For several years the theoretical thrust of Sociology was dominated by how the structural functionalism of Talcott Parsons stressed the relationship between institution, function and agency. Society is constructed as a single system divided into subsystems of institutionalised norms vis a vis their conformity with functional requirements. His action frame links the actions of individuals in generating social order and the maintenance and reproduction of the social system.

This perspective had an impact on the work of those who were seeking to link the social and the linguistic. Prominent among them were Fishman and Labov whose work emphasised functionalism and evolutionism. It also emerges in the work of the anthropologist Goody and his distinction between the oral and the written, and their relationship to specific knowledges.

The work of these authors is evaluated in light of their subsequent influences.