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Review of  An Introduction to Sociolinguistics, Fourth Edition

Reviewer: Liwei Gao
Book Title: An Introduction to Sociolinguistics, Fourth Edition
Book Author: Ronald Wardhaugh
Publisher: Wiley
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Issue Number: 13.357

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Wardhaugh, Ronald (2002) An Introduction to Sociolinguistics, 4th ed.
Blackwell Publishers, paperback ISBN 0-631-22540-4, vi+408pp, Blackwell
Textbooks in Linguistics.

Liwei Gao, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

This book is intended as a standard textbook for advanced undergraduate
courses and introductory graduate courses in sociolinguistics. Different
from previous editions, this newest edition reorganizes the sixteen
chapters in the book into Introduction (Chapter 1), four major parts
(Chapters 2-15) -- Languages and Communities, Inherent Variety, Words at
Work, and Understanding and Intervening -- and Conclusion (Chapter 16).

In Chapter 1, Introduction, Wardhaugh addresses some of the fundamental
issues in sociolinguistics. The issues discussed in this chapter are the
nature of knowledge of language, the reality of variation, the interaction
between language and its social context, the similarity and difference
between sociolinguistics and the sociology of language, and methodological
concerns. An overview is also included.

Part I, Languages and Communities, comprises Chapter 2-5. This part mainly
discusses the issues concerning language varieties, language contact, and
speech communities.

Chapter 2 is titled Languages, Dialects, and Varieties. In this chapter
the author first surveys the definition of language and dialect. In so
doing he calls into attention the complication and confusion surrounding
defining these two terms. Then Wardhaugh discusses the issues concerning
respectively regional and social dialects. This chapter concludes with the
discussion of styles, registers, and beliefs.

Chapter 3, Pidgins and Creoles, first introduces the concept of lingual
franca. It then provides the definition of pidgins and creoles: "a pidgin
is a language with no native speakers" (p. 60) and "a creole is often
defined as a pidgin that has become the first language of a new generation
of speakers" (p. 61). Next this chapter discusses the distribution and
characteristics of pidgins and creoles, which is followed by the
investigation into their origins. This chapter concludes by discussing the
process of evolution from pidgin to creole.

In Chapter 4, Codes, the author notes that it is preferable to refer to a
language or a variety of language as a code, since this terminology is
neutral. This chapter begins with the discussion of diglossia, a situation
when a society "has two distinct codes which show clear functional
separation" (p. 88). It then provides a brief review of bilingualism and
multilingualism. This chapter concludes with a thorough survey of various
aspects of the most common and interesting linguistic phenomenon in
bi/multilingual situations - codeswitching.

Chapter 5, Speech Communities, first introduces various definitions of
speech communities given by different scholars. For example, for Hymes,
speech community is a local unit characterized by common locality and
primary interaction. It then discusses the reality that individuals may
belong to intersecting communities in different contexts. In the end this
chapter surveys the issues of networks and linguistic repertoires.

Part II, Inherent Variety, consists of Chapter 6-8. This part addresses
some of the core issues in variationist sociolinguistics, i.e., those of
language variation and change.

In Chapter 6, Language Variation, Wardhaugh first discusses regional
variation. In so doing some crucial concepts involved in the study of
regional variation, e.g., isoglosses, are introduced. The author then
talks about the linguistic variable, "a linguistic item which has
identifiable variants" (p. 141). After this Wardhaugh continues with the
discussion of a crucial issue in sociolinguistics, the relation of
linguistic to social variation. And he concludes this chapter by
discussing data collection and analysis.

Chapter 7, Findings and Issues, primarily surveys classic studies in
variationist sociolinguistics. The first is an early study conducted by
Fischer in a New England community in 1958. The second is the
groundbreaking and also most often cited study done by Labov in New York
City. Trudgill's study in Norwich and Cheshire's study in Reading is
presented next, which precedes a survey of a variety of other exemplary
studies. And then comes the Milroys' study in Belfast. This chapter
finally discusses problems and controversies associated with some of these
variationist studies.

