This book "asserts that the origin and spread of languages must be examined primarily through the time-tested techniques of linguistic analysis, rather than those of evolutionary biology" and "defends traditional practices in historical linguistics while remaining open to new techniques, including computational methods" and "will appeal to readers interested in world history and world geography."
Review of The Handbook of Language Variation and Change
Date: Thu, 10 Mar 2005 23:14:46 +0300 (MSK) From: Alexander Rusakov Subject: The Handbook of Language Variation and Change
EDITORS: Chambers, J. K.; Trudgill, Peter; Schilling-Estes, Natalie TITLE: The Handbook of Language Variation and Change SUBTITLE: Paperback edition SERIES: Blackwell Handbooks in Linguistics PUBLISHER: Blackwell Publishing YEAR: 2003
Alexander Yu. Rusakov, St. Petersburg State University
[The 2001 hardback edition of this book was reviewed in http://linguistlist.org/issues/14/14.391.html -- Eds.]
This book is a new volume in the Blackwell's series "Handbooks in linguistics"; it opens with a dedication to William Labov, "whose work is referred to in every chapter and whose ideas imbue every page". This dedication as if sets the fashion for the whole book in which "the study of language variation and change" is viewed -- quite in the spirit of Labov's studies -- as "a core of the sociolinguistic enterprise" (p. 1).
A short introduction containing an overview of the volume's content and structure is followed by a compact introductory chapter by J. K. Chambers ("STUDYING LANGUAGE VARIATION: AN INFORMAL EPISTEMOLOGY", p. 3-14). A basic definition of sociolinguistics is provided and the place of variationist sociolinguistics within this domain is defined ("Sociolinguistics is the study of the social uses of language, and the most productive studies in the four decades of sociolinguistic research have emanated from determining the social evaluation of linguistic variants", p.3). The sociolinguistic variants studied by sociolinguistics are characterized as "linguistically insignificant but socially significant" (p.3). The beginnings of variationist sociolinguistics are then dated to 1963 (the first sociolinguistic study by Labov). A short discussion of the origins of linguists' interest in the social nature of language follows; an analysis of Saussure's views is worth mentioning in this respect. Finally, Chambers dwells on the problem of the base of the sociolinguistics in cognition. The basic object of study in this respect is Chomsky's cognitive module "pragmatic competence" (or "communicative competence", in terms of Hymes), or rather its realization in performance (p. 11-12).
The rest of the book consists of 27 chapters, that are classified into 5 big parts (two of them with further subparts). Each of these parts is provided with a short introduction written by one of the co-editors. Due to the limitations of space I will have to refrain from providing references to works cited or otherwise referred to in the articles under review.
The first part ("METHODOLOGIES", p. 15-200) consists of two subparts ("FIELD METHODS", p. 15-114, and "EVALUATION", p. 115-200). "Field Methods" includes four articles, the introduction is written by Nathalie Schilling-Estes.
"ENTERING THE COMMUNITY: FIELDWORK" by Crawford Feagan (20-39) describes the "external" side of the methodology of a "variationist sociolinguist". Basic guidelines are given with respect to planning the project, important parameters of the sociolinguistic interview are introduced, including selecting speakers, sample size, as well as protocoling, compiling the questionnaires and behaviour and ethics during interviewing the informants. Special sections are devoted to other methods of working with informants, such as participant observation, rapid and anonymous observations, Telephone Surveys. This chapter, which is extremely valuable for the beginners in sociolinguistics, ends with the observation that Fieldwork is but a first stage in a sociolinguitic investigation ("Whatever methods the researcher uses, when the fieldwork is finally completed, any sense of relief evaporates rapidly as the reality of analysis of all that data dawns", p. 36).
