Sociolinguistics Final Paper

This quarter I took a class in sociolinguistics, which is the Writing in the Major class for linguistics. Sociolinguistics is the study of how language and culture are related and how language is used in different social contexts. I chose to write my final research paper on the use of language in World of Warcraft. I focused primarily on the speech clips (such as voice emotes) recorded for characters in the game, but I also considered language used in description and in quests. It was suggested to me that this paper might be of interest to people who play the game, so I’ve put it up on my webspage. You can find it


It isn’t everything that I intended or hoped, but it was fun to write and I’m considering expanding it for a senior thesis or maybe to present at a conference.

Comments 7

  1. onetruedavid wrote:

    Neat! Now I sort of want to read that dissertation by Teshigawara about Anime.

    Posted 09 Jun 2006 at 23:29
  2. wyterabbit wrote:

    It’s interesting, but very long – 200+ pages! I just read some of the relevant sections.

    Posted 10 Jun 2006 at 00:16
  3. punkosopher wrote:

    Very interesting, especially about the Trolls.

    It also made me consider the actual meaning of the word “Horde,” i.e., a large crowd or mass, with vulgar/violent implications. I certainly doubt this was Blizzard’s original intention, but it is a rather unfortunate label to assign to a group of traditionally stigmatized ethnic minorities. (Plus walking skeletons, who also have feelings.)

    I agree that gender would be a huge area for further study. Games, even more than other media, tend to portray a bizarre world in which all women are outright sex objects, “beautiful and deadly” (God, what a cliche that is) heroines/villains, or harmless/crazy old crones who run potion shops.

    (Consider all the female FPS characters who go into gunfire with four-inch heels, breast implants and skintight clothes. Personally, if survival were at stake, I’d rather have a steroid-slamming juicer wearing steel-toed boots and head-to-toe kevlar on my side — male or female!)

    Posted 10 Jun 2006 at 09:35
  4. anonymous wrote:

    I love what you’ve done—the rich description of the game was really interesting. The question about where exactly the scottish dwarf came from is a very funny and insightful one. Where indeed?

    Posted 10 Jun 2006 at 19:16
  5. entropicdragon wrote:

    Yay, that was cool. I like the flirts..

    “You’ll do, let’s go”

    “You look like a lady…”

    would you mind if I posted the link on a World of Warcraft community
    ( ) or if you want to do it… I don’t know if they might kill your bandwidth

    Posted 10 Jun 2006 at 20:58
  6. wyterabbit wrote:

    Sure, you can post it there. I have no idea what effect it will have, though; it’s just up on my Stanford webspace, and I don’t really know how the servers work. Maybe you could post a secondary link on your webspace or something just in case?

    Posted 11 Jun 2006 at 15:15
  7. zaldreon wrote:

    Thanks for posting your paper! It was an interesting read. I like the name, “Stay Away From the Voodoo: Language and Race in World of Warcraft.”

    I notice that you’re fairly harsh on the game’s use of English dialect and accents associated with other cultures. You certainly have done a great job proving that this connection is present; I think Blizzard would not dispute you on that point. But is it actually “bad,” in the sense that you wish that Blizzard had not based its races on a mixture of real-world cultures?

    Most every fictional group or people draws from real world cultures to some degree or other. In many cases, I think interesting combinations of real-world aspects can result in a fascinating and engaging fictional civilization. For example, Warhammer 40K’s space-age Imperium of Man incorporates elements drawn from the Holy Roman Empire, Fascism, Inquisition-era Christianity (particularly in Spain), and Soviet Russia. I don’t know if Romans, fascists, inquisitors, or Soviets would feel insulted by Warhammer 40K. I do think that the Warhammer 40K game world would be impoverished if the Imperium of Man did not include these real-world cultural references.

    Some other examples of fictional groups I can think of which feature traits drawn from real-world groups include: X-Men (African Americans and the civil rights movement in America), Sauron and the forces of Mordor (Nazi Germany in WWII), the Vinci from Rise of Legends (civic society in Renaissance Italy), the city and prince in Howl’s Moving Castle (peasant and mercantile society in high medieval Europe), and the Fremen from Dune (nomadic Arab desert-dwellers before WWII). I don’t normally think of these works’ borrowing of real world cultural traits as objectionable.

    I guess I’m not entirely convinced of the wrongness of what Blizzard has done.

    If you decide to expand the paper as a thesis or for publication, this might be the area I would select in which further explanation could most greatly benefit the work as a whole.

    Posted 13 Jun 2006 at 06:22

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