/conclusions: Post-vocalic “r” was prestige version.  Middle class more likely to hypercorrect and say it second time, even if not said first time.


Peter Trudgill (Norwich, 1974)

Focus: Accent features & class

Method: 5 kinds of data (after Labov) - casual& careful speech, reading passages, reading word lists & reading word pairs.  Also asked people whether they used non-standard forms.

Findings/conclusions: Lower-classes drop “g” at end of present progressive verbs.  Men more likely to use non-standard forms (covert prestige) and women more likely to use standard forms (overt prestige).  Both sexes over-report own tendency.

James & Lesley Milroy (Belfast, 1978)

Focus: Social networks & non-standard pronunciation

Method: Studied 3 speech communities, with Lesley introduced as “friend of a friend”.  Measured people’s social networks as open/closed and by density.

Findings/conclusions: Non-standard forms were reinforced by closed, dense networks.  Gender seen as less of a predictor than network - women with closed networks just as non-standard as men.

Jenny Cheshire (Reading, 1982)

Focus: Grammar & peer group norms

Method: Toughness index - attitudes to crime, weapons etc devised. Conversation with teenagers at adventure playgrounds recorded under guise of research into attitudes to Reading.

Findings/conclusion: “Tougher” kids used fewer standard forms generally.  It was possible to define sub-groups and find differences in their usage of various non-standard features.


Jenny Cheshire & Viv Edwards (dialect survey, 1997)

Focus: Non-standard grammar and region

Method: Questionnaires in schools throughout the UK, to establish whether non-standard grammatical forms given were used in the school’s district.

Findings/conclusions: Many forms were found to be common across the UK (eg look at them big spiders) and some forms which were expected to be found widespread (eg multiple negation) were not.


Paul Kerswill & Ann Williams (Milton Keynes, 2000)

Focus: Accent features & age in Milton Keynes

Method: Examined groups of children by age, comparing with their parents’ accents, which are from different locations as MK is a new town created in 1969..

Findings/conclusions: Milton Keynes is seeing a new accent created by its youth, which includes many features considered to be “Estuary”.  Older children were found to have their own accent, not like any of their parents or of the native older people - this may be linked to peer group belonging.

Sociolinguistic Studies

These are not all the studies you could possibly use in this topic, but they do represent a good selection that offers you a range of concepts to work with.