Most people modify their ways of speaking, writing, texting, and e-mailing, and so on, according to the people with whom they are communicating. This fascinating book asks why we 'accommodate' to others in this way, and explores the various social consequences arising from it.
EDITORS: Geeraerts, Dirk; Kristiansen, Gitte; Peirsman, Yves TITLE: Advances in Cognitive Sociolinguistics SERIES TITLE: Cognitive Linguistics Research [CLR] 45 PUBLISHER: De Gruyter Mouton YEAR: 2010
Bryan James Gordon, Department of Linguistics and School of Anthropology, University of Arizona
''Advances in Cognitive Sociolinguistics'' contributes to the establishment of a young subfield, launched 16 years ago by Geeraerts, Grondelaers & Bakema (1994), by expanding the Cognitive Sociolinguistic (CS) approach to new fields of data and new methodologies and promoting common scholarly cause with Variationist Sociolinguistics (VS). Contributors successfully explore new theoretical and empirical ground, link up to important sociolinguistic themes from a Cognitive Linguistic (CL) perspective, and make convincing cases for the usefulness of CS for Variationist Sociolinguistics (VS); but fall short in surveying relevant VS literature.
''Advances'' is targeted at readers with background in socio- or cognitive linguistics. Navigating the two fields -- and the complex statistics both use -- may prove uninteresting and impenetrable to outside readers. Even for ''insiders'', reading is dense compared to similar sets of articles, because every argument has programmatic importance, and cross-disciplinary jargon is often underdefined and poorly situated with respect to its field. One ought not to skip the introduction if one hopes to make sense of the volume. In it, the editors situate the work within the CL tradition, and launch a cross-fertilisation between CL and VS.
The volume is divided into three parts: Variation in lexeme-concept relationships is treated in ''Lexical and lexical-semantic variation''; variation in the contextual grammaticality and meaning of syntactic constructions is treated in ''Constructional variation''; and ''Variation of lectal awareness and attitudes'' concerns recognition, conceptualisation and choice of variants and varieties.
Dirk Geeraerts & Dirk Speelman, in ''Heterodox concept features and onomasiological heterogeneity in dialects'' (pp. 23-39), find that the salience, vagueness and negative affect of concepts influence the heterogeneity of their formal expression and geographical distribution in the Limburgish dialect area. Using multiple linear regression of data from an existing dialect survey and supplementary surveys, they argue against explaining lexical variation only by ''societal and material factors'' (p. 23) and ascribe explanatory force to concept structure.
Using comparative corpus analysis in the domains of clothing and football (soccer), Augusto Soares da Silva in ''Measuring and parameterizing lexical convergence and divergence between European and Brazilian Portuguese'' (pp. 41-83) shows that Brazilian Portuguese (BP) and European Portuguese (EP) are converging in football vocabulary but diverging in general; that their direction of change is irrespective of one another's influence; and that BP both adopts more loanwords and resignifies more existing terms than EP. He also shows that the gulf between ''standard'' (newspaper) and ''substandard'' (chat) Portuguese is narrower for football than for clothing, and wider in BP than in EP.
Justyna Robinson's '''Awesome' insights into semantic variation'' (pp. 85-109) applies variationist methods and apparent-time analysis to semantic change and the flexibility of polysemous forms. She finds that three senses of ''awesome'' -- TERRIBLE, IMPRESSIVE and GREAT -- behave like other linguistic structures, exhibiting age-grading with innovation driven disproportionately by females and the middle class.
Yves Peirsman, Kris Heylen and Dirk Geeraerts' chapter ''Applying word space models to sociolinguistics: Religion names before and after 9/11'' (pp. 111-37) applies corpus methods to register variation and semantic change in Dutch newspapers' use of the concepts ''Christendom'' and ''Islam'' -- a quantitative boost to qualitative analyses of power and language like Critical Discourse Analysis. They find that target audience education correlates to cultural and religious discussion of Islam, and that newspapers in general increasingly associate Islam with terrorism and politics, while Christianity remains largely positive and cultural in its associations.
Part II opens with ''The English genitive alternation in a cognitive sociolinguistics perspective'', by Benedikt Szmrecsanyi (pp. 141-66), a multivariate logistic regression over traditional (animacy, thematicity, final sibilants, weight, persistence and economy) and ''external'' (style, dialect, genre, change) factors in genitive choice. Szmrecsanyi confirms that traditional factors always influence genitive choice, but the magnitude of their influence varies as a function of external factors, and further documents distinct patterns of drift in different dialects and registers (British and American editorial writing and reportage).