The chapter "LANGUAGE WITH AN ATTITUDE" by Dennis R. Preston (40-66) is devoted to an important and interesting problem: what do speakers of a language think about their language? Two basic facets of this problem are discussed. The first facet, i.e. the question "What linguistic features play the biggest role in triggering attitudes? (p.43), is largely based on pioneering studies by Labov and Trudgill; Preston discusses the ways in which speakers' introspection with regard to their peculiarities of pronunciation correlate with the way they indeed speak. The well-known Trudgill's notion of covert prestige (speakers' overestimation of the proportion of dialectal properties in their speech) and overt prestige (speakers' overestimation of the proportion of standard language properties in their speech) are worth mentioning in this respect. In the conclusion of this chapter, Preston remarks that judging by their metalinguistic attitudes speakers may range along the same clines -- availability, accuracy, detail (a global view on their speech vs. consideration for particular features) and control. The second facet discussed is the attitude of a speaker towards different language varieties. Basing on his own study of the residents of Michigan's attitude towards the speech of inhabitants of other parts of the USA, Preston concludes that these attitudes can be ranged along two dimensions -- Standard dimension ("correctness") and "Friendly" or solidarity dimension ("pleasantness"). The chapter concludes with a valuable discussion of the differences between "linguistic" and folk theory of language; it is claimed that the former "... moves up (and away from) the concrete reality of language" towards "higher-level constructs" of more abstract character (p.63), while the latter is based on a rather abstract notion of "good language", and as if compares real linguistic forms with this abstract prototype (p.64).
"INVESTIGATING VARIATION AND CHANGE IN WRITTEN DOCUMENTS" by Edgar W. Schneider (67-96) is devoted to the potential of a variationist approach to the analysis o written documents. A insightful classification of written texts is offered, based on the "relationship between speech event and its written record" (p.72): recorded, recalled, imagined (e. g. private letters by semi-literate speakers), observed, and invented (e.g. the using of quasi-dialect speech in literary works). The problems are being analyzed that emerge when trying to elicit the information on the functioning of linguistic variants from texts of various types. The main -- and rather optimistic -- conclusion of this chapter is that there is no need to view written texts as merely second-rate material. "Working with written data requires somewhat more judgment and assessment than an analysis of audio recordings, but the difference is a matter of degree: essentially, with both approaches the goal is the same, and the pathways to reach it are very similar" (p.90-91).
The last chapter of this first subpart ("INFERRING VARIATION AND CHANGE FROM PUBLIC CORPORA" by Laurie Bauer, p.97-114) is a short but inspiring instruction as to how to extract useful sociolinguistic data from Public Corpora. This chapter contains a description of some basic types of corpora as well as methodological background that helps make the data obtained from such corpora compatible.
The second subpart of part I ("EVALUATION") preceded by an introduction by J. K. Chambers is devoted to the analysis of field material and experimental data.
The first chapter ("THE QUANTITATIVE PARADIGM" by Robert Bayley, p. 117- 141) discusses the methodology of the quantitative analysis of language variation, based on two principles, viz. " the principle of quantitative modeling" (the study of the behavior of a variable depending on the context) and "the principle of multiple causes". The main part of this chapter contains a description of VARBRUL ("the most common method of multivariate analysis in quantitative sociolinguistics", p. 118, that is widely used since early 90ies) and of some contemporary alternative methods. The chapter ends with a short section that points out the necessity of combining quantitative analysis with traditional socioethnographic approaches that take into consideration speakers' attitude towards their own speech behavior.
"IMPLICATIONAL SCALES" by John R. Rickford (142-167) introduces a method that rests upon the assumption that language variables may be related to each other in some essential and significant way (this method seems to be often opposed -- though rather unjustifiably -- to quantitative approaches). The method of implicational scales, that was pioneered in the end of 60ies by DeCamp for the study of Jamaican Creole Continuum, allows - - as was shown by C. J. Bailey -- to interpret synchronic implicational patterns as reflection of the processes of diachronic spread of innovations. On the other hand, the use of implicational scales allows us to range the speakers in a more differentiated way. After the analysis of views of DeCamp, Bailey and D. Bickerton, Rickford proceeds to more current uses of implicational scales (analysis of linguistic intuitions, model of alternative use of languages in bilingual situations, SLA studies). The chapter ends by pointing out three caveats about the use of such scales, i.e. "Avoid empty cells and weak goodness-of fit measures", "Attempt frequency-valued (instead of binary) scales where possible", "Seek explanations for implicational patterns").
