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Name: Stephen Self Date: July 20, 2012 Bibliographic Data: Wardhaugh, Ronald. 2010.

An introduction to sociolinguistics, 6th edn. Oxford: Blackwell. 1-20. Topic: Introduction to Sociolinguistics and Language Key Concepts: Language Society Code Knowledge of Language Idiolect Variation Scientific Investigation Language and Society Sociolinguistics and the Sociology of Language Methodological Concerns Language: What the members of a particular society speak. Society: Any group of people drawn together for a certain purpose or purposes. [NB: The definition of language refers to society and vice versa: the two notions are interdependent.] Code: The system of communication used when people communicate through speech. In most cases, a code may be coextensive with a language. Switching back and forth between two or more languages while conversing is known as code-switching. Knowledge of Language: A speakers knowledge of a language is abstract, seemingly innate, and complex, involving rules, a lexicon, and the ability to discern what is and is not contained within the language. Since Chomsky, linguists have made use of the distinction between competence what speakers know about their language and performance what speakers do with their language. Theoretical linguists employ this distinction to rule out performance as a proper object of linguistic inquiry; they study only the ideal speaker in a homogenous linguistic environment who knows his or her language perfectly and is unaffected by issues connected with performance. For the sociolinguist, this distinction remains useful, though not as absolute. The sociolinguist would also recognize a third type of knowledge of language consisting in knowing how to use language appropriately; we can call this communicative competence. Idiolect: An individuals way of speaking, including sounds, words, grammar, and style. Variation: While theoretical linguists like to view a given language as a homogenous whole so as to make the strongest possible theoretical generalizations, in fact language communities, and even individual speakers, exhibit a wide range of variation in practice and style. Sociolinguists must take this actual language use into account and seek to identify the norms that exist in a given group from which individual variations differ. Identities exhibit a similar range of variation within certain parameters. One of the most significant factors in determining such variation is power, which plays a central role in everything that happens in societies. Scientific investigation: Sociolinguistics, and linguistics in general, is a science; as such, it must employ the scientific method in its research. Sociolinguistic investigations must therefore be driven by

2 both data, carefully and accurately gathered in methodologically sound ways, and theory. Empirically testable hypotheses must guide the formation of conclusions. In the grand tradition of linguistics since Saussure, linguists must search for the general principles that underlie and illuminate the observed data. That said, there is still a wide range of approach within the scientific discipline of linguistics. Language and Society: A major concern of sociolinguists is to relate linguistic items sounds, words, grammatical patterns, etc. to social concepts such as power, solidarity, and the like. The relationships between language and society are many and varied. In some ways (e.g. age-grading), social structure influences or determines language, while in others (e.g. Whorfian Hypothesis), language influences or determines social structure. In some ways, the influence can be seen to be bi-directional, and some, such as staunch theoretical linguists in the Chomskian vein, may wish to deny a link between language and society altogether, or at least suggest that we cannot, at present, grasp the relationship in all its complexity. Whatever the true connection(s) between language and society, sociolinguistics is not just a mixture of linguistics and sociology. Sociolinguistics and the Sociology of Language: Sociolinguistics proper or microsociolinguistics is the study of language in relation to society; sociology of language or macrosociolinguistics is the study of society in relation to language. Micro-sociolinguistics looks at how social structure influences how people talk and at how language use correlates with social attributes. Macrosociolinguistics looks at what societies do with their language(s). Different scholars disagree about where to draw the line between sociolinguistics and language and society. There is also a growing trend toward an interventionist model of sociolinguistics, such as Faircloughs and van Dijks critical discourse analysis, which focuses on the way language is used to exercise and preserve power in societies. Those practicing within this type of framework often deny that objectivity is either possible or desirable in sociolinguistics. Methodological Concerns: Sociolinguistics must be scientific in methodology and oriented toward both data and theory: conclusions must be based on sound data and must focus on some theoretical end. Questions must lead to empirical testing. Some of the data sociolinguists draw on include censuses, documents, surveys, and interviews. Some data require statistical methods, especially when seeking to make statements about typical behaviors. Statistics places stringent requirements on sampling techniques, error estimation, and confidence level or level of significance with which statements can be made on the basis of the data. Drawing on Labov, Bell (1976) suggests eight general principles that should guide sociolinguists: 1) The cumulative principle; 2) The uniformation principle; 3) The principle of convergence; 4) The principle of subordinate shift; 5) The principle of style-shifting; 6) The principle of attention; 7) The vernacular principle; 8) The principle of formality. This last gives rise to the so-called observers paradox, whereby those intending merely to observe a situation inevitably interact with and alter it by their very presence and observation. Summary in a Sentence: The author introduces the major principles and issues in the study of sociolinguistics, offering a preview of the contents of the subject and the textbook, along with some fair warning about difficulties, controversies, and pitfalls implicit in the study. Developed summary: Wardhaugh begins his introduction by sketching brief, working definitions of language and society and noting their conceptual interdependence. He proceeds to develop a distinction between sociolinguistics and formal, theoretical linguistics as influenced by Chomsky. Like the latter, sociolinguistics is a scientific discipline, using scientific and statistical methodology to uncover the underlying and organizing principles behind observed linguistic data; however, whereas theoretical linguistics has tended to use the distinction between linguistic competence and performance to exclude what people do with their languages from formal study, sociolinguists agree that actual language use cannot and should not be left out. Beyond that basic conviction, though, the approaches to considering the

