LINGUIST List 25.1263

Thu Mar 13 2014

Review: Sociolinguistics: Mallinson et al. (2013)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <>

Date: 16-Oct-2013
From: Raquel Freitag <>
Subject: Data Collection in Sociolinguistics
E-mail this message to a friend

Discuss this message

Book announced at

EDITOR: Christine Mallinson
EDITOR: Becky Childs
EDITOR: Gerard Van Herk
TITLE: Data Collection in Sociolinguistics
SUBTITLE: Methods and Applications
PUBLISHER: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Raquel Meister Ko Freitag, Universidade Federal de Sergipe

Sociolinguistics has evolved in the last fifty years to become an important
subfield of linguistics. This time has also seen the development of powerful
methods for data collection, central to sociolinguistic work. Data collection
methods, however, tend to be described in only a few lines, often in the
passive voice (“data are collected…”), which obscures the efforts and the
fieldworkers involved. People, after all, collect sociolinguistic data, and
they often face challenges during fieldwork.

“Data collection in Sociolinguistics -- methods and application” is an edited
collection that seeks to rescue the “social” in sociolinguistic research. The
book is composed of 19 chapters and 34 vignettes -- short descriptions of
specific aspects of a chapter -- that show the “how to” in the active voice.
It is a recollection of the field researchers’ experiences and it encompasses
recent trends regarding ethical aspects of data collection practices. Both
beginners and advanced readers will benefit from the pertinent and up-to-date
reflections in this book. Although there are other recent books related to
this topic, such as Tagliamonte 2006 and 2012, those do not focus on the
personal experiences and achievements that characterize sociolinguistic

The book is organized into four parts and starts with a foreword by J.K.
Chambers. Part I -- Research design – provides guidelines for designing a
sociolinguistic study. This part also deals with ethics, an important aspect
in sociolinguistic research today. Christine Mallinson introduces this part,
with contributions by Barbara Horvath, Marcia Farr, Walt Wolfram, James
Stanford, Rania Habib, Sara Trechter, Niko Besnier, Stephen Mann, Susan
Ehrlich, and Randal Sadler. In particular, the vignettes in this part offer an
overview of ethical situations which are frequently found in sociolinguistics,
for instance, the relationship between researchers and ethics boards, and the
sociolinguistic representation of the participants (both in the real world and
on the world wide web).

Part II -- Generating new data -- focuses on new methodologies for data
collection. Becky Childs introduces this part, and Erez Levon, James Walker &
Michol Hoffman, Rajend Mesthrie, Patricia Nichols, Kara Becker, Victoria Rau,
Ceil Lucas, Joseph Hill, Boyd Davis, Paul de Decker & Jennifer Nycz, and
Lauren Hall-Lew & Bartolomiej Plichta share their experiences with data
collection, mainly ethnographic approaches and sociolinguistic interview
protocols. Charles Boberg presents a balanced perspective on the advantages
and disadvantages in adopting written questionnaires for gathering
sociolinguistic data. In their vignettes, Kathryn Campbell-Kibler details
aspects of perceptual sociolinguistics data collection, with focus on speaker
evaluation of language, and Naomi S. Baron outlines essential steps for
controlling online survey data collection, including age and cultural
questions. Cynthia G. Clopper discusses experimental approaches in
sociolinguistics, which can complement ethnographic observation and
sociolinguistic interviews to provide additional evidence.

Minority communities receive particular attention, with fieldwork reports
covering different contexts, including immigrant, indigenous, diasporic and
deaf communities. Sociolinguistic interview protocols are also dealt with in
this part, especially attitudinal surveys and other interview techniques to
generate sociolinguistic data. Gerard Van Herk opens part III -- Working with
and preserving existing data -- with five questions about “data” in
sociolinguistic research: what are “data”? What are data “for”? What are
“natural” data? What are the advantages and disadvantages of particular types
of data? And what do we lose by using sociolinguistic interview data? Edgar
Schneider, France Martineau, Philipp Angermeyer, Alexandra D’Arcy, Cécile
Vigouroux, Tyler Kendall, William Kretzschmar Jr., Mark Davies, Joan Beal &
Karen Corrigan, Robin Queen, Tracey Weldon, Michael Adams and Jannis
Androutsopoulos propose responses to the questions raised using data from
various sources: spoken, written (both in paper and online) and different

Finally, part IV explores what happens after data collection. Christine
Mallinson discusses sharing data and findings. The main focus falls on
education and the media: Arapera Ngaha, Anne Charity Hudley, Lisa Green,
Robert Serpell, Donna Starks, Jennifer Sclafani, Scott Kiesling, Clive Upton
and Andrew Wong suggest that sociolinguistic work can contribute to society if
there is public engagement. In other words, sociolinguists should disseminate
their results and share their findings.

The editors conclude with a summary of the primary goal of the book, to create
and refine methods for data collection that reflect spoken and written
language in use. They highlight the key themes in the book, and, because
research is a process, they invite readers to “continue the conversation” on
their website, where there are additional resources.

The book is a valuable resource for contemporary sociolinguistic research. The
diversity of experiences shared in the book covers the new ways of undertaking
sociolinguistic research and analysis, with special attention to deeper
understanding of the field. The narrative structure of vignettes makes the
reading more casual. It is a positive aspect, but it makes cross-reference

The shared field experiences presented in “Data collection in Sociolinguistics
-- methods and application” give us an excellent tutorial on how to meet the
challenges of collecting data ethically and it is useful for the whole
sociolinguistics research community.

Tagliamonte, Sali A. (2006). Analysing sociolinguistic variation. New York,
Cambridge University Press.

Tagliamonte, Sali A. (2012). Variationist sociolinguistics: change,
observation, interpretation. London, Wiley-Blackwell Publishers.

I am an Adjunct Professor at the Universidade Federal de Sergipe, Brazil. My
research interest focuses on sociolinguistic approaches to sex/gender effects;
style, attitudes and linguistic change; and methodological aspects of
sociolinguistic interviews.

Page Updated: 13-Mar-2014