"INSTRUMENTAL PHONETICS" by Erik R. Thomas (168-200) is a very detailed analysis of Instrumental studies of variation in production and perception. This chapter encompasses both a richly exemplified overview of possible applications of instrumental phonetics in sociolinguistic studies and a discussion of theoretical issues. Among the latter, much attention is devoted to the scrutiny of Ohala's conception of emergence of phonetic changes that are viewed as resulting from a sui generis reanalysis in perception (these questions are, strictly speaking, beyond the scope of interest of variationist approach and thus are not discussed in any detail in other chapters of the book). The following part of the book ("LINGUISTIC STRUCTURE" 201-305, Introduction by Nathalie Schilling-Estes) is concerned with the problem of compatibility of variationist sociolinguistics with contemporary views on structure and functioning of language components. "VARIATION AND PHONOLOGICAL THEORY" by Arto Anttilla (206-243) is basically devoted to the discussion of variation in the framework of the Optimality Theory and its more modern variants. Two approaches are considered as more plausible for the studying of variation: Stratified grammars (which is itself a variant of Multiple grammars) and Continuously ranking grammar (the latter is based on the different ranking of constraints along a real-number scale and the stochastic evaluation of variants). Two considerations might be added:
- It seems that the models elaborated in the frame of the Optimality Theory are indeed more capable to explain the distribution of variants then more traditional phonological models (from the structuralist to the Standard Generative ones), although the latter are perhaps more advantageous for modeling the phonological system of a given language as a whole;
- the Multiple grammar approach (if one treats it as reflecting the real speaker's competence and tries to explain with its help all cases of phonetic variability) represents I believe an approach that is very far from William Labov's views.
"INVESTIGATING CHAIN SHIFTS AND MERGERS" by Matthew J. Gordon (244-266) is concerned with the ways in which the study of variation may help reveal the nature of sound change. Two main types of phonological change are examined: mergers and chain shifts. The main message of the chapter is rather negative, the functionalist explanations are -- quite justifiably -- rejected. The phenomenon of near merger are thoroughly examined, the need of scrupulous consideration of various factors that determine speech production and perception (such as e.g. the influence of spelling, the influence of community norms, dialect mixture) is underscored. As far as chain shifts are concerned, the author based on his own investigations of Northern Cities Shift casts doubts on the fact that a) phoneme distinctions are preserved in the course of this shift; and that b) that those changes that constitute NCS are interrelated at all. Considerable quantitative prevalence of pages devoted to phonetic issues in this part is congruent with the actual predominance of the phonetically-oriented studies of among the studies of variation.
The other short chapter "VARIATION AND SYNTACTIC THEORY" by Alison Henry (267-282) claims that "the study of variation has made much less impact, of any, on the development of syntactic theory (than on sociolinguistics -- A.R.)" and "suggests that variation needs to be integrated into syntactic theory" (p.267). The possibilities of such integration are considered in the framework of the recent Chomskyan syntactic models. Based on the study of variation from the historical point of view (stable coexisting of the varying forms during rather long period of time) and in the child language, the author rejects the possibility of the coexistence of alternative grammars in the speaker's competence and thus advocates such an approach according to which the grammar must be able to generate variant forms.
The last chapter "DISCOURSE VARIATION" (by Ronald Macaulay, 283-305) deals with the least studying field of discourse variation. The vast majority of sociolinguistic studies of discourse referred by Macaulay have a qualitative character, most of them discuss the role of gender as well as of ethnic and age differences in such discourse features as topic, politeness and so on. Quantitative studies are less numerous, they are concerned with gender and class differences in such fields as the use of tag questions, pragmatic expressions, phrase length, use of personal pronouns and some other. Author concludes that "the study of discourse variation is still at an elementary stage" and gives some prospects for further studying.
Part III "SOCIAL FACTORS" (307-597) consists of three subparts. The first one ("TIME", 309-372, Introduction by Nathalie Schilling-Estes) involves three chapters.
"REAL AND APPARENT TIME" by Guy Bailey (312-332) concerns the means of studying language change in progress. The Apparent-time and the Real-time evidences are discussed. The studies of the former type model the language change by way of studying "the differences across different generations of speakers". An evident advantage of this method is availability of the data. Its potential problems may be posed by 1) non-representative character of the sample; 2) non-stability of individual vernaculars among the young speakers; 3) by the possibility of age grading (i.e. "linguistic usages associated with a particular life stage that are repeated in every generation", p.310, the phenomenon is characteristic of children, adolescents and young adults). The real-time evidence may be achieved a) by the use of existing evidence (one has to take into consideration possible impact of the method of collecting material and of the sampling procedure); b) by re-surveys; in the latter case, the investigator must be very cautious and shouldn't confuse the actual language change with potential demographic shifts.
