LINGUIST List 14.2846

Mon Oct 20 2003

Review: Sociolinguistics: Trudgill (2003)

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  1. Meagan Storey, A Glossary of Sociolinguistics

Message 1: A Glossary of Sociolinguistics

Date: Sat, 18 Oct 2003 19:27:56 +0000
From: Meagan Storey <>
Subject: A Glossary of Sociolinguistics

Trudgill, Peter (2003) A Glossary of Sociolinguistics, Oxford
University Press.

Announced at

Meagan P. Storey, Old Dominion University


Peter Trudgill's slim volume, A Glossary of Sociolinguistics, contains
a wealth of information for readers seeking definitions, explanations
and examples of the technical terms most frequently employed in
sociolinguistics and dialectology. It is especially valuable for those
involved in the study of language variation and change, and the
''individual languages of types which tend to be of special interest
to sociolinguists'' (introduction). Though the focus is introductory,
students and researchers already familiar with these subjects will
benefit from Trudgill's depth and accuracy of coverage. He provides
readers with historical and contemporary terms and concepts, offering
entries that specifically address important studies in variationist
sociolinguistics. Such entries include Labov's 1966 publication,
''The social stratification of English in New York City,'' and the
Milroy's Belfast studies. Trudgill organizes his entries in
alphabetical order, and most entries contain cross-references, which
facilitate understanding and provide additional information.

Trudgill's concise descriptions will be useful for students who are
new to the field and subfields of sociolinguistics. For example, his
entry for 'BVE' (Black Vernacular English) states, ''see African
American Vernacular English'' (19). In doing this, he points users to
the term more popularly used in current research, especially in the
U.S. The listing for 'African American Vernacular English (AAVE)' (5),
though only a paragraph long, efficiently introduces this term, as
well as addressing the controversy surrounding its
origins. Cross-references for this entry include: 'copula deletion',
'variety', 'dialect', 'Gullah', 'creole', 'decreolisation',
'divergence controversy' and 'Ebonics'. This treatment assures
adequate exposure to the historical and sociocultural issues and
theories associated with the entry at hand (AAVE).

Others entries are enhanced by the inclusion of maps and diagrams. The
entry titled 'Northern Cities Shift' (95) provides a diagram, map and
examples to aid in the explanation of this sound shift. The map
includes the states and cities affected, and is quite useful for
readers unfamiliar with the geography of the United States. A small
diagram on page 96 illustrates the vowel sound shifts occurring in the
Northern Cities. Within the entry for 'Northern Cities Shift' is a
cross-reference to 'lexical sets'. This clarifies the previous entry
('Northern Cities Shift'), but it also provides a conceptual reminder
to the reader. Trudgill first defines 'lexical sets', then informs us
that ''the point of talking about this lexical set [of ''bath''],
rather than a particular vowel, is that in different accents in
English these words have different vowels'' (79). For the novice
linguist, especially an English speaking one, it is important to keep
in mind the many regional variations on the English accent.

When appropriate, Trudgill offers examples of the languages described
in his entries. In his explanation for the concept 'Abstand language'
(1), he uses Basque as an example. In order to show that Basque is
''clearly a language rather than a dialect'' (1), Trudgill presents
the French, Spanish and Basque representations of the numbers one to
five. Such examples more clearly exemplify the concepts under
consideration. This entry also has a map of the Basque-speaking
region, which is, again, useful for students unfamiliar with the
geographical locations of areas under discussion. An additional
feature of the entry for 'Abstand language' is that Trudgill has
provided the phonemic representation of the German pronunciation.
This is a nice touch, and it is repeated with other entries such as
'Ausbau language', 'argot', 'Giles, Howard' and 'patois'. Though many
readers will be quite familiar with the pronunciations of these words,
those who are not, particularly students who are new to these terms,
will benefit from knowing this information. It is always reassuring
to feel comfortable with the terminology of a discipline, especially
when one is new to that discipline.


The back cover of A Glossary of Sociolinguistics states that it would
be ''an ideal companion to courses in sociolinguistics, language
variation and change, dialectology, English language and language and
gender.'' As a student who is nearing the end of her coursework, I
would agree with most of this statement. The information Trudgill
provides would have been quite useful in my previous courses because
it is concise, yet more than substantial in conveying the necessary
information and conceptual framework in which to consider the ideas
discussed. However, I don't feel that the statement of its value as a
companion to language and gender is as true a claim. Trudgill is sure
to stress, under his entry for 'genderlect', that ''most differences
between male and female speech are quantitatively-revealed tendencies
rather than absolute differences'' (55). However, there is no entry
for 'gender' and the entry for 'sex and language' merely refers to
'genderlect'. Aside from the entry for 'generic pronoun', there is
little coverage to do with language and gender, at least for my own
purposes and studies in this subject. Of course, in saying this, I
have kept in mind that Sociolinguistics is a relatively new
discipline, and the terms and concept central to it continue to
develop. Despite this small disappointment, I found the book very
informative, and in reading it for review, I learned quite a bit more
about variationist sociolinguistics and dialectology.

One technical error must be noted. The entry for 'parole' states
''see langue and parole'' (100), but there is no entry for 'langue and
parole'. Perhaps this is something that has been corrected in
subsequent printings.


Meagan Storey is an M.A. student in the Applied Linguistics program at
Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia, U.S.A. Her research
interests include sociolinguistics and discourse analysis.
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