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What is sociolinguistics? This introductory textbook provides a penetrating answer to this question, explaining basic sociolinguistic concepts through a wide range of examples, and by drawing on 'classic' approaches to the subject as well as from the most recent research. The book is conveniently divided into three sections: * Section one shows how language is used in multilingual speech communities and explains the varying patterns of language use. Janet Holmes examines how and why languages change within society and highlights the factors that lead to the displacement of one language by another and sometimes the death of a language. * Section two explores social reasons for language change, looking at language change in monolingual communities and the features of a variety of dialects. The author shows how and why differing racial and social groups develop and maintain speech variations. * The final section assesses how attitudes to language affect speech and shows that linguistic responses depend on a variety of contextual factors - for example, the status of the person being addressed and our reasons for speaking. This new edition has been updated thoroughly throughout, and adds new sections on social constructionist approaches to language and gender, and the concept of community of practice. There is also a completely new chapter on language, cognition and culture, which introduces students to the ideas of Benjamin Lee Whorf, as well as to the wider implications of the important concept of linguistic relativity. Containing a series of student exercises and suggestions for further reading, An Introduction to Sociolinguistics is an essential introductory text for students of sociolinguistics and anyone interested in the study of language.