Finding Your Sociolinguistic Approach

Although sociolinguists’ expertise can often seem very narrow, we are all part of a much broader approach to understanding the role of language in social life, across numerous contexts, and viewed through a myriad lenses.

Where will you take your sociolinguistics skills? If your interests lie in one or more of the areas listed below, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our faculty contact at Georgetown Linguistics for more information on how you can take your favorite topic or methodology further in your professional life.

  • Health care: Language is a central part of health care communication. We present our symptoms to doctors and nurses; we use the Web to gain information on symptoms and diagnoses; we read advertisements, and hear commercials, about medicines; we follow directions and heed warnings about over-the-counter and prescription drugs. The efficacy of these communications can help, or hinder, health care. The MLC will help you learn how to analyze, train, and consult with health care professionals to enhance the quality of health care through improved communication. It will also give you practical insights into health-related and science writing. For more information about applications of linguistics in health communication contexts, please contact Dr. Heidi Hamilton.
  • Law: Lawyers and those who work in the legal profession depend on language in numerous ways: they write legally binding contracts, plan estates and prepare wills, defend or prosecute those accused of crimes. The MLC will help you interpret the complex language of statutes and contracts, analyze ambiguity and presuppositions (e.g., in testimony or in cross-examination), elucidate attitudes toward language in legal proceedings, analyze dialect features, or writing and speaking styles, to aid in criminal investigations. and learn how to train international lawyers to become ‘fluent’ writers in American legal genres. For more information about forensic linguistics, please contact Dr. Natalie Schilling.
  • Business: The worlds of commerce, finance, marketing and management depend on language. Language plays a major role in the negotiation of contracts, provision of services, management of customers, the marketing and advertisement of products, the branding of corporations, leadership during meetings, and formation and management of task forces. The MLC will help you understand the role of spoken, written and computer-mediated communication in a range of business settings. It will also help you understand how communicative differences among people (based on nationality, gender, race, ethnicity, age and social class) impact workplace efficiency and productivity and how linguistic and stylistic differences can be integrated into both marketing and branding. For more information about applications of linguistics in business contexts, please contact Dr. Anna Marie Trester.

For additional sources of career information, browse the Career Center pages.