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Review of  The Handbook of Language Variation and Change

Reviewer: Alexander Yu. Rusakov
Book Title: The Handbook of Language Variation and Change
Book Author: J. K. Chambers Peter Trudgill Natalie Schilling-Estes
Publisher: Wiley
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Issue Number: 16.722

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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 -- 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
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

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

"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).

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

- 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

(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

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

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"

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.


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.