EDITORS: Llamas, Carmen; Mullany, Louise; Stockwell, Peter
TITLE: The Routledge Companion to Sociolinguistics
SERIES TITLE: Routledge Companions
PUBLISHER: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
Catharina Peersman, Ph.D. fellow of the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO),
Department of Linguistics, K.U.Leuven, Belgium.
As stated in the introduction (xv-xvi), the ''Routledge Companion to
Sociolinguistics is aimed at everyone.'' This book, which ''reflects the
international and interdisciplinary diversity of the field in representing the
broad view of sociolinguistics,'' is meant to open up the area for newcomers as
well as to provide a useful reference guide and resource for more advanced
sociolinguists. The main part of the introduction consists of a practical set of
instructions on how to use the book, although its transparent structure and the
logical order of the sections by themselves allow the reader to explore the
field of sociolinguistics and to assimilate its key concepts.
The ''Companion'' contains two main parts. One part consists of a thirty page
glossary of terms, with references and an index. The bigger part, the core of
the book, consists of five broad sections which group short essays on different
aspects of sociolinguistics written by leading specialists in the field. Their
angle is mainly descriptive, but they offer an argumentative dimension as well,
in order to demonstrate that sociolinguistics is ''an on-going dialogue rather
than a set of facts'' (xvi). The five sections focus on methods of observation
and analysis (part I), social correlates (part II), socio-psychological factors
(part III), socio-political factors (part IV) and language change (part V)
respectively. All sections contain five essays, except for the fifth, which has
Since Part I discusses methods of observation and analysis in sociolinguistics,
it can be considered as a mini-handbook for linguistic fieldwork. First, the
fundamental concept of the linguistic variable is presented by Dominic Watt, who
pays special attention to the /r/ in Berwick English as an example of
phonological variation. Carmen Llamas dedicates the second chapter to some field
methods available to the sociolinguist. The rest of Part I sets out specific
techniques of sociolinguistics analysis: Matthew Gordon focuses on phonological
variation in Chapter 3; Jennifer Smith writes about morphosyntactic variation
(Chapter 4) and the fifth chapter, by Mark Garner, is concerned with discourse
analysis. Although this part is not exhaustive, it ''provides the essential tools
for the majority of sociolinguistic work which has been undertaken to date''
(xvii). It forms, for example, an excellent 'entrée en matières' for those
wanting to read Tagliamonte's ''Analysing Sociolinguistic Variation'' (2006).
The second section treats aspects of the social correlates of language. The
social dimensions of class (Chapter 6), gender (Chapter 7), age (Chapter 8),
ethnicity (Chapter 9) and speech communities (Chapter 10) are presented and
discussed by Paul Kerswill, Jennifer Coates, Carmen Llamas, Walt Wolfram, and
Louise Mullany respectively. Whereas this part ''largely maintains an emphasis on
the hard linkage between the social factor and the variation in a language
feature'' (xvii), the third part shifts to the socio-psychological factors of
language patterning. Allan Bell treats the choice for a certain linguistic
repertoire as an individual motivation in the social context (Chapter 11). The
link between language and identity is addressed in Chapter 12 by Judy Dyer. In
the next three chapters, Peter Auer, Peter Garrett and Sandra Harris
respectively show how speakers adjust to each other's speech styles (Chapter
13), how their outlooks and attitudes affect language behaviour (Chapter 14) and
how they negotiate their way through politeness and power relationships (Chapter
Whereas the boundary between the second and the third section might be rather
arbitrary, the fourth section clearly moves on to a more macro-sociolinguistic
level in considering socio-political factors of language. James Milroy addresses
standardization and its ideological backgrounds in Chapter 16. To this tendency
to monolingualism, Chapter 18's multilingualism (Susan Gal) forms an interesting
counterpart. Jane Stuart-Smith, Janet Maybin and Sue Wright highlight aspects of
the effect on language by the media (Chapter 17), by education (Chapter 19) and
by language policy and language planning (Chapter 20).
The last section of the ''Companion'', unlike the preceding parts focussing on
language variation, addresses topics of language change. Salikoko Mufwene's
Chapter 21 focuses on creoles and pidgins; varieties engendered by koineization
are the subject of Donald Tuten's article (Chapter 22); whereas the historical
context of colonialism is stressed by Barbara Fennell in Chapter 23. A last
chapter on ''language death'', written by Diane Nelson, appropriately closes the
contributors' part of the book.
This ''Routledge Companion to Sociolinguistics'' is certainly a useful manual. Its
clear short chapters, the glossary and the transparent structure of the whole
compilation make it an accessible reference work for beginners. The suggestions
for further readings and the extensive bibliographical list of references allow
more advanced readers to check sources and to search for detailed information on
the topics they are interested in.
Some remarks, however, are necessary. The concept of the book as a compilation
of essays by different specialists in the field logically engenders overlaps.
This is not really a problem, because ''aspects of language are continuous, not
discrete,'' as the editors mention themselves. They consider these overlaps
between chapters as ''positive and necessary for a complete picture of
sociolinguistics'' (xviii), and I agree with them. Not the overlaps, however, but
the last part of this little quotation is problematic. In their introduction,
the editors stress the fact they want to create a ''complete picture of
sociolinguistics'', or, even more explicitly, that the book ''reflects the
international and interdisciplinary diversity of the field in representing the
broad view of sociolinguistics'' (xvi). Whereas the book undoubtedly reflects the
majority of sociolinguistic work which has been undertaken to date, it neglects
a sub-area of sociolinguistics that has been receiving a continuously growing
interest during the last decennia: historical sociolinguistics (see for instance
Tieken-Boon van Ostade et al. 2000, Nevalainen, Raumolin and Brunberg 2003 and
the creation of HiSoN in 2004).
Although there are some small paragraphs dedicated to relevant historical
elements in Chapters 20, 21, 22, and Chapter 23 concerns the historical context
of colonialism, the book is rooted in the 20th and 21st centuries by paying
attention to queer linguistics, to language policy and globalization, to
multilingualism beyond eurocentrism, etc. Those aspects prove the many-sidedness
of the compilation, but stress simultaneously the historical gap. The
qualitative introduction does not make even the slightest reference to
historical sociolinguistics. As an absolute minimum justification for that kind
of omission, I would have preferred to read something like ''due to the
considerable differences in data, which require different approaches, we have
chosen to limit the field of sociolinguistics here described to synchronic
sociolinguistics.'' A similar sentence or some paragraphs dedicated exclusively
to the matter (see e.g. Milroy and Gordon 2003) would have made this qualitative
and handy manual still better.
HiSoN, ''Historical Sociolinguistics Network''.
Llamas, Carmen, Louise Mullany, and Peter Stockwell, eds. 2006. _The Routledge
Companion to Sociolinguistics_. Routledge.
Milroy, Lesley and Matthew Gordon. 2003. _Sociolinguistics: Method and
Interpretation_. Oxford: Blackwell.
Nevalainen, Terttu and Helena Raumolin-Brunberg. 2003. _Historical
Sociolinguistics: Language Change in Tudor and Stuart England_. Longman
Tagliamonte, Sali. 2006. _Analysing Sociolinguistic Variation_. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Tieken-Boon van Ostade, Ingrid; Terttu Nevalainen; Luisella Caon, eds. 2000.
_Social Network Analysis and the History of English_, special issue of _EJES_ 4.3.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Catharina Peersman is a Ph.D. fellow of the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO)
and assistant to the Department of Linguistics of the KULeuven. Her PhD-project
focuses on the use of written languages in charters, with a special
consideration for Old French. Her research interests are historical
sociolinguistics, diachronic linguistics and French dialects.