Gunther de Vogelaer's ''(Not) acquiring grammatical gender in two varieties of Dutch'' (pp. 167-89) examines change in the standard Dutch gender systems of Overijssel and East Flanders using acquisition data. Although de Vogelaer finds that both varieties are drifting towards semantic agreement, East Flemish children eventually acquire the three-gender system favoured by adult Flemings and only marginally favour innovative gender systems. Children from Overijssel, whose environment lacks feminine agreement in inanimates, do not acquire the full three-gender system but show some of its influence.
In ''Lectal variation in constructional semantics: 'Benefactive' ditransitives in Dutch'' (pp. 191-221), Timothy Colleman explains difference in contextual grammaticality of benefactive ditransitives between Netherlandic Dutch and Flemish as a function of a Netherlandic ''contiguity constraint'' satisfied when the action and the benefit of a verb occur (nearly) at the same time. He shows how formal and archaic registers may violate this constraint, preserving constructions from a time in which the contiguity constraint was weaker.
Gitte Kristiansen opens Part III with ''Lectal acquisition and linguistic stereotype formation: An empirical study'' (pp. 225-63). She chronicles Madrileño 6-13-year-olds' increasingly accurate identification of decreasingly familiar L1- and L2-source accents, finding the number of people the child knows to have an accent predicts identification behaviour most strongly. Kristiansen's rejection of the influence of the accents' linguistic properties is weaker: she does not select a comprehensive sample of linguistic features, and focuses on features that distinguish accents rather than on shared features that cause misidentification.
Raphael Berthele reports on ''Investigations into the folk's mental models of linguistic varieties'' (pp. 265-90), using a visual/lexical survey. Berthele demonstrates links between high vowels and angular, spiky gestalts (and associated descriptive adjectives) in the perception of Swiss German dialects. He argues for including inherent values of linguistic types alongside ideologically and connotationally mediated values, and problematises the standard ''prestige'' approach to language attitudes.
''A cognitive approach to quantitative sociolinguistic variation: Evidence from 'th'-fronting in Central Scotland'', by Lynn Clark and Graeme Trousdale (pp. 291-321), is the most VS contribution. Throwing linguistic and social factors into Varbrul, the authors identify the factor groups most predictive of θ-fronting as friendship-group membership (based on ethnographic fieldwork), preceding [f] in the word, syllable structure, and type and frequency of lexical item. They thus argue that VS should include cognitive factors in its models, and that the cognitive representation of a concept or form includes information about its social distribution and stylistic value. This representation differs across and within groups: two groups may use different variants simply because they learned those variants, while another stylises its choice creatively; each of the three has different concepts of the same variants, yet all three participate in the same social structure.
''Advances in Cognitive Sociolinguistics'' is a resounding call for the bridging of unproductive disciplinary boundaries, casting light on neglected empirical and methodological areas. However, the effort originates clearly in CL more than in VS. The editors ''envisage a mutually beneficial interaction of both approaches,'' but, ''in describing that bidirectionality, we will start from the Cognitive Linguistics end.'' (p. 2) This asymmetry produces a dated image of sociolinguistic method and theory that pervades most of the contributions, which miss entire bodies of literature that address the deficiencies the authors find in VS. At times, the tone of the volume tends towards justifying rather than supporting its programme. In the end, it is made clumsy by the very boundaries it seeks to transcend. CL and VS remain distinct fields, with distinctive interests, skills and prejudices. This reviewer hopes the convergence advocated by this volume is successful, and will evaluate the work as a contribution to this convergence.
Complicating the task of engaging with another subfield, VS is broader than would appear from the contributors' invocations of ''sociovariationist research'' (p. 8), the ''traditional sociolinguistic perspective'' (p. 87), ''Variationist Sociolinguistics'' (p. 104), ''standard sociolinguistics'' (p. 286) or simply ''sociolinguistics'' (p. 86). Invariably these refer metonymically to a particular strand of VS, which Eckert (in prep.) has called the first of three ''waves''. The oldest and best-established ''wave'', whose most prominent figure remains Labov, uses sociolinguistic interviews and charts variation over broad geographic and social swaths, using the macro-linguistic and demographic categories.