Chapter 8, Change, focuses on the discussion of another important issue in
variationist sociolinguistics, language change. The chapter first presents
the traditional view of language change, according to which "the only
changes that are important in a language are those that can be
demonstrated to have structural consequences" (p. 189). It then discusses
changes in progress. This notion is among those most important
contributions to the study of language change made by variationist
sociolinguistics. The chapter concludes with the discussion of the process
of change. And one of the theories related to this issue is the theory of
lexical diffusion.

Part III, Words at Work, includes Chapter 9-12. This part mostly addresses
the issues concerning language and culture, the ethnography of
communication, and the interactive dimension of sociolinguistics.

Chapter 9, Words and Culture, focuses on the discussion of the interaction
between language and culture. This chapter first introduces the
Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. Next it discusses the study of kinship terms. The
chapter goes on with the discussion of taxonomies, particularly folk
taxonomies. The rest of this chapter is devoted to the discussion of the
issues regarding color terms used in different cultures, prototypes, and
taboos and euphemisms, in that order.

Chapter 10, Ethnographies, is concerned with the study of rules of
communication in different social cultural contexts. This chapter begins
with the presentation of different varieties of talk in different
cultures. It then introduces the ethnography of communication, which
focuses on the illustration of Hymes' model of SPEAKING. This chapter
concludes with the discussion of ethnomethodology, a branch of sociology
that is concerned with, among other things, talk that is viewed as a way
to sustain reality on the one hand and part of that reality on the other.

In Chapter 11, Solidarity and Politeness, the author first introduces the
classic study of the use of 'tu' versus 'vous' in French, viewed
respectively as a way to show solidarity and politeness. Wardhaugh then
discusses multiple facets of the use of different address terms in
dissimilar societies. In the end of this chapter the author addresses the
issue of politeness. In so doing he also discusses the theories on face.

Chapter 12 is titled Talk and Action. Wardhaugh starts this chapter by
introducing the theory of speech acts developed by Austin and Searle,
which basically claims that language can be used to do things. The author
then introduces the Cooperation Principle developed by Grice, which
involves the variable of quantity, quality, relation, and manner.
Wardhaugh concludes this chapter by discussing features of conversation -
mostly from the perspective of discourse analysis.

Part IV, Understanding and Intervening, consists of Chapter 13-15. This
part deals with the issues of language and gender, language and
discrimination, and language planning.

In Chapter 13, Gender, the author starts with the discussion of some of
the perceived/conceived gender differences in language use. For instance,
there is a view that women's speech is trivial, although this is a high
suspect of bias. Wardhaugh then surveys possible explanations of gender
differences in language use, one of which claims that the difference may
be a result of different socialization and acculturation patterns.

Chapter 14 is titled Disadvantage. In the beginning of this chapter
Wardhaugh discusses codes again, but this time elaborated codes and
restricted codes associated with Bernstein. Then the author discusses the
issue of African American vernacular English (AAVE). In the final section
of this chapter Wardhaugh discusses the implications and consequences for
education in view of the social disadvantage connected with the restricted
code and AAVE.

In Chapter 15, Planning, the author first discusses a number of issues
related to language planning, which is subcategorized into status planning
and corpus planning. Wardhaugh then surveys various linguistic situations
in the world in order to provide the sociolinguistic background against
which several instances of language planning are discussed. Further
examples of language planning are then presented. And the paper concludes
by discussing the winning and losing language in the competition for the
linguistic market.

Chapter 16 is Conclusion, which reemphasizes the complication and also the
significance of the study of language in its social context.

Characterized by accessibility and comprehensiveness, this book serves as
an excellent textbook for advanced undergraduate courses and introductory
graduate courses in sociolinguistics. This book may also function as an
indispensable reference book to anyone who is interested in the study of
language in society. If this book includes some topics beyond those from
variationist sociolinguistics, such as a chapter on language and
ideology/power, which applies social theories to explain the reality of
language use, it will achieve an even higher level of comprehensiveness.

In addition, in each chapter a discussion section immediately follows the
survey of a topic. This pattern of organization facilitates the
understanding of the issues covered by the preceding topic. Moreover, at
the end of each chapter is a section titled Further Reading, which
provides a very helpful pointer to the major works related to the topics
covered in that chapter.

Liwei Gao is a graduate student of linguistics at the University of
Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His major research interests are
sociolinguistics and Chinese linguistics.


Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0631225404
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 416
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