Welcome to PhilSoc

The Philological Society (PhilSoc) was established in 1830 and  is the oldest learned society in Great Britain devoted to the scholarly study of language and languages. As well as encouraging all aspects of the study of language, PhilSoc has a particular interest in historical and comparative linguistics, and in the structure, development, and varieties of Modern English.

Next Meeting


October 2024

On lexical sociolinguistics
Laura Wright (Cambridge)

The lecture will be given at University College London.

Please note that all ordinary meetings commence at 4:15pm. Members are welcome to come for tea at 3:45 pm.


In this talk I will be introducing the concept of lexical sociolinguistics: as a word, or a new meaning of a word, or a new soundshape of a word, enters the language, it always does so in the language of a speaker anchored in space, time, and in a social situation, talking to another person similarly sited.  For a new word or pronunciation to spread, the innovation has to move from the initial group of similarly-sited speakers to speakers in other places and other social situations.  Therefore, all word-change has the potential to become sociolinguistically marked – that is, to gain the quality of being associated with the kind of person who first or typically used it, or went on to use it – and it is sometimes possible to recover what these sociolinguistic qualities might have been.  The research question is thus ‘what type of person used this word when, where, and in what kind of social situation’, and the sociolinguistic focus is on recovering historical social situations and affiliations.  I will introduce the concept of communities of spatial practice, and I will demonstrate with some words that historical dictionaries usually omit, such as streetnames, brand-names and numbers.

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Funding & Bursaries

Information about funding support available from PhilSoc may be found here