The second and third waves work at local scales, supplementing interviews with ethnography. The third breaks away theoretically. Based more on social theory and linguistic anthropology than modular, competence-base linguistics, its local, emic focus might have richer conceptual implications for CS than the macro-sociolinguistics of the first wave. The contributions from Colleman, Szmrecsanyi, Soares da Silva and Peirsman et al. concern monodimensional macro-registers, whose cognitive dimension might be enriched with reference to third-wave, embodiment- and experience-based developments in the concepts ''register'' and ''style'' (Agha, 2007; Coupland, 2007).
Far from outside ''theoretical linguistics'' (cf. p. 293), third-wavers are working in exemplar and social-network theories (Pierrehumbert, 2006; Milroy, 1987), structure-formation and -propagation (Agha, 2007), and semiotic theories of form and meaning (Silverstein, 1976; Eckert, 2008). It would be more productive to supplement and critique these developments with the sophisticated conceptual, cognitive-network and practical-representational apparatus of CL than to orient to CS as a theoretisation of sociolinguistics.
Far from ''surprisingly uninventive in explaining the puzzling fact that speakers continue using certain varieties despite their obvious and openly admitted lack of prestige'' (p. 266), sociolinguists address this first-wave problem in their contributions to stance theory (DuBois, 2007; Bucholtz & Hall, 2005), voicing and persona (Hill, 1995; Agha, 2007), change in varieties (Greene, 2010), crossing (Rampton, 1995), language ideology, choice and revitalisation (Woolard, 1989; Santa Ana, 2004; Barrett, 2008). Berthele's synaesthesia hypothesis makes a welcome contribution to this literature.
A surprising elephant in the room is the issue of attention and consciousness. Although contributors profit from CL's openness towards cognitive processes like emotion and salience, they do not consider relationships between these processes and attention. Geeraerts & Speelman's ''salience'' is in large part frequency, an index of both subconsciously habituated and (some) metapragmatically prominent categories, whose sociolinguistic behaviour is quite different (cf. Labov, 1964:102). Stylistic variation responding to context and identity, or creating context and identity (cf. Clark & Trousdale's chapter); and ''archaic'' registers preserving conservative forms, or ''formal'' registers signalling conservatism (cf. Colleman's chapter) are questions of attention too.
Another invisible elephant is inter- vs. intraspeaker variation. First-wave VS focusses on variables which vary between communities, third-wavers on variables which vary within communities. Missing from both is a map of the distribution of these two situations -- the carving up of social/geographic space into regions with more or less intraspeaker variation, more or less internal homogeneity. Part III contains three well-executed pieces of what such a model will need to include, but CS is not immune from this problematic dichotomy. Geeraerts & Speelman's definition of ''heterogeneity'' is an interspeaker-variation measure in fact negatively impacted by internal heterogeneity (since it views overlapping variants as less heterogeneous than variants separated by space). A richer definition, taking into account how many variants a community is actively or passively familiar with -- including neighbouring lects and standard varieties -- would surely capture additional cognitive implications.
The editors seek to make their volume, largely CL in impetus, useful to VS. They succeed. Their classification of word-choice variation into ''formal onomasiological'', ''conceptual onomasiological'' and ''speaker/situation-related variation'' (pp. 7-9) is a fascinating alternative analysis of variation extensible beyond sociolexicology.
Readers naïve to CL can find ready-made CS implementations of ''meaning as categorization'' (p. 10), vagueness (p. 24), multiple inheritance (p. 294), schematicity and sanction (p. 295), and cognitive/cultural models (pp. 267-9).
As most of the contributors suggest, the concept focus of CL is indeed a strength and has much to offer to VS. CL has not shied away from reticulation and featural calculation as VS has (cf. Sag, 2010), and CS may portend more investigation of the variation of quite complicated structures. Equally useful is CL's embrace of links between language and other cognitive phenomena, including emotion, perception, prototypes, salience, entrenchment, and the life of competence. Such an approach is eminently compatible with embodied, practice-based sociolinguistics. The CL approach to ''folk mental models'' breaks away from the dominant propositional form of ideology research and allows the linking of senses, emotions and structures in single models.
CL's preferred tool for usage/category relationships is the prototype, while VS has used the exemplar. Both are opposite sides of the same coin, of course, and CS may manage to forge a new synthesis in this region, and also in linguistic relativity. Taboo for many social scientists, the inherence and universality of concepts are empirical questions in CL. This volume refers to tests of proposed universals like ''anger=heat'' metaphors (p. 3), linguistic factors in accent identifiability (pp. 248-61) and links between varieties and visual gestalts (pp. 265-90); the outcome of CS investigations of universality may be a more sophisticated constructivism.
