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.
Review of An Introduction to Sociolinguistics, Fourth Edition
Wardhaugh, Ronald (2002) An Introduction to Sociolinguistics, 4th ed. Blackwell Publishers, paperback ISBN 0-631-22540-4, vi+408pp, Blackwell Textbooks in Linguistics.
Liwei Gao, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
SYNOPSIS This book is intended as a standard textbook for advanced undergraduate courses and introductory graduate courses in sociolinguistics. Different from previous editions, this newest edition reorganizes the sixteen chapters in the book into Introduction (Chapter 1), four major parts (Chapters 2-15) -- Languages and Communities, Inherent Variety, Words at Work, and Understanding and Intervening -- and Conclusion (Chapter 16).
In Chapter 1, Introduction, Wardhaugh addresses some of the fundamental issues in sociolinguistics. The issues discussed in this chapter are the nature of knowledge of language, the reality of variation, the interaction between language and its social context, the similarity and difference between sociolinguistics and the sociology of language, and methodological concerns. An overview is also included.
Part I, Languages and Communities, comprises Chapter 2-5. This part mainly discusses the issues concerning language varieties, language contact, and speech communities.
Chapter 2 is titled Languages, Dialects, and Varieties. In this chapter the author first surveys the definition of language and dialect. In so doing he calls into attention the complication and confusion surrounding defining these two terms. Then Wardhaugh discusses the issues concerning respectively regional and social dialects. This chapter concludes with the discussion of styles, registers, and beliefs.
Chapter 3, Pidgins and Creoles, first introduces the concept of lingual franca. It then provides the definition of pidgins and creoles: "a pidgin is a language with no native speakers" (p. 60) and "a creole is often defined as a pidgin that has become the first language of a new generation of speakers" (p. 61). Next this chapter discusses the distribution and characteristics of pidgins and creoles, which is followed by the investigation into their origins. This chapter concludes by discussing the process of evolution from pidgin to creole.
In Chapter 4, Codes, the author notes that it is preferable to refer to a language or a variety of language as a code, since this terminology is neutral. This chapter begins with the discussion of diglossia, a situation when a society "has two distinct codes which show clear functional separation" (p. 88). It then provides a brief review of bilingualism and multilingualism. This chapter concludes with a thorough survey of various aspects of the most common and interesting linguistic phenomenon in bi/multilingual situations - codeswitching.
Chapter 5, Speech Communities, first introduces various definitions of speech communities given by different scholars. For example, for Hymes, speech community is a local unit characterized by common locality and primary interaction. It then discusses the reality that individuals may belong to intersecting communities in different contexts. In the end this chapter surveys the issues of networks and linguistic repertoires.
Part II, Inherent Variety, consists of Chapter 6-8. This part addresses some of the core issues in variationist sociolinguistics, i.e., those of language variation and change.
In Chapter 6, Language Variation, Wardhaugh first discusses regional variation. In so doing some crucial concepts involved in the study of regional variation, e.g., isoglosses, are introduced. The author then talks about the linguistic variable, "a linguistic item which has identifiable variants" (p. 141). After this Wardhaugh continues with the discussion of a crucial issue in sociolinguistics, the relation of linguistic to social variation. And he concludes this chapter by discussing data collection and analysis.
Chapter 7, Findings and Issues, primarily surveys classic studies in variationist sociolinguistics. The first is an early study conducted by Fischer in a New England community in 1958. The second is the groundbreaking and also most often cited study done by Labov in New York City. Trudgill's study in Norwich and Cheshire's study in Reading is presented next, which precedes a survey of a variety of other exemplary studies. And then comes the Milroys' study in Belfast. This chapter finally discusses problems and controversies associated with some of these variationist studies.
Chapter 8, Change, focuses on the discussion of another important issue in variationist sociolinguistics, language change. The chapter first presents the traditional view of language change, according to which "the only changes that are important in a language are those that can be demonstrated to have structural consequences" (p. 189). It then discusses changes in progress. This notion is among those most important contributions to the study of language change made by variationist sociolinguistics. The chapter concludes with the discussion of the process of change. And one of the theories related to this issue is the theory of lexical diffusion.
Part III, Words at Work, includes Chapter 9-12. This part mostly addresses the issues concerning language and culture, the ethnography of communication, and the interactive dimension of sociolinguistics.
Chapter 9, Words and Culture, focuses on the discussion of the interaction between language and culture. This chapter first introduces the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. Next it discusses the study of kinship terms. The chapter goes on with the discussion of taxonomies, particularly folk taxonomies. The rest of this chapter is devoted to the discussion of the issues regarding color terms used in different cultures, prototypes, and taboos and euphemisms, in that order.
Chapter 10, Ethnographies, is concerned with the study of rules of communication in different social cultural contexts. This chapter begins with the presentation of different varieties of talk in different cultures. It then introduces the ethnography of communication, which focuses on the illustration of Hymes' model of SPEAKING. This chapter concludes with the discussion of ethnomethodology, a branch of sociology that is concerned with, among other things, talk that is viewed as a way to sustain reality on the one hand and part of that reality on the other.
In Chapter 11, Solidarity and Politeness, the author first introduces the classic study of the use of 'tu' versus 'vous' in French, viewed respectively as a way to show solidarity and politeness. Wardhaugh then discusses multiple facets of the use of different address terms in dissimilar societies. In the end of this chapter the author addresses the issue of politeness. In so doing he also discusses the theories on face.
Chapter 12 is titled Talk and Action. Wardhaugh starts this chapter by introducing the theory of speech acts developed by Austin and Searle, which basically claims that language can be used to do things. The author then introduces the Cooperation Principle developed by Grice, which involves the variable of quantity, quality, relation, and manner. Wardhaugh concludes this chapter by discussing features of conversation - mostly from the perspective of discourse analysis.
Part IV, Understanding and Intervening, consists of Chapter 13-15. This part deals with the issues of language and gender, language and discrimination, and language planning.
In Chapter 13, Gender, the author starts with the discussion of some of the perceived/conceived gender differences in language use. For instance, there is a view that women's speech is trivial, although this is a high suspect of bias. Wardhaugh then surveys possible explanations of gender differences in language use, one of which claims that the difference may be a result of different socialization and acculturation patterns.
Chapter 14 is titled Disadvantage. In the beginning of this chapter Wardhaugh discusses codes again, but this time elaborated codes and restricted codes associated with Bernstein. Then the author discusses the issue of African American vernacular English (AAVE). In the final section of this chapter Wardhaugh discusses the implications and consequences for education in view of the social disadvantage connected with the restricted code and AAVE.
In Chapter 15, Planning, the author first discusses a number of issues related to language planning, which is subcategorized into status planning and corpus planning. Wardhaugh then surveys various linguistic situations in the world in order to provide the sociolinguistic background against which several instances of language planning are discussed. Further examples of language planning are then presented. And the paper concludes by discussing the winning and losing language in the competition for the linguistic market.
Chapter 16 is Conclusion, which reemphasizes the complication and also the significance of the study of language in its social context.
COMMENTS Characterized by accessibility and comprehensiveness, this book serves as an excellent textbook for advanced undergraduate courses and introductory graduate courses in sociolinguistics. This book may also function as an indispensable reference book to anyone who is interested in the study of language in society. If this book includes some topics beyond those from variationist sociolinguistics, such as a chapter on language and ideology/power, which applies social theories to explain the reality of language use, it will achieve an even higher level of comprehensiveness.
In addition, