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Social Variation in Germanic  

Tore Kristiansen

The spread of Germanic-speaking people and their language(s) has been extraordinarily expansive and extensive and has produced variation under multifarious socio-historical conditions—first as “dialect continua” in Western and Northern Europe, later as “language mixing” of many kinds under colonial situations, and, in the early 21st century, as “urban youth styles” in multicultural or multilinguistic parts of bigger cities. Basically, the social conditions include relationships of domination and subordination at three social levels—macro, meso, and micro—and across three types of space—geographic, social, and situational. Spread happens with contact between speakers. This contact is always social (at all levels and in all spaces) and has an objective aspect (social roles and patterns of communication) and a subjective aspect (language-related ideologies). The pivotal question in this picture is why language speakers in interactional contact vary (and potentially change) their language. What is the driving force in language variation (and change)? Are the processes of variation (and potentially change) automatic/mechanic by nature, or are they sociopsychological/ideological? Of course, scholars working in the discipline of variationist sociolinguistics (now 60-plus years old) have not all related to the various ingredients of the preceding picture in the same way and with the same research interests, so the gamut of questions asked and answers given is broad.


Unspecified Human Subjects in the Romance Languages  

Pekka Posio

The term unspecified human subjects refers to syntactic constructions profiling a human subject participant whose identity is either not specified at all or is left underspecified, for instance by limiting the scope of potential referents either by choice of verb (e.g., They have raised taxes again) or by a locative expression (e.g., In Spain they eat late). Such constructions include human impersonal pronouns grammaticalized from nouns meaning ‘man’ or ‘person’ (e.g., French on, Portuguese a pessoa) or based on the numeral ‘one’ (e.g., Spanish uno), as well as impersonal (i.e., unspecified, generic, or arbitrary, depending on the theoretical framework) uses of personal pronouns and verb forms, in particular the second-person singular and the third-person plural. Unspecified human subjects present functional overlap with other human impersonal constructions such as the periphrastic passive and reflexive-based passives and impersonals (i.e., Romance se/si constructions), however differing from them in that the unspecified human argument is not the syntactic subject in these latter constructions. While it has been argued that man-impersonal constructions are either restricted or more frequent in languages with obligatory subject expression (e.g., French) and pronoun-based human impersonals are more frequent in so-called null subject languages (e.g., Italian, Spanish), some Romance languages and language varieties display both types, thus providing interesting data for the study of variation.


Phonological Variation and Change in Catalan  

Josefina Carrera-Sabaté

The article gives an overview of the origin and vitality of several ongoing processes of change in Catalan. In the area of consonants, it presents (a) the existing alternation between [ʎ] and [j] or [ʝ] (and [ʒ]) in Eastern Catalan and (b) the variation between post-alveolo-palatal fricatives and affricates in different positions in word-initial, post-consonantal, intervocalic, and word-final position, also taking into account Eastern and Western Catalan dialects. In the area of vowels, the article presents the variation that exists within the stressed and unstressed vowel systems in Catalan: (a) The stressed vowel systems have different mid vowels among the Catalan dialects, and these vowels present important differences in openness; (b) the unstressed vowel systems of Catalan split vowel variation within Catalan dialects into two main groups (Eastern and Western) taking into account the scope of vowel reduction and, in particular, the phonological mechanisms of these groups. The article also contains a description of variable patterns of intonation in Catalan regarding assertions, imperatives, and questions. These patterns are closely tied to pragmatics, with questions having the most variable patterns among Catalan dialects. The generalized observation of the ongoing processes of variation and change allows the conclusion that schooling in Catalan and the teaching of written Catalan, after a dictatorship that prohibited it, are bringing about changes in pronunciation that are especially conditioned by the written language. These changes tend to be led by the youngest generations in the urban centers that have the most influence over their respective administrative zones. These are important enclaves for the spread of linguistic changes and are areas in which contact with and use of Spanish and, in the early 21st century, other languages are also leaving a mark on phonetics.


Germanic Languages in Contact in Central and South America  

Karoline Kühl

West and North Germanic language varieties have been part of the Latin American language ecology since the middle of the 19th century, when European mass migration created Germanic-speaking immigrant communities in North, Central, and South America. The subsequent fate of the Germanic immigrant varieties in Latin America varied greatly in terms of how long intergenerational transfer has been maintained, if and to what degree language maintenance has been supported by linguistic codification and language teaching, and the degree of contact with the surrounding majority population. Some languages like the Mennonite Low German varieties have been quite repellent with regard to language change induced by contact with the majority languages Portuguese and/or Spanish, other (Germanic) immigrant varieties, and indigenous languages. However, contact with the majority population and other (immigrant) ethnic groups, bilingualism, and, accordingly, the influence of Spanish and/or Portuguese has been growing for most Germanic immigrant varieties at least since the 1950s. The long-standing German dialectological research tradition into extra-territorial Germanic language islands has led to detailed accounts of many German varieties in Latin America. Accounts of other Germanic varieties are much more restricted, both in numbers and in extent: Some like Argentine Danish or Patagonian Afrikaans have been described only recently; others, like Swedish in Brazil and Argentine Dutch, hardly at all. In all cases, the accounts differ greatly regarding if, and to what extent, language contact is included as a cause of language change. Based on the scholarly coverage, the extent of contact-induced change in the Germanic varieties in Latin America appears to vary greatly, but whether this impression is due to the varying degrees of attention that the accounts devote to the effects of language contact or to particular sociolinguistic circumstances preventing or promoting language contact cannot be established. Still, contact linguistic profiles of many Germanic immigrant varieties in Latin America present themselves as a promising terra incognita for future research. From a bird’s-eye perspective, we may in general terms conclude that the Germanic varieties in Latin America are characterized by lexical borrowing, at least for cultural loans and discourse-structuring elements, as well as ad hoc code-switching. Interestingly, a number of varieties show a similar pattern of integrating Spanish or Portuguese verb stems of verbs ending in -ir and -ar into a very similar inflectional Germanic paradigm (Misiones Swedish -era, Argentine Danish -is(ere), Riograndenser Hunsrückisch -ieren, Volga German -i(:)ere). In general, syntactical restructurings seem to be restricted, with the notable exception of standard deviant omission of mainly pronominal subjects and, partly, pronominal objects. Other developments are specific, applying only to individual varieties.


Register and Enregisterment in Germanic  

Jürgen Spitzmüller

Enregisterment denotes the sociolinguistic process within which specific forms of speaking, writing, or signing are subsumed by a social group into a coherent, distinctive whole (a language, a dialect, a standard, a slang etc.), which is often also given a label (such as Viennese, Spanglish, chatspeak, youth slang, officialese) and associated with specific contexts of use, media, groups of users, purposes, and ends, which are expected to be “typical” with regard to these forms. The product of such a process, an allegedly distinct set of communicative means that is associated (indexically linked) with assumed contexts and hence evokes specific expectations as far as their use is concerned, is called a register, register of discourse, or register of communication. According to the sociolinguistic theory of enregisterment, registers are interpretive or ideological concepts rather than ontological facts; that is, there is often not much empirical evidence that these forms of communication are really used in the exact way, as distinctively, or as coherently as the register allocation would suggest, but nevertheless there is a shared belief throughout the relevant community that this is the case. Since such shared beliefs do have an impact on how people categorize the world they find themselves in, however, registers are not dismissed as “false beliefs” about language, but are rather seen as a core ingredient of the social use of language, particularly in relation to processes of social positioning, and of alienation and social discrimination, as well as the construction of social identities. Furthermore, many scholars have pointed out that enregisterment is not merely a “folk-linguistic” phenomenon (as opposed to allegedly “nonideological” forms of inquiry practiced by linguistic experts), since enregisterment processes are often propelled by linguistic scholars, and registers (such as “ethnolects” or “netspeak”) sometimes even derive from academic discourse. Since the concept has gained great prominence in contemporary sociolinguistics, registers and enregisterment have been widely researched in Germanic languages, most notably English but also other Germanic languages such as German, Dutch, Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian. Enregisterment processes have been identified with regard to multiple historical and contemporary dimensions with which registers are being linked, among them nation states (language standardization and pluricentric standard variation), regions (regional and urban varieties), gender (e.g., “female speech,” “queer slang”), class (e.g., received pronunciation), age (e.g., “youth slang”), media (e.g., “netspeak”), profession (e.g., “officialese”), and ethnicity (e.g., “ethnolects”).


Central Italo-Romance (Including Standard Italian)  

Elisa De Roberto

Central Italo-Romance includes Standard Italian and the Tuscan dialects, the dialects of the mediana and perimediana areas, as well as Corsican. This macro-area reaches as far north as the Carrara–Senigallia line and as far south as the line running from Circeo in Lazio to the mouth of the Aso river in Le Marche, cutting through Ceprano, Sora, Avezzano, L’Aquila and Accumoli. It is made up of two main subareas: the perimediana dialect area, covering Perugia, Ancona, northeastern Umbria, and Lazio north of Rome, where varieties show greater structural proximity to Tuscan, and the mediana area (central Le Marche, Umbria, central-eastern Lazio varieties, the Sabine or Aquilano-Cicolano-Reatino dialect group). Our description focuses on the shared and diverging features of these groups, with particular reference to phonology, morphology, and syntax.



Asif Agha

Features of interpersonally perceivable communicative conduct, including speech, function as indexical signs insofar as they point to or delineate features of their contextual surround; they function as social indexicals when what they delineate are aspects of the social roles or relationships performed by interactants or the social practices in which interactants are engaged; and they function as stereotypic social indexicals when many persons construe them in comparable ways. Enregisterment is the sociohistorical process through which stereotypic social indexicals are differentiated from each other and organized into socially distributed registers of communication. A register is identified by attending to the metapragmatic behaviors of its users, behaviors that typify the pragmatic or indexical values of its signs. To identify a register is to characterize three variables—its exponents, its social range, and its social domain—and their values or attributes: The exponents of a register are the perceivable behaviors through which it is performed, whose semiotic range may include speech and non-speech signs arrayed into co-occurrence styles, where speech segments may involve discrete repertoires, and where performed exponents serve as diacritics that differentiate the register from others. The social range of a register is the range of social indexical effects performable through its use—whether usage is emblematic of social categories of speaker-actor (viz., class, gender, caste, profession, etc.), of relationships to interactants, or of the social practices such usage makes palpable or sustains. The social domain of a register is the group of persons acquainted with the register, those able to perform or construe the effects enactable through it. All speakers of a language do not acquire competence in all its speech registers during the normal course of language socialization. Asymmetries of socialization link contrasts among registers to features of social organization, such as facts of positional ranking within society, the ability to take part in specific social practices, opportunities within a division of labor, and the myriad forms of exclusion or belonging that emerge as outcomes of such processes.


Phonological Variation and Change in Latin American Spanish  

Pedro Martín-Butragueño and Érika Mendoza

“Latin American Spanish” (LAS) represents a substantial portion of the Spanish-speaking world. The geographical distances, the contrasts between rural and extremely urbanized areas, the existence of strong social inequalities and migratory streams, and the presence of a high number of indigenous American languages—all create the conditions for a complex linguistic reality, clearly diversified, while also unitary. Many variable linguistic phenomena correlate with the age of LAS expansion and the continuing massive urbanization that began in the 1960s. American Spanish-speaking communities have different segmental processes, such as consonantal weakening in intervocalic contexts, deletion in syllabic coda, vowel devoicing, among others. On the prosodic level, there is dialectal variation in intonational patterns and differences in rhythmic properties. Both segmental and prosodic variation is conditioned by linguistic, geographical, and social factors.


The History of Variationist Germanic Linguistics  

Frans Gregersen

The history of variationist linguistics (also known as variationist sociolinguistics or language variation and change) shows that over the years it has entered into competition and collaboration with a number of disciplines. It is in competition with Chomskyan theoretical linguistics, diverging from this hegemonic trend in methods, data, and types of analysis: variationist linguistics favors observation and dismisses introspection; it builds on everyday conversations with more speakers than one; and it uses quantitative methods in all analyses. Variationism collaborates with or is compatible with other types of analyses of language use and is sometimes seen as part of a larger sociolinguistic field also encompassing interactional linguistics, discourse analysis, critical discourse analysis, conversation analysis, and functional grammar, and systemic functional linguistics may complement or in other ways be used in otherwise mainly variationist enterprises. Indeed since one of the central variationist types of data is the sociolinguistic interview, variationist data may be analyzed by all of these disciplines. The article is organized along the following historical framework: It circumscribes three periods ranging from approximately 1960 to ca. 2010: The founder period establishes the approach at the various European universities by producing a number of exemplary studies, primary among them William Labov’s dissertation and later book, The Social Stratification of English in New York City. In focusing on an urban environment, Labov identified a moot point in the dialectological tradition, which otherwise is not only compatible with variationism but would also, gradually, be profoundly transformed by it. He also studied a community whose sheer size makes sampling and concomitant discussions of representativity necessary. These are central discussions for any urban sociology. The history of variationism in general plays out differently in the various countries or regions of Germanic-speaking Europe, but in the second period it is characteristic that variationist linguistics gets a more or less favored place in a broader canvas of disciplines studying spoken language in use. The disciplines may take their cue from sociology (ethnomethodology, conversation analysis), philosophy (speech-act theory), or social psychology (accommodation theory). Thus, we have labeled this period the period of fragmentation. The third period distinguished here is a period of larger corpora, when studies of variation may be carried out in tandem with, or indeed in collaboration with, other analyses; thus, in a way, modifying the previous period of fragmentation—at least institutionally. The three periods happen at various points in time in the various countries discussed, and it could be argued that the two later periods overlap, but the framework used here nevertheless makes it possible to organize their overall history.


Critical Applied Linguistics  

Alastair Pennycook

Critical applied linguistics is a field of inquiry and practice that connects questions of power and inequality—domination (constraining possibilities), disparity (inequitable access), discrimination (ideological exclusion), difference (cultural distinction), and desire (social preference)—to applied linguistic concerns. It brings together common applied linguistic interests such as classroom utterances, translations, conversations, genres, second-language acquisition, and media texts with critical sociological engagement with ideology, neoliberalism, colonialism, gender, racism, sexuality, and so on. While critical applied linguistics may therefore suggest certain domains of inquiry—language and migration, workplace discrimination, anti-racist education, and language revival, for example—it also insists that all domains of applied linguistics—classroom analysis, language testing, sign language interpreting, and language and the law—need to take into account the inequitable operations of the social world, and to have the theoretical and practical tools to do so effectively. Critical applied linguistics can also be understood as the intersection of a range of related critical projects, from critical pedagogy, critical literacies, and critical discourse analysis to critical approaches to language policy, critical language testing, and critical language awareness. As a domain of applied work, critical applied linguistics seeks not just to describe but also to change inequality through forms of research, pedagogy, and activism.