Similarly, CL and VS both have something to say about ''meaning''. Cognitive Sociolinguistics cannot help but address issues of denotations and connotations, semiotics, scales and implicatures, speech acts and contextual frames, relevance and givenness, per- and illocution, and the like, if it takes all of their social sides seriously. Similarly, VS is receiving new attention from laboratory linguists investigating the precise cognitive effects of social meanings (Smith et al., 2010).
As a programmatic salvo, promoting social cognition in CL and VS, ''Advances in Cognitive Sociolinguistics'' is successful in linking up with some dominant strands and concerns of sociolinguistic research, but remiss in linking up obvious and relevant sites for cross-fertilisation with sociolinguists who share their concerns. Still, it is refreshing to read increasingly variationist contributions from CL, motivated by the same concerns which precipitated the emergence of third-wave VS. There is reason to expect sympathetic readings and fruitful collaborations.
Of concern to cross-disciplinary readers are matters of jargon. The jargon and statistics used throughout will prove inaccessible to readers with background from neither VS nor CL. Although contributors define certain concepts painstakingly, others remain underexplained and undersituated; nor are the items of jargon as a whole intended as a coherent, representative sample of their home fields. Readers from one of the two fields will have much further reading to do.
The CS of the future will want to expand its typological span beyond the Germanic and Romance languages of this volume. It will profit from links with more different types of socio-, psycho- and traditional linguistic research, and may even be able to bridge divides, not only like the one between cognitive and social approaches to language, but like the one that has grown in VS.
Agha, Asif (2007) Language and social relations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Barrett, Rusty (2008) Linguistic differentiation and Mayan language revitalization in Guatemala. Journal of Sociolinguistics 12:275-305.
Bucholtz, Mary, & Kira Hall (2005) Identity and interaction. Discourse Studies 7:585-614.
Coupland, Nikolas (2007) Style . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
DuBois, John W. (2007) The stance triangle. In Robert Englebretson (Ed.) Stancetaking in discourse, pp. 137-82. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Eckert, Penelope (2008) Variation and the indexical field. Journal of Sociolinguistics 12:453-76.
Eckert, Penelope (in prep.) Three waves of variation study. Available at http://www.stanford.edu/~eckert/PDF/ThreeWavesofVariation.pdf
Geeraerts, Dirk, Stefan Grondelaers & Peter Bakema (1994) The structure of lexical variation. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Greene, Rebecca Dayle (2010) Eastern Kentucky English and ideology. Stanford diss.
Hill, Jane H. (1995) The voices of Don Gabriel. In Bruce Mannheim & Dennis Tedlock (Eds) The dialogic emergence of culture, pp. 97-147. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
Labov, William (1964) The social stratification of English in New York City. Columbia diss.
Milroy, Lesley (1987) Language and social networks, 2nd ed. Oxford: Blackwell.
Pierrehumbert, Janet (2006) The next toolkit. Journal of Phonetics 34: 516-30.
Rampton, Ben (1995) Crossing. London: Longman.
Sag, Ivan A. (2010) Sign-based construction grammar. In Hans C. Boas & Ivan A. Sag (Eds) Sign-based construction grammar, pp. 39-160. Palo Alto: CSLI.
Santa Ana, Otto (2004) Tongue-tied. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Silverstein, Michael (1976) Shifters, linguistic categories and cultural description. In Keith H. Basso & Henry A. Selby (Eds) Meaning in anthropology, pp. 11-55. Albuquerque: School of American Research.
Smith, E. Allyn, Kathleen Currie Hall & Benjamin Munson (2010) Bringing semantics to sociophonetics. Journal of Laboratory Phonology 1:121-55.
Woolard, Kathryn A. (1989) Double talk. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Bryan James Gordon's research asks what social meaning and linguistic
structure can tell us about the (social-)cognitive life of language and
culture, drawing on pragmatic, sociolinguistic and ethnographic methods.
His primary interests are gender and sexuality, language revitalisation,
and sociopolitical change and intervention; and he currently works with the
NSF-funded Wounaan Oral History project (Panama) and the Umóⁿhoⁿ Language
and Culture Center (Nebraska), alongside his studies in the Joint PhD
programme in Linguistics and Anthropology at the University of Arizona.