These overlapping subfields of linguistics examine language variation and language use, with a concern for developing theoretical insights into the ways that situations, identities and macro-level social, cultural, and political factors relate to beliefs about language, to language structure and use and to theories of language. Sociolinguistics, which relies on both quantitative and qualitative analysis, covers a broad range of topics, including bi- and multilingualism, language variation and change, language attitudes, ideologies about language and language standardization (Carmel O'Shannessey, Robin Queen). Language Contact covers multilingualism, language change, pidgins and creoles and the effect that contact among people has on linguistic structure and language use (Marlyse Baptista, Carmel O'Shannessy, Robin Queen, Sarah Thomason). Discourse analysis focuses on the qualitative and corpus-based analysis of spoken and written texts (Deborah Keller-Cohen).
Faculty working in these areas share interests in sociophonetics that overlap with colleagues in phonetics and historical linguistics and in syntax that overlap with colleagues in theoretical syntax and semantics. Faculty from other departments with related interests include Bruce Mannheim, Judith Irvine, Webb Keane, Barbara Meek, and Alaina Lemon (Anthropology), Anne Curzan (English), Renee Anspach (Sociology), and Lesley Rex (Education).