Julie Robins begins her chapter "CHILD LANGUAGE VARIATION" (333-348) with a statement that "[c]hild language variation is a relatively new concentration within the field of sociolinguistics" (p.333). Nevertheless, those few investigations that have been conducted demonstrate that child speech is characterized by socially significant variation of both social and stylistic character. There are some difficulties in the study of child language variation: it is difficult to collect the material sufficient for quantitative evaluation; it is difficult to distinguish "between variation that is socially motivated and that which is developmental in nature" (p.336). However, there are two claims that the author (partially based of her own investigation) puts forward quite clearly: 1) Child language demonstrates variable input (so "children begin their acquisition of variation early -- presumably with the acquisition of language", p. 340); 2) Their output reflects the variable input of their caregivers (we thus see here an additional proof of the importance of input for language acquisition). Acquisition of variation is an important means of children's socialization.
The chapter by J. K. Chambers "PATTERNS OF VARIATION INCLUDING CHANGE" (349-372) is a short but comprehensive survey of variationist theory and language change in progress, being at the same time a kind of transitory link towards the next part of the book. At the very beginning the author discusses three groups of social factors that determine language variation: Social class, sex ("women use fewer stigmatized and nonstandard variants than do men of the same social group in the same circumstances", p.352), and age. Only the last factor deals with the language change. The notion of apparent time as well as problems bound with age-grading are thoroughly analyzed (in this part the chapter echoes the topics discussed in Guy Bailey's chapter). In the second part of the chapter a typical example of language change in progress -- changes in Canadian English -- is described. Chambers postulates that the S-curve is the prototypical quantitative scenario of language change (initial stasis, rapid rise, and tailing off). At the end of the chapter he discusses the reasons of change: the reason for the initiation of an isolate change may be purely linguistic, but only social conditions are necessary for the driving a process of language change in given place and given time. The brilliant analysis of the social conditions in Canada in 1950s (diminishing of British influence, emigration, beginning of a new wave of global social changes) explains why the peak of the change in Canadian English (removing it from British variant) falls at the same years.
The next subpart "SOCIAL DIFFERENTIATION" (373-472) begins with the Introduction by Peter Trudgill and consists of three chapters.
"INVESTIGATING STYLISTIC VARIATION" by Nathalie Schilling-Estes (375-401) deals with the intra-speaker stylistic variation, a basic notion for the variationist views. The survey of existing approaches shows that the vector of scientific development shifts from uni-dimensional to multidimensional approaches, on the one hand, and from viewing stylistic variation as determined, reactive phenomenon towards the interpretation of this phenomenon "as a resource in the active creation, presentation, and recreation of speaker identity" (p.388). The three approaches analyzed in chapter in great detail show us such a development -- from the well-known Attention-to-speech approach that is based on Labov's early works (stylistic variation is viewed as determined by the level of speaker's attention towards her/his speech), through Audience-design model ("people engage in style shifting ... in response to audience members", p.383), to Speaker-design approaches (the active character of speaker's stylistic choices is postulated). All these approaches have their own limitations but the third one is most promising. Some future directions for the study of stylistic variation are proposed (among them the study of the role of internal linguistic factors in variation, the role of different types of features in variation, the character of listener's perception of stylistic variation).
In "SOCIAL CLASS" (402-422) Sharon Ash remarks at the very beginning that though "[s]ocial class is a central concept in sociolinguistic research" (p.402), there is no consensus among linguists about its strict definition. After a brief survey of sociological background (Marx, Weber, W. Lloyd Warner) the author discusses nine short sociolinguistic case studies demonstrating a broad variety of views in this field. She also discusses the notions of the linguistic market (Sankoff and Laberge, "the relative importance of the legitimized language in the socioeconomic life of the speaker", p.413) and subcommunities (Milroy, "a cohesive group to which people have a sense of belonging"). The author (in quite Labovian spirit) briefly touches upon the problem of the influence of social class on linguistic variation and change. The main conclusion is that the basic characteristic of the social class is, nevertheless, occupation.
In "SEX AND GENDER IN VARATIONIST RESEARCH" (423-443) Jenny Cheshire sees the main line of the development of the study of this social parameter as a development from a more uni-dimensional approach "where speakers were categorized in terms of their biological sex" (p.423) to a more complicated way of viewing things, where the gender affiliation of a speaker is analyzed in connection with other social demographic characteristics of that speaker. This approach shows that the gender of a person may realize differently in different social settings. The author analyzes in this respect well-known principles worded by Labov (1. "In stable sociolinguistic stratification, men use a higher frequency of nonstandard forms that women"; 1a. "In change from above, women favor the incoming prestige forms more than men"; 2. "In change from below, women are more often innovators", p.425-426) and concludes that they need more careful investigation.
"ETHNICITY" by Carmen Fought (444-472) deals mainly with the language of different ethnic groups (first of all Afro American Vernacular English -- AAVE) in the USA from the variationist point of view. Priority is given to "speaker's self-selection of an ethnicity (or of several)" (p. 444), the role of minority ethnic groups in sound changes in American English (which is claimed to be more important than was previously assumed by many other researchers) as well as language crossing (the use of alien ethnic group's speech features) are discussed. There is, however, an urgent need for more intensive study of "sound change within ethnic minority communities" (p.465-466).
The third part "DOMAINS" (473-597), Introduction by Peter Trudgill) begins with "LANGUAGE AND IDENTITY" by Norma Mendoza-Denton (475-499). The author understands identity as "the active negotiation of an individual's relationship with larger social constructs" (p. 475). As well as many other chapters of the book, this one argues against "essentialism in analytic explanation", i.e. "the ... reductive tendency by analysts to designate a particular aspect of a person or group as explanations for their behavior" (p. 476). The study of identity develops towards greater attention to the active position of a speaker with respect to self- defining of her/his own identity and towards clear understanding that identity of a given person has a dynamic, changing character. In this respect, three types of variationist studies of identity are distinguished "that range along a continuum of the use of analysts' categories vs. participants'" (p. 479): a) sociodemographic category-based identity (its study bases "on the stratification of a population according to sociological / demographic categories", p. 480); b) practice-based identity (here belong the studies "concerned with the identities that speakers accrue ... rather because identities are accomplished in the joint practice of particular activities" (p. 486); c) practice-based variation ("type III studies seek to focus on variation as practices unfold, identifying the use of symbolic variants in the moment-to-moment dynamics of interaction", p. 489), Here an important statement of Schiffrin is given: "just as Labov argued that there are no single-style speakers, similarly, there are no single-identity speakers" (p. 490). According to the author, this type of study is most promising.
In "FAMILY" (500-525) Kirk Hazen raises the problem: what in children variation patterns is acquired from their parents and what is due to the influence of peer groups and other community influences. Five general findings are listed: "1. Children first acquire the language variation patterns of their immediate caregivers; these patterns will survive if reinforced by the language variation patterns of the children's peer groups. 2. Family variation patterns will be noticeable to the extent that they differ from community norms. If family traits ... are not social markers, there is no reason to assume that peer group influence will necessarily counteract those traits. 3. Complex phonological patterns require early and extended input to be fully acquired by the child. 4. Language-variation-pattern differences between older and younger siblings of the same family is not unusual. They may be the result of different parental input or different social connections in the community ... 5. Amongst families, the children of families recently immigrated to a community may demonstrate more family-oriented language variation patterns. The effects on the children may vary by age and the relative prestige of the family's variety versus that of the community". (p.518).
"COMMUNITIES OF PRACTICE" by Miriam Meyerhoff (526-548) once again emphasizes the necessity of more differentiated and dynamic approach to language variation with attention to numerous ties connecting people with each other in real social networks. The following definition of the CofP is quoted from Penelopa Eckert and Sally McConell-Ginet: "[a] community of practice is an aggregate of people who come together around mutual engagement in an endeavor ... practices emerge in the course of this mutual endeavor" (p. 527). This notion is rather new for variationist sociolinguistics, its main distinction from dense social network lies in the conscious character of the participation in the CofP. The main area of current study is adolescent Cofps. The chapter shows how investigations of such communities (often temporary for the persons involved) help understand more deeply the patterns of language variation and language change in progress.
