Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login

New from Cambridge University Press!


Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

New from Wiley!


We Have a New Site!

With the help of your donations we have been making good progress on designing and launching our new website! Check it out at!
***We are still in our beta stages for the new site--if you have any feedback, be sure to let us know at***

Review of  Dialect Contact and Social Networks

Reviewer: Jason Steve Sarkozi
Book Title: Dialect Contact and Social Networks
Book Author: Keiko Hirano
Publisher: Peter Lang AG
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Subject Language(s): English
Issue Number: 25.2393

Discuss this Review
Help on Posting

This book is addressed to readers, especially sociolinguists, interested in the epiphenomenon of linguistic change that occurs alongside dialect contact. The author attempts to fill a gap in the research on linguistic variation and change, specifically, contact-induced dialect change in communities where English is not the primary language (e.g., Japan). Using a theoretical lens that relies heavily on Accommodation Theory, Hirano argues that the direction and the amount of dialect accommodation in a second language (L2) situation is greatly affected by the people with whom the speaker has close contact, and that the speaker’s social network structures can be reliable predictors of their individual dialect maintenance and shift. In this book, the author is motivated to answer the following questions: (1) What happens to the linguistic behavior of native speakers of English (NSsE) in an L2 situation in an English as a foreign language (EFL)/Expanding Circle like Japan, where dialect mixing is constantly taking place?; (2) Do NSsE acquire or accommodate different dialects even in a community where speakers only have short- to medium-term contact with other speakers?; (3) If they do, who accommodates to whose dialect?; (4) How can the social networks of the speakers be influential on the speakers’ linguistic behavior if their network ties are not necessarily strong and close-knit? The author analyzed 12 linguistic variables from 39 individual informants from England, North America, and New Zealand in an attempt to answer the aforementioned questions. All tokens came from interviews, which took place in Japan between 2000 and 2001, from the same informants on two separate occasions (in the fall and then again in the following summer/fall) a year apart.

A lack of studies on the heterogeneity of the varieties of English spoken in places where English is not the primary language has contributed to a gap in research on dialect contact. In Chapter 1, Hirano offers the reader a brief glimpse into previous studies conducted on dialect contact and a theoretical background on Accommodation Theory and social network analysis. Citing Kachru’s “Expanding Circle” (1985: 12-15), in which English is a [foreign] language and no regional dialect or institutional norm privileging one dialect over another has been established, the author explains that the English dialect contact situation in the Anglophone community of Japan is quite different from the communities where dialect contact is typically studied, and, thus, useful in understanding relevant linguistic processes. The chapter concludes with a chapter-to-chapter breakdown of the book’s structure.

In Chapter 2, Hirano gives an introduction to English education in Japan and the demand for native-speaking English teachers there. She first outlines the short history of English education in Japan and the demand for NSsE, resulting in a growing population of Anglophone residents in Japan. Then, she presents information about the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program and other English teaching jobs that attract NSsE to Japan. Lastly, she discusses the possible linguistic influence of social networks on the English of the JET Program participants, and English teachers at private institutions, who establish relationships with speakers from a variety of English dialects, as well as non-NSsE.

Linguistic change in a dialect contact situation and the social network effects on it are key themes in this book. Thus, in Chapter 3, the author, first, reviews theoretical frameworks and previous studies on dialect contact by examining works relating to speech accommodation, second dialect acquisition, long-term accommodation, and new-dialect formation, all in an L1 setting where contact occurs between native speakers. Then, she discusses previous research done on language contact with non-NSsE. Finally, she examines studies related to social network analysis.

In Chapter 4, in an effort to better understand the linguistic behavior and the social networks of Anglophones in Japan, Hirano proposes the following three hypotheses: 1) The speaker’s linguistic behavior and change are strongly correlated to his or her social network in the dialect contact situation of the Anglophone community in Japan; 2) The stronger speakers’ social networks with NSsE from their home country area are, the more encouraged these speakers are to maintain their vernacular features and/or refrain from adopting features of other English varieties; 3) The stronger the social networks of NSsE with speakers of different English varieties are, the more they will shift away from their vernacular features and/or adopt features of other English varieties. She then presents the following seven research questions, which are later addressed in Chapter 8: 1) Which type of network effect has the greater impact on the linguistic change of individual speakers: positive network effect or negative network effect?; 2) Are social network effects more strongly correlated with positive accommodation or with negative accommodation?; 3) Which of the linguistic features demonstrate social network effects and, as a result, are subject to accommodation by the NSsE?; 4) Is the dialect accommodation process of the Anglophone community in Japan similar to the processes observed in regions where English is the primary language?; 5) Is intelligibility connected to social network effects on linguistic variables?; 6) Is the high percentage of Americans within the Anglophone community in Japan reflected in the linguistic changes?; 7) What similar and different tendencies will the informants from the three countries -- England, the United States and New Zealand -- show in terms of the social network effects on their linguistic behavior in a dialect contact situation in Japan?

Chapter 5 first introduces the twelve linguistic variables -- word-final intervocalic (t), word-medial intervocalic (t), postvocalic (t), non-prevocalic (t), intrusive (r), /-t,d/ deletion, TRAP vowel, BATH vowel, START vowel, LOT vowel, THOUGHT vowel, and CLOTH vowel -- that the author selected to study and her reasons behind their selection. Then, in order to test the hypotheses presented in Chapter 4, Hirano gives a description of the three varieties of English in question -- Received Pronunciation (RP), General American (GA), or New Zealand (NZE) -- and how linguistic variables are connected to each, respectively.

In Chapter 6, the author first presents the methodology of the study, namely, when and where the data were collected, who participated in the study, and how the linguistic data were analyzed. Then, she presents the results of the social network analysis, followed by a description of the statistical methods that she employed. Finally, she lists the recording device and software used for the linguistic analysis of the audio data.

