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Review of  Sociolinguistics

Reviewer: Laura Loder Büchel
Book Title: Sociolinguistics
Book Author: Christina Bratt Paulston G. Richard Tucker
Publisher: Wiley
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Issue Number: 14.1618

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Date: Tue, 3 Jun 2003 12:54:31 -0400
From: Laura Buechel
Subject: Sociolinguistics: The Essential Readings

Paulston, Christina Bratt and G. Richard Tucker, ed. (2003)
Sociolinguistics: The Essential Readings, Blackwell Publishing,
Linguistics: The Essential Readings 3.

Laura Loder Buechel, Paedagogische Hochschule Zuerich, Switzerland

"Sociolinguistics: The Essential Readings", edited by Christina Bratt
Paulston and G. Richard Tucker, is an introduction to many different
aspects of sociolinguistics for students and others interested in the
field. It is a collection of 29 papers organized into 11 parts, each
part headed by a classic in the specific subfield. The parts are then
followed with mostly more recent articles, some written especially for
this reader, by researchers and educators who have also helped to
define the field of sociolinguistics throughout the past 50 years.
Each part is introduced by the editors, articles are presented, and
questions for discussion are posed.

The two articles in Part I: History of Sociolinguistics describe the
development from anthropology, ethnology, sociology and linguistics
into what we term today as sociolinguistics, although there is still
much room for discussion if we want to identify what topics really
belong to this field. Interesting discussions presented about the
politics of certain times (racial discrimination in 1960s (Shuy, 1960)
in the US and Marxism in the USSR (Calvet)) lead to discussions about
research questions posed by linguists, such as differences in dialects
and the relationship between ethnic group and social class and dialect.

In the first article of Part II: Ethnography of Speaking, Hymes (1986)
puts forth a descriptive theory of individual communities and groups to
include the speech community, which is twofold: a community that shares
"rules for the conduct and interpretation of speech, and rules for the
interpretation of at least one linguistic variety (p. 36)." Pagliai
(2000) describes the tradition of the Contrasto in the speech community
of Tuscany. This bantering (perhaps a "speech event", Hymes 1986),
performed at public events such as festivals (perhaps a "speech
situation", Hymes 1986) between two opponents having a heated poetic
debate, demonstrates that participants share the rules of conduct, they
both banter through singing and acting and they perhaps share one
linguistic variety. However, insofar as being a homogeneous speech
community, they identify themselves very locally, through the naming of
places, thus Hymes's speech community can be narrowed down to a very
small geographic area.

The articles in Part III: Pragmatics help to demonstrate the breadth of
the topic. This part of the book delves into narrative analysis,
conversational analysis and address studies through analyzing speech
acts. Although Labov and Waletzky's 1967 paper was an important
stepping stone to today's work, Schegloff's (1997)critique leads us to
what wasn't done and what still needs to be done in regards to
narrative analysis. We can see the influence of Labov on Holmes's
(1998) analysis (and in Gumperz's work (1982)) of Maori stories when
she uses his structural framework in her study of Maori and Pakeha
cultural differences in narrative. In this direction, Gumperz (1982)
analyzes conversations to find linguistically based "cultural
miscommunications" principally between American- and Indian-English
speakers. Brown and Gilman (1960) discuss the possible history of the
pronouns of address (tu or vos) and the interaction between the choice
of pronoun and rank -- or amount of power. Finally, Holmes (1998)
analyzes compliments and finds that they, too, are also used as power
plays and are culture and gender loaded. The two articles in Part IV:
Language and Gender touch upon the respective issues, and that of power
as well.

In Part V: Language Variation, Labov's (1975) article is still relevant
today and is perhaps summed up with his own quote "But before we train
working class speakers to copy middle class speech patterns wholesale,
it is worth asking just which aspects of this style are functional for
learning and which are matters of prestige and fashion. ...
unfortunately we have not yet begun to answer it (p. 249)." Perhaps a
step in trying to answer this question is Wolfram's (2000) article
about standardizing vernacular languages. Bringing sociolinguistics to
the level of the individual, is Johnstone's (1991) paper about the
individualization of dialogues by polltakers in public opinion surveys.
Reinecke's 1937 article comprises Part VI: Pidgins and Creoles, which
also discusses communication strategies, language and power, and

The previous chapters lead nicely into Part VII: Individual
Bilingualism, which poses similar questions about the value of a
language, the power involved in being a speaker of a certain language
and questions the educational system. Lambert (1967) puts forth
questions of identity negotiation and value of the language through his
research of impressions French and English speaking Canadians have of
one another. Cummins describes how BICS (Basic Interpersonal
Communicative Skills) and CALP (Cognitive Academic Language
Proficiency) are similar to many other conceptual distinctions, why
these distinctions are important to have, and then defends the
distinction. Finally, MacSwan and Rolsted offer an alternative to BICS
and CALP, which in their opinion leads to a "deficit view of children
in the context of native language" (p. 337).