"SOCIAL NETWORKS" by Lesley Milroy (549-572) discusses, on the contrary, a more traditional object of research, that is nevertheless very near to that of the previous chapter. "A social network may be seen as a boundless web of ties which reaches out through a whole society, linking people to one another, however remotely" (p.550). Different types of networks (multiple and uniplex, "exchange", "interactive" and "passive" networks, first-order and second-order network ties) are discussed. A very strong correlation between the density of network ties and language variation may be observed: "[t]he strongest vernacular speakers were generally those whose neighborhood network ties were the strongest" (p.555). The same is true for bilingual communities: the stronger are the ties within community, the higher are chances for the first language maintenance. A particularly interesting section is devoted to weak ties; the author supposes that persons who demonstrate weak network ties (= socially mobile ones) "are likely to be linguistic innovators" (p.563).
Peter L. Patrick defines "THE SPEECH COMMUNITY" (573-597) as "a core concept in empirical linguistics" (p.573), nevertheless it is a concept "which has not been well-defined, and about which there has been very little consensus in the field" (p.474). The author refuses to propose "a new and correct definition" (p.573), but in the course of the discussion whether "the SpCom is primarily a social or linguistic object" (p.576), he proposes -- rather informally -- to regard SpCom as "a socially-based unit of linguistic analysis" (p.577). The core of the chapter contains a very interesting survey of the history of the notion of SpCom starting with Humboldt and with special emphasis on Gumperz', Hymes's and Labov's views. The problem of the relation between the notion of SpCom and various sociological models as well as alternating views on this notion (including discarding this concept altogether and attempts to broaden it) are analyzed.
Part IV "CONTACT" (599-702, Introduction by Peter Trudgill) "deals with both languages in contact and dialects in contact" (p.601), the latter field is much better studied by variationists than the former.
At the beginning of his very substantial chapter "SPACE AND SPATIAL DIFFUSION" (603-637) David Britain states that despite the "dialectological roots" of variationism "it is paradoxical that one of the social categories that has received least attention of all is space" (p.603). The author distinguishes three types of space: Euclidean space ("the objective one") social space ("the space shaped by social organization and human agency...") and perceived space ("how civil society perceives its immediate and not so immediate environments", p.604). After a survey of the development of the "geographical" conceptions among variationists, the author shows (on the example of the Fens -- a region in Eastern England) how the real and social peculiarities of a given geographical zone influence the distribution of geographical variants. Some other theoretical issues are analyzed: the changing of the linguistic landscape of a given place as a result of perpetual social changes, the interaction of local linguistic structures with the incoming ones, the necessity of mapping different gender and age groups. In the second part of the chapter Britain presents "an overview of the current state of play in the spatial realization of linguistic performance" (p.604). Two problems are considered, the first is the spatial diffusion of innovations, i.e. various cases of wave diffusion, hierarchical diffusion (from large city to country) and contrahierarchical diffusion (and possible combinations of these types). The second problem is that of linguistic boundaries which very often represent in reality transition zones.
In "LINGUISTIC OUTCOMES OF LANGUAGES CONTACT" (638-668) Gillian Sankoff deals with the problems that are rather essential for the study of language contact, and not only from the variationist point of view. Individuals and communities in language contact, social context of the contact and its possible influence on contact's linguistic outcome, as well as the outcomes of the contact in four major language domains are in the focus of the chapter. The author examines two different trends in the study of language contacts: SLA with its attention to individual speakers and to the idea of acquisition and the trend of studies represented by the works of Weinreich, Thomason and Kaufmann and others, whose main interest lay in the linguistic outcomes of the contact affecting speech community as a whole. As far as social context of the contact is concerned Sankoff tries to unite and elaborate the views of Thomason and Kaufman, on the one hand, and those of Van Coetsem, on the other hand. The author's innovation is the division of substratum influence into two different sociohistorical situations: immigration and conquest ("local groups bilingual in languages imported from outside"). The main part of the chapter is a survey of language outcomes of contact in four language domains (phonology, lexicon, syntax and discourse / pragmatics, and morphology / grammatical categories) and in three sociohistorical situations: borrowing, immigration, and conquest (I, however, failed to see what are real linguistic differences between linguistic outcomes of contact change in the latter two situations). "Morphology and syntax are ... the domains of linguistic structure least susceptible to the influence of contact" (p.658), as for the change in the lexicon, the most typical situation is that of borrowing, and finally "phonology is very susceptible to change, both on the part of the individual L2 speakers (...), and as result of word borrowing..." (p.658).