In Chapter 7, Hirano presents the result of the linguistic data analysis for each linguistic variable among English, American, and New Zealand informants between two points in time. The discussion of each linguistic variable first begins with an introduction, a description of the change in choice of variants over real time, the change in relation to social networks, and the results. Multiple regression analyses according to the informants’ home country demonstrate the key findings. For example, in relation to change in choice of variants of word-final intervocalic (t), she found strong network effects after a year in Japan. There was a tendency to reduce the use of flaps and increase the use of glottal stops in English informants with a high British network index score. On the other hand, speakers with a high Australasian network index score tended to decrease their usage of glottal stops. With regard to speakers of American English, the average percentage use of glottal stops significantly increased, whereas the use of flaps significantly decreased.

In Chapter 8, Hirano first discusses the findings for her 39 individual informants. Then, she presents the results from Chapter 7 in relation to Accommodation Theory and the effects of social networks introduced in Chapter 3. Lastly, the author attempts to substantiate the three hypotheses and answer the seven research questions from Chapter 4. For instance, six of the 12 linguistic variables revealed significant social network effects among the informants from the three countries: word-final intervocalic (t), word-medial intervocalic (t), postvocalic (t), /-t,d/ deletion, TRAP, and BATH. All together, her findings suggest that American informants, as a whole, who spend time with members of the other dialect groups appear to be more susceptible to linguistic change than their English and New Zealander counterparts.

As a conclusion, in Chapter 9, Hirano first evaluates the characteristics of the Anglophone community in Japan and the findings of the present study. After examining the theoretical implications of the findings, she argues that, in this community, a speaker’s social network does indeed impact his/her linguistic behavior and can reliably predict dialect maintenance and shift. The three hypotheses were tested and confirmed, revealing that a speaker’s linguistic behavior and change are indeed strongly correlated to his/her social network, the stronger his/her networks with NSsE from his/her home country are, the more encouraged he/she is to maintain his/her vernacular features and/or refrain from adopting features of other English varieties, and the stronger the social network of NSsE with speakers of different English varieties are, the more he/she will shift away from his/her vernacular features and/or adopt features of other English varieties. Lastly, the author summarizes the study’s weaknesses and limitations (e.g., sample size, not covering relevant social factors such as speaker’s age and gender), and offers suggestions for future research.


It is apparent that Hirano spent a considerable amount of time and effort in creating this highly data-driven study. Each chapter (with the exception of Chapters 4, 8, and 9) begins with an introduction and ends with a summary, facilitating the readability of the content and offering cohesion to each section of the book. Chapter 3, especially, is a vastly rich source of information for any researcher requiring an in-depth account of Accommodation Theory and previous research on dialect contact and social network analysis.

In Chapter 6, the author presents a very thorough account of when, where, and how she chose her informants, collected (including problems that occurred during its collection) and coded the linguistic data, and collected and measured the informants’ social networks; and she did so with the aid of visuals and in explicit, meticulous detail. However, I feel that the presentation of this information could have taken place earlier in the book as to not leave the reader wondering how the data was going to be collected. It might have been more useful to include a brief summary of the data collection process in Chapter 4, where the hypotheses and research questions were presented.

In Chapter 5, Hirano provides three maps outlining all geographical accent groups (e.g., English in the south of England) within each dialect. At first, it is unclear which variant pertains to which dialect until the reader reaches the end of the chapter and is presented with a table comprising a comparison of the typical phonetic realization of each variable with respect to all three national dialects. It is also important to mention that the author assumes that, because the informants are all university graduates and English teachers in schools in Japan, their speech is closer to standard-like pronunciations than that of the average speaker. However, I found this to be problematic since sociolinguists, such as Lippi-Green (2012: 61) may argue that using terms like “standard,” or in this case “standard-like,” is “ideological and inaccurate.” It might have been more accurate if the author would have posited a ‘posteriori’ social categorization of the informants’ English based on the data collected rather than an ‘a priori’ assumption based on her belief according to their educational backgrounds and profession.

This book is a significant addition to the field of sociolinguistics. One of its main strengths is its comprehensiveness. The structure of each chapter facilitates reading and makes this book a great resource for understanding the effects of social networks on phonological accommodation, especially of socially mobile adults living in settings where English is a foreign language. Despite the lucidity of the content in this book and its painstaking descriptiveness, I would not recommend its use in an undergraduate introductory course on sociolinguistics due to its length and breadth. However, any graduate-level seminar on dialect contact would greatly benefit from its inclusion on the list of recommended readings.

It is undeniable that our social networks have influential effects on our language use, and Hirano successfully fulfills a previous need for a study that describes this phenomenon in a context that is often overlooked.


Kachru, B. B. (1985). Standards, codification and sociolinguistic realism: The English language in the outer circle. In R. Quirk and H. G. Widdowson (eds.), “English in the world: Teaching and learning the language and literatures”. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 11-30.

Lippi-Green, R. (2012). English with an accent: Language, ideology, and discrimination in the United States. (2nd edition). New York, NY: Routledge.
Jason Steve Sarkozi is an Instructor in the English Language Institute at Central Michigan University, where he is also pursuing a Master’s in TESOL. His current research interests lie on the hairbreadth boundary between sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology where he explores language from several perspectives: language variation and language attitudes, language and identity, language in interaction and cross-cultural communication, all within bi/multilingual communities in the Spanish-, English-, and Portuguese-speaking worlds.

Format: Hardback
ISBN-13: 9783631627761
Pages: 314
Prices: U.S. $ 80.95
U.K. £ 49.00
Format: Electronic
ISBN-13: 9783653027822
Pages: 314
Prices: U.S. $ 80.95
U.K. £ 49