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1 [This is a pre-print version of the introduction for the Theme Issue on ‘Labov and sociolinguistics: Fifty years of language in social context’ in Journal of Sociolinguistics (2016, Vol. 20, Issue 4). Please consult the final version if citing: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/josl.2016.20.issue-4/issuetoc.] Labov in Sociolinguistics: An Introduction Allan Bell, Auckland University of Technology Devyani Sharma, Queen Mary University of London David Britain, University of Bern Abstract This theme issue marks fifty years since the publication of William Labov’s Social Stratification of English in New York City, the foundation study of variationist sociolinguistics. In this Introduction, the editors offer their rationale for the shape of the theme issue. We briefly survey the innovations and impact of the New York study, together with the subsequent development of the field by Labov and others. We then touch on several strands of Labov’s contribution to sociolinguistics: langu...