Most people modify their ways of speaking, writing, texting, and e-mailing, and so on, according to the people with whom they are communicating. This fascinating book asks why we 'accommodate' to others in this way, and explores the various social consequences arising from it.
AUTHOR: Wardhaugh, Ronald TITLE: An Introduction to Sociolinguistics SUBTITLE: Sixth Edition SERIES TITLE: Blackwell Textbooks in Linguistics PUBLISHER: Wiley-Blackwell YEAR: 2010
Dalia Magaña, Department of Spanish, University of California, Davis
''An Introduction to Sociolinguistics'' offers students a comprehensive presentation of sociolinguistic topics based on both long recognized studies and contemporary data. Similarly to the previous two editions (i.e., the 4th edition (2002) reviewed in http://linguistlist.org/issues/13/13-357.html and the 5th edition (2005) http://linguistlist.org/pubs/reviews/get-review.cfm?SubID=74652), the 6th edition of the book is neatly divided into four parts and sixteen chapters. However, new to the sixth edition are the ''Exploration'' tasks found in every chapter intended for further learning on the presented topics.
The introductory chapter of the book (chapter 1) defines key terms as a foundation for the remainder of the text, for example: 'language, code, grammar, performance, (communicative) competence, variation, identity, power, solidarity, sociolinguistics, the sociology of language, micro-sociolinguistics', and 'macro-sociolinguistics'. One of the methodological concerns the chapter mentions is the necessity of perceiving sociolinguistics just as any other science requiring ''a solid database'' in order to achieve data-oriented conclusions as well as considering various research components, e.g.: theoretical framework, data collection, analysis, interpretation, objectivity, and the 'observer's paradox'. The chapter concludes with an overview of the upcoming parts and chapters of the book.
Part I of the book, ''Languages and Communities'', encompasses chapters 2-5 which are predominantly dedicated to the complexities of languages, their varieties and speakers.
Chapter 2, ''Languages, Dialects, and Varieties'', first explores the notion of variety according to several linguists. Next, the author focuses on the difference between language and dialect providing illustrative examples from numerous varieties and drawing upon notions such as power, solidarity, low and high prestige, mutual intelligibility, and dialect continuum. Closely connected with the issue involved in distinguishing language and dialect is the idea of standardization; i.e. the process of language codification. In his elaboration, the author considers Bell's (1976) criteria critical for language distinction: ''standardization, vitality, historicity, autonomy, reduction, mixture, and de facto norms'' (p. 31). Regional dialects, social dialects, styles, registers, and beliefs are also topics of exploration.
Chapter 3, ''Pidgins and Creoles'', suggests that the marginalized circumstance of lingua francas, pidgins and creoles is due to the relatively small linguistic knowledge about these sometimes long-standing languages. To set a solid base for the rest of the chapter, the author defines the following terms: 'lingua franca' (forced contact between different language speakers), 'pidgin' (a contact language lacking native speakers), 'creole' (a contact language that has native speakers, i.e. the subsequent stage of the pidgin), 'pidginization' (linguistic simplification), and 'creolization' (linguistic expansion). According to the author, pidgins and creoles share geographical similarities (such as ocean-neighboring locations), but of even more interest to linguists are the structural similarities noted across different pidgins and creoles in the world.
''Codes'', the title of chapter 4, refers to languages or varieties; therefore, 'code' is a neutral term for any kind of communicative system. The chapter elaborates on 'diglossia' (coexisting codes performing separate functions in a society) with significant focus on the work of Ferguson and his idea of high and low variety. ''Bilingualism and Multilingualism'', the next topic of discussion, emphasizes the different linguistic norms across the globe with respect to the number of languages spoken and the perceptions of these norms (for example, in the Western world monolingualism may be considered the unmarked case, while for vast parts of the world monolingualism would be the marked case). 'Code-switching' (language alternation) is the most elaborated subject of the chapter. Drawing on examples from geographically diverse language situations, the author discusses numerous factors for code-switching, such as conversational strategies, power, political expression, solidarity, identity, and accommodation.
The final chapter (5) of the first part of the book, ''Speech Communities'', centers on different sociolinguists' perspectives on defining a ''speech community.'' The author's literature review regarding speech communities involves the research of Richards, Chomsky, Lyons, Giles, Labov, Milroy, Gumperz, Bloomfield, and Hymes, among other influential linguists. The author also questions the boundaries of intersecting communities as well as considers networks and repertoires.
''Inherent Variety'', Part II of the book (chapters 6 though 8), primarily concerns linguistic factors surrounding language variation and their role in language change.
Chapter 6,'' Language Variation'', further elaborates on dialects (both regional and social), which were introduced in Chapter 2. While regional dialects deal with variation according to geography, social dialects are associated with a social class or group (including societal factors such as education, social-class membership, gender, age, ethnicity, and so on). The latter, the author states, has been of more concern to contemporary linguists. In dealing with social dialects, linguistic variables (''linguistic item[s] which [have] identifiable variants'', p. 145) are indispensible in identifying speech markers. The chapter also includes a section on ''Data Collection and Analysis'' primarily dealing with the issues involved in collecting relevant data, for example: 'observer's paradox,' bias, representative sample, dependent variables, independent variables, validity, reliability, and statistics.
