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date: 15 December 2017

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter traces the origins of the sociology of language and sociolinguistics to the most prominent social thinkers of nineteenth-century Europe: Herbert Spencer, Karl Marx, Auguste Comte, Emil Durkheim, and Max Weber, all of whom recognized language as an essential formative element of modern society. It then goes on to review the contributions of those who, during the first half of the twentieth century, actually promoted the idea of establishing a social science of language: Mikhail Bakhtin, Walter Benjamin, and Antonio Gramsci. It discusses the influence of public debates on the development of research about the nexus of language and society in the second half of the last century and demonstrates that, notwithstanding the important early influence of sociologists, the field is today an interdisciplinary crossroads where linguists are much more numerous than sociologists.

Keywords: language, sociolinguistics, sociology, Herbert Spencer, Karl Marx

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