"KOINEIZATION AND ACCOMODATION" by Paul Kerswill (669-702) examines, based on rather vast material, the contact-induced process leading to the formation of the immigrant koine -- "a new dialect in a new settlement" (p.671). According to Trudgill the processes of mixing, dialect leveling, simplification and reallocation (refunctionalizing of dialect differences) are characteristic here. Different stages of koinezation (related to different generations of speakers) are analyzed as well as the mechanisms typical of these stages (short-term accommodation, long-term accommodation). The analysis presented in the chapter makes it possible to draw the following generalizations: 1) "the kind and level of social integration of the new community affects the speed of koinezation" (p. 695); 2) "children's access to peer groups is crucial" (p. 695); 3) "the degree of difference between the input varieties will affect the amount of accommodation that individuals to engage in" (p. 695). At the end of the chapter the author discusses the differences between koinezation and other forms of contact-induced changes, first of all pidgins and creoles.
The last part "LANGUAGE AND SOCIETY" (702-787, Introduction by J. K. Chambers) includes "three chapters that provide different perspectives on the relation between society and language" (p.705).
In his very insightful chapter "LINGUISTIC AND SOCIAL TYPOLOGY" (707-728) Peter Trudgill explores "two features of human society -- contact, and social network structure and stability" (p.709) and the ways in which they may be relevant for the processes and resultants of language change. He distinguishes "three different types of community" (p.725). "[H]igh- contact language communities where contact is stable, long-term and involves chills bilingualism" (p.725) belong to the first type. Two features are analyzed for this type of communities: large phonological inventories (e.g. in the North Caucasus; here Trudgill follows Haudricourt, and quotes an explanation provided by Nichols -borrowing of segments from one language to another as a result of long-term bilingualism) and syntagmatic redundancy (exemplified by syntactic features of the Balkan Sprachbund and explained as the result of the communicative needs of nonnative listeners). The second type is "[h]igh- contact language communities where contact is short-term and/or involves imperfect language learning by adults" (p.725). This type of contact may result in morphological simplification, in various fast-speech processes, in emergence of small phonological inventories, in the decrease of word length, in the diminishing of allophonic invariance. All these processes (mostly of the natural character) are speaker-led. The third type is represented by "small, stable, tightly-knit" (p.709), low-contact language communities. Such situations are typically characterized be the developing of small phonological inventories, fast speech processes, a relatively high level of grammaticalization, "the retention of deictic and allophonic complexity" (p.725). These processes are the result of two different characteristics of the communities of this type: on the one hand, their members "are likely to share more information than members of larger, more dynamic loosely-knit communities", on the other hand, "dense multiplex networks may led to greater conformity in linguistic behavior, and to stricter maintenance of group norms" (p.709).
It should be noted that the approach demonstrated in this chapter seems to be a very promising one. Distinguishing the two types of high-contact communities with quite different linguistic consequences is especially interesting and new. It seems to me, nevertheless, that there are some difficulties related to this approach. First of all, the ideas advocated in this chapter need vaster empirical support. Besides, in some cases counterarguments may be easily adduced (the author himself cites one of such counterexamples, p.724-725). Thus the processes classified by Trudgill as belonging to different types of community may go hand in hand, as we may e.g. see in the Balkan languages where the properties of syntactic redundancy ('long-term contact') and morphological simplification ('short-term contact') coexist. The North Caucasus language communities with their rich phonological inventories are, on the other hand, typically small, stable, tightly-knit communities which should imply, according to Trudgill, the development of relatively small phonological inventories.
"COMPARATIVE SOCIOLINGUISTIC" by Sali Tagliamonte (729-763) demonstrates how a thorough quantitative analysis of inner constraints of a language variable in different speech communities (in combination with the analysis of early written records) makes it possible to outline some similarities between these communities and to reconstruct early stages of their linguistic history. Two goals of the application of such a method in this chapter are "tracking the origins and development of African-American Vernacular English" and "tracking the origins of nonstandard linguistic features of North American dialects in comparable British dialects" (p.730).