In ''Some Findings and Issues'' (chapter 7), Wardhaugh briefly reviews various quantitative studies in sociolinguistics. The author specifically critiques parts of the research studies carried out by Fisher, Labov, Trudgill, Wolfram, Fasold, Macaulay, Kiesling, the Milroys, Bailey, and Bickerton (among others), to discuss some of the problems faced by researchers in studies on language use and acquisition.
Part II of the book concludes with language ''Change'' (chapter 8). While the author states that change in progress is not observable, he emphasizes the importance of the consequences caused by the change that structurally affect the language. The chapter discusses the difference between variation and change and changes in progress illustrated with relevant examples from the literature. Wardhaugh suggests that one of the best explanations for change is that it initiates among the higher social levels but is implemented by the lower social levels.
Part III, ''Words at Work'' (chapters 9 through 12), centers on social and cultural issues affecting language use.
Chapter 9, ''Words and Culture'', explores the relationship between language and culture. Culture in this context refers to the societal functions of a person, specifically the knowledge required to function in a particular society. The chapter provides a detailed explanation of Whorf's claim about language structure and its role in the speaker's world-view, concluding that this hypothesis remains unproved. Further, the chapter discusses the following topics regarding the interesting use of terminology across cultures: kinship terms, taxonomies, colors, prototypes, taboos and euphemisms.
The 10th chapter of the book, ''Ethnographies'', pertains to a group's linguistic behavior norms and the factors involved. The author perceives language as being used to ''sustain reality.'' One of the chapter's sections, ''Varieties of Talk'', looks at studies focusing on the use or absence of talk in communication among various groups in society. The following section, ''The Ethnography of Speaking'', predominantly considers the work of Hymes on ethnography (''a description of all the factors that are relevant in understanding how [a] communicative event achieves its objectives'' p. 259). Specifically, the author discusses Hymes' SPEAKING acronym involving the principal factors in ethnographic studies. The section dedicated to ethnomethodology involves ''the processes and techniques that people use to interpret the world around them and to interact with that world'' (p. 266).
''Solidarity and Politeness'', chapter 11, concerns the choices speakers make as they express themselves, i.e. ''what'' and ''how'' speakers say something and the combinations of sentence types, words and sounds they employ. In his discussion, Wardhaugh explores the ''tu'' and ''vous'' distinction present in many languages (in their corresponding forms) including Italian, German, Latin, Spanish, and Swedish. The author deliberates about how some of these languages vary in making this distinction using clear examples to illustrate his arguments. Further, he explores ''Address Terms'', exploring some of the issues involved and noting the interesting societal difference between terms of address applied towards people whose status derives from their achievement versus their inheritance. Additionally, the author maintains that politeness is socially prescribed and that language is a tool that allows speakers to show their relationships to others as well as their attitudes toward them.
The last chapter in Part III, chapter 12, ''Talk and Action'', examines the function and conversational use of utterances. The chapter covers three broad topics, ''Speech Acts'', ''Cooperation'', and ''Conversation'', each elaborating on relevant sub-topics. The author states that the purpose of many utterances is to make propositions, however he distinguishes between several types of utterance. Wardhaugh views utterances as acts and conversations as the exchanges of these acts involving cooperative activity between speakers and listeners. Among his numerous arguments under the section on ''Conversation'', the author addresses the characteristics of unplanned speech, turn taking, topics of discussion, feedback, insertion, repairs, classroom conversation, culture, power, and social asymmetry.
The fourth and final part of the book, ''Understanding and Intervening'', focuses on gender and linguistic differences (chapter 13), language disadvantage and education (chapter 14), language planning (chapter 15), and several concluding observations (chapter 16).
In chapter 13, ''Gender'', the author discusses his preference for the chapter title considering the issues in the use of alternative terms and current trends. In exploring gender differences with respect to language the author examines an impressive amount of research involving various languages dealing with gender and phonology, morphology, vocabulary, grammatical matters, and paralinguistic systems, among other gender-related topics. In his hypotheses about gender and language differences, the author is deliberately careful to treat language neutrally, for example avoiding viewing women's or men's speech as the marked/unmarked choice. Some of the topics covered in the possible explanations for gender differences pertain to stereotyping, interruptions, back-channeling signals, solidarity, identity, sexism, power relationships, sociolinguistic sub-cultures, behavior, and community of practice. Wardhaugh proposes that gender differences in language are due to several factors including social class, race, culture, discourse type, group membership, child-rearing practices and role differentiations in society.
