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This book explores the sociolinguistic forces which affect language change. Many attempts have been made to use sociolinguistics to interpret historical linguistic change but the theory has rarely been applied consistently. This textbook allows students to develop a deeper understanding of both sociolinguistics and historical linguistics. It discusses both the central variationist tendencies present in language change and the macrosociolinguistic forces which act upon all speakers and their language. Chapters investigate the political, cultural and economic forces which affect a society's use of and views on language; language contact, language standardisation and linguistic attrition are also covered. The discussion is illustrated throughout by apposite examples from the history of English. The volume enables students to develop a deeper understanding of both sociolinguistics and historical linguistics; it is also be useful as a primer for postgraduate study in the subjects covered. It takes a nonlinear approach to encourage thematic thinking. It combines variationist sociolinguistics with analysis of the position of language in society. It discusses histories of English outside the Anglo-American axis to give a broader sense of how English has developed in different parts of the world.