In Part VIII: Diglossia, Ferguson (1959) sees diglossia as a dynamic
("developing from various origins and eventuating in different language
situations", p. 34.), though historically stable, language situation.
He defines situations in which the High and Low varieties of German
(Swiss), Arabic (Egyptian), Greek (Modern) and Creole (Haitian) are
used. He emphasizes the importance of not always analyzing the standard
form of a language, we can learn so much from the vernacular. Fishman
(1967) expands upon Ferguson's work by looking at the combinations of
bilingualism and diglossia. Finally, Hudson (1991) looks at both
Ferguson's and Fishman's work and in an attempt to find a working
definition of diglossia -- returns to Ferguson.

From diglossia, we turn to Part IX: Group Bilingualism, where Fishman
(1990) discredits assumptions that linguistic heterogeneity contributes
to civil strife, arguing rather that there are many positive
consequences of linguistic heterogeneity in regards to policies. Bratt
Paulston (1992) continues this discussion by looking at successful and
unsuccessful policies in Catalonia, Tanzania, and Peru as well as
reasons behind language shift. In Part X: Language Policies and
Planning, Haugen (1966) sets guidelines for defining a standard
language, which was the groundwork for work in the 1970s on language
planning in developing countries. Nahir (1984) elaborates upon this in
establishing eleven language planning goals from examples taken around
the world. Finally, Hornberger (1994) describes the role of developing
mother tongue literacy in primary school.

This book is concluded by Part XI: Multilingualism, Policies and
Education, with two articles (Tucker 2001 and Bratt Paulston 1997)
which put into question movements such as "English-Only", and discuss
instruction in the native language of people in different political
situations as well as other questions to help language planners. No
reasonable person doubts the benefits of having two or more well-
developed languages, and how leaders of nations and communities plan or
not plan is essential to every individual's success.


The intended audience of the book is precisely as the authors state in
the preface -- for beginning students or those interested in the field
(as long as they are familiar with sociolinguistic jargon) and also to
be used with a textbook. The introductions to the parts and the
discussion questions, however, make the book manageable without one. It
is also good for those of us who work in the field and have not read
all the direct sources.

Insofar as organization is concerned, perhaps the biographical
information about the author (Notes on Authors) as well as reference
information (Acknowledgements) could better been placed with the
article or at the introduction to each part, not all at the beginning
of the reader in two different sections. While the introductions often
gave the contexts of the times, it would have been easier to associate
them to the article like this. One question that remains is when Calvet
published his contribution to this reader. The index is well done and
the recommendations for further reading in the introductions are

The authors mention that perhaps first part (History of Sociology)
should be read last (p. 2), but perhaps best would be to leave it where
it is and to recommend that it be reread at the end of the course or
work with the book. In Part VIII, the authors gave a good tip about
knowing definition of writers when reading article, and this could have
been mentioned about other terms, such as bilingual.

The Discussion Questions at the end of each chapter are mostly very
thought provoking. Part III, especially, provides many opportunities
for students to make their own analyses, and throughout the book, there
are many questions posed which refer students to outside of the book --
to interview friends, neighbors and foreign language speakers.
Moreover, references made in the discussion questions to previous
chapters ties the articles together nicely.

It certainly must not have been easy to choose among so many seminal
works and to structure the book into parts. There have been many, many
articles related to pragmatics, and also to the chapters on
bilingualism. Some of the articles could easily belong to different
parts (Holmes (1998) in Part III could well belong to Part IV, for
example and the two articles in Part XI could have gone into the
previous chapter). The recommended readings were a good way to broaden
the selection.

Although methods of measuring are more sophisticated nowadays, most of
the issues addressed in this reader still exist today and there is
still much work to be done. Hopefully, further volumes will be
published which address more recent work and which shed a new light on
these discussions.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER Laura Loder Buechel is teacher trainer in the field of Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) in regards to the introduction of English into Swiss primary schools. She completed her M.Ed. in Bilingual Education from Northern Arizona University in 2000. Her research interests include cognitive advantages of simultaneous first and second language acquisition and Computer Assisted Language Learning to facilitate multilingualism.

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