''Disadvantage'', chapter 14, reviews disadvantaged linguistic situations in England, in the U.S. and in the educational sphere. The author begins with the well-known claim that languages are functionally equal, however he adds that in the social sense power differences create unequal perceptions of language. Wardhaugh closely examines Bernstein's socialization research based on a case in the UK noting also the numerous criticisms of Bernstein's work and theories. Next, he addresses the phonology, morphology, syntactic characteristics, and historical roots of African American English (AAE) found in the literature. The chapter concludes with the subsection ''Consequences for Education'', which concerns the widespread misunderstanding of AAE (specifically from educators), language discrimination, and the child's bidialectalism benefits (an additive approach) in education and society (for example solidarity within the child's social class).
The final topic of discussion, ''Planning'', chapter 15, investigates the issues involved in language planning, drawing examples from numerous countries and their languages, and comments on language loss as well as the global role of English. Language planning is defined as a planned change in a language due to a nation and government persuasion. Wardhaugh discusses two types of language planning (''status planning and corpus planning''), the ideologies involved in language planning (linguistic assimilation, linguistic pluralism, vernacularization, and internationalism) in addition to other issues involved (language rights and data gathering). In his analysis of a variety of linguistic situations in the world, the author includes in his examples language planning situations in France, Switzerland, Spain, Turkey, Russia, Finland, Kenya, India, Papau New Guinea, Singapore, Norway, Canada, China and the United States; thus encompassing various parts of the world to illustrate the diverse linguistic situations regarding language planning. Further, the chapter addresses issues concerning language loss (which is suggested to be occurring at an alarming rate), and language spread (specifically English).
The conclusion, chapter 16, offers the readers the author's concluding remarks regarding the complexity of language, society, culture, and variation. He also discusses the approaches (namely quantification and ethnography) for analyzing the relationship between power and society. Overall, the author is hopeful for the future of sociolinguistics with respect to the newly adopted scientific approaches and new discoveries in the area.
Wardhaugh's newest edition of the book encompasses a multitude of important topics in sociolinguistics. The author's overview of the diverse relationships between language and society incorporates an extensive number of the world's languages and societies, offering a rich resource to learners in the area and even further chapter-specific references included in the 'Further Reading' sections at the end of each chapter.
Wardhaugh's work provides introductory sociolinguistic courses with an excellent textbook, especially for advanced linguistic courses or graduate level courses. However, the textbook may also be employed in a beginning sociolinguistics course with significant instructor preparation, for example, the instructor would have to guide the learners by providing background information about some of the well-known studies of which the book assumes previous knowledge. In pedagogical terms, the ''Exploration'' tasks found in every chapter, intended for further learner development on the presented topics, have a very practical purpose promoting critical thinking and evaluation. The tasks provide a student with a hands-on approach to the sociolinguistic issues discussed in each chapter by providing additional samples and data. While the ''Exploration'' sections pedagogically benefit the learner, an additional section in each chapter dedicated to learner guidance would also be useful. The text would benefit from comprehension questions for content guidance, especially for beginning undergraduate courses. The undergraduate population would gain from topic-specific questions that would elicit their comprehension of the multitude of critical material included in the book.
In its entirety, the book offers numerous contributions concerning the sociolinguistic realities found in several geographical contexts. The flaws are small-scale details when considering such an outstanding text. One of these perceived minor flaws concerns how the Chomskyan perspective is presented. Chapter 1 critically introduces prevalent Chomskyan ideas in the field, referring to them as asocial, and setting the stage for ''opposing views'' in the study of linguistics. However, should learners be persuaded towards such views, or should they be trusted to individually interpret these ideas? While Chomsky's influential ideas contain serious weaknesses for perceiving language holistically, presenting his ideas more neutrally would permit the learner to interpret these flaws on his/her own. A more neutral approach to the Chomskyan perspective would allow the learner to think about how these fields within linguistics can complement and even benefit each other.
An additional minor flaw concerns the lack of thorough exploration of language attitudes and ideologies. While these are two of the numerous topics considered, there is no section specifically focused on these crucial topics in sociolinguistics. Eliminating some repeated topics of discussion (for example, some of the content in chapter 6 overlaps with the content in chapter 2) would allow more room for incorporation of further topics. In chapter 7, while the author includes an in-depth presentation of research studies illustrating methodological concerns in the area, he does not include more contemporary studies, which would have made the review more comprehensive. Moreover, in chapter 9 the author narrows the relationship between words and culture, since he includes only a selected number of topics within the subject that are not representative of the idea as a whole. The text would benefit for example by mentioning writing systems, and the culture of oral languages among other matters which would offer the learner an even more amplified view of words and culture. Further, the organization of the content covered in part IV seems incongruous, especially the section on AAE. Even more, the author's discussion of AAE disregards the social role of AAE in pop culture, music, and its influence on other minority groups, particularly on adolescents.
The minor flaws brought up do not, however, compromise in any way the superior quality of the text. Comprehensively, the book provides a rich source of overviews of the field of sociolinguistics that will undoubtedly afford researchers and students in the area insightful knowledge evoking additional future dialogue and research.
Bell, R.T. (1976). Sociolinguistics: Goals, Approaches and Problems. London: Batsford.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Dalia Magaña is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Spanish at University
of California, Davis. Her research interests include sociolinguistics,
Spanish as a heritage language and SLA.