Walt Wolfram in the final chapter "LANGUAGE DEATH AND DYING" (764-787) characterizes various types of language death (sudden language death, radical language death, gradual death and bottom-to-top death), and remarks that these types may combine. He then proceeds to the analysis of basic models of language death: the dissipation model, the concentration model (this model is based on the research led by the author in collaboration with Schilling-Estes; it presupposes a possibility of intensifying structural distinctiveness in the process of language death; it seems to me that Copper Island Aleut is not a good example of such process); this pidginization model that is justifiably rejected by the author as is the deacquisition model; and the matrix turnover model of Myers-Scotton (Wolfram points out that this model shows limited applicability). Analyzing the results of language death on various language levels the author concludes that they are rather diverse: along with the cases of simplification and reduction, the opposite examples involving increase of complexity and arising of new linguistic structures are attested. In the section dealing with the variability in language obsolescence Wolfram points out that it does not differ in any significant way from the variability in "normal" situations: contrary to the claims of some researchers these situations are clear cases of socially conditioned variability. Finally, the author concludes that "language death is a complex sociolinguistic process involving alternative paths to the obsolescence" (p.781).
There could be no doubt that the editors and authors of this book have entirely accomplished the program declared in the Introduction: the handbook reflects in full measure "vitality and growth" (p. 1) of the variationist sociolinguistics. Any linguist dealing with or simply interested in sociolinguistic has now a full and exhaustive representation of the achievements of the variationist paradigm that has been fulfilled during forty years of its lifetime. It should be also noted that the book has a very high degree of theoretical cohesion: only very few chapters (e.g. the chapter by Peter Trudgill) exceed the limits of the quantitative approach to the different kinds of language phenomena. Most part of articles convincingly reflect the main line of the development of the variationist sociolinguistics: from more static, uni-dimensional approaches in the study of variation to more dynamic, multidimensional approaches, from deterministic view on variables to the recognition of various sides of speaker's activity in this field. Selection of authors should be considered irreproachable, practically all of them are the most active and reputed researchers in those very areas to which their chapters are devoted.
It is clear that the very genre of handbook does not allow to avoid a good deal of repetitiveness; this is, however, rather an advantage than otherwise for a book that consists of chapters that are very likely to be read separately.
Some minor criticisms were made in the reviews of separate chapters above. Here I will point out some possible more general drawbacks. Several chapters of the Part II "LINGUISTIC STRUCTURE" don't go beyond the limits of a certain scientific paradigm (Optimality theory in "VARIATION AND PHONOLOGY THEORY" by Arto Antilla, late generativism in "VARIATION AND SYNTACTIC THEORY" by Alison Henry). It seems to me that it would be interesting to examine such problems in a more broad theoretical context.
The chapters differ in, so to speak, the level of the theoretical 'far- reachingness'. While most of the papers contain an in-depth theoretical analysis of those problems that fall within their scope, there is a minority of papers that essentially represent a synopsis of the author's individual research devoted a particular problem and call for a broader theoretical perspective. Another possible drawback is that in some cases, interesting and ultimately correct conclusions appear to call for a more well-grounded verification.
The last observation concerns the predominantly Anglophone orientation of this book (cf. Kriuchkova 2004: 138). Both the language material employed in most chapters and the works cited are nearly exclusively English. This of course reflects the real situation in this field of research: the variationist sociolinguistics is mainly an Anglo-American sphere of knowledge. Variationist studies in e.g. Russia are extremely innumerous. This regrettable -- for a Russian reader -- circumstance is partially compensated by the reproduction of a suprematist picture by the Russian painter Kliment Redko on the paperback's cover.
Kriuchkova T. B. (2004) Review of Chambers, J. K.; Trudgill, Peter; Schilling-Estes, Natalie (eds.). The Handbook of Language Variation and Change. Blackwell Publishing, 2003. Voprosy Jazykoznanija, 5, 133-138.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Alexander Yu. Rusakov is Assistant Professor at the St. Petersburg State University, department of General Linguistics. His research interests include language contacts, historical linguistics, Balkan linguistics, Albanian language, Romani.