I'm a linguistics major and I'm considering a minor in sociology (among others). In what ways do these fields overlap? More specifically, what types of sociology classes are good for a linguistics major?

I assume anything having to do with epidemics would be terrific, as that would explain how obscure words make it into common usage.

4 Answers 4


Using epidemiology as way towards understanding language use and spread is a good start! See "Linguistic Epidemiology" (Amazon link) by Nick Enfield - he's an excellent field linguist using features of epidemiology to look at contact situations.

There are many other ways sociology can help you in field linguistic, at all levels.

Any grammatical description worthy of attention these days will include a fairly detailed description of the social context in which the language is spoken. That includes social dynamics, power structures and other features.

From there, it really depends what you're looking at. These days field linguists can do a whole lot more than just study the grammar of a language. We're also interested in how migration affects language use, or the power relation between the local language and the national language (or even in some cases, the local dialect and the more common one). You may want to look at the rise of the use of small minority languages on the internet, in which case social networking theory might be useful.

You might find there are less direct benefits, for example some areas of sociology put better emphasis on quantitative methods than most linguistics majors do, which might give you a better grounding in statistics, which might help with corpus analysis or phonetic analysis.

Even if the study of sociology doesn't directly relate to any future linguistic study you do, the grounding in critical thinking, research methodology and the ability to think from the perspective of cultures other than your own are all going to help make you a better linguist!

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    More interestingly, get a stero view by also taking Anthropology courses and see what the difference is between Sosh and Anthro, from a linguistic perspective. Check out Erving Goffman's work, and the Ethnomethologists; Gregory Bateson, Bill Labov. Sociologists or linguists or anthropologists all, though of very different recensions.
    – jlawler
    Commented Aug 20, 2012 at 0:10
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    Anthro is also good for many of the things I mentioned above - and anthro-linguistics has recently done some interesting work looking at things like spacial representation (you also get to throw a bit of cognitive science in there too!) See for examples cambridge.org/gb/knowledge/isbn/item1114563/?site_locale=en_GB and cambridge.org/gb/knowledge/isbn/item1162406/?site_locale=en_GB
    – LaurenG
    Commented Aug 20, 2012 at 0:30

With a minor in Sociology you will be much better prepared to use the theoretical stand of Sociology in the context of Linguistics. Unfortunately (see SAGE Handbook of Sociolinguistics for more on this) the field of sociolinguistics has had several instances where non-sociologist linguists would have benefited from previously developed Sociological theory in their own linguistic studies. If you hope to be primarily a linguist (sociolinguist, anthropological linguist, etc.), having a background in Sociology can only help. If you hope to be a Sociologist, knowing Linguistics may also help as your subjects will all use language in some form or another. Being able to link the two together will only benefit you.

Take sociology courses that interest you. You will find ways to link them to linguistics. Systems of social hierarchy, power, segregation, gender, homosexual and transgender studies, education, politics, military, etc. If you want to, you ought to be able to link linguistics into any aspect of sociology.

Best of luck in your classes!


its not a question about overlap.when the study of sociology deals with the effects of language on the society than it is called the sociology of language. and the opposite is sociolinguistics.go through sociolinguistics,you ll be able to know everything.


sociology and sociolinguistic work hand in hand .In sociolinguistic we are concerned with effects of language in our society and in sociology is the effects of society in our language

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