3 relationship between language and social structure and to correlating linguistic units with social concepts like power are many and varied. Wardhaugh cautions against what he sees as the ideological and subjective approach taken by interventionist sociolinguists, such as those who champion critical discourse theory. The author favors a more traditional, objectivist approach, noting that data-gathering must always be informed and guided by hypotheses grounded in sound theory toward the end of performing empirical tests. Wardhaugh observes that statistical methods are often employed by sociolinguists, especially when seeking to make statements about typical behaviors, and that such methods place stringent requirements on sampling techniques, error estimation, and the level of significance with which statements can be made on the basis of the data. He ends the chapter by listing the eight general principles Bell (1976) suggested should guide sociolinguists, principles that tell us: 1) that increasing study of a language builds knowledge quickly and leads to new and related areas in which others may already be working; 2) that the processes which affect languages now are the same as those that operated in the past, such that no clean break is possible between synchronic and diachronic perspectives; 3) that the greater the variety of data-gathering techniques and methods, the higher the value of the data for confirming or interpreting old findings, particularly when the new methods are used in other scientific areas; 4) that speakers of non-standard varieties of language shift in an irregular manner toward or away from the standard variety when asked about their own non-standard variety, which enables linguists to gather valuable data on varieties, standards, and change; 5) that all speakers of language shift and vary their style according to circumstance; 6) that the more attention speakers pay to their style of speech, the more formal it becomes; 7) that the most regular style in structure and relation to the history of the language is the vernacular, which is relaxed and least self-conscious; and 8) that systematic observation of a speech situation itself constitutes a context in which self-conscious attention will be paid to speech, thereby covering up the vernacular. Labov found that the effects of the observers paradox could be lessened by asking a question which elicited an emotional response, such as Have you been in a situation where you were in serious danger of being killed? The emotion thus elicited distracts the speaker from any self-consciousness and the resultant effects of attention and formality. In his conclusion, Wardhaugh emphasizes the multidisciplinary nature of sociolinguistics and provides an overview of the contents of the textbook, describing each part of the text and the issues/concepts it will examine. Evaluation: Wardhaughs writing is clear and fairly straightforward to follow, though the flow of topics in the introduction seems slightly jumbled, with a concern for methodology and scientific objectivity coming up in multiple subsections interrupted by other subsections. It is, however, a useful overview of his text and general approach, especially the disclosure of his bias against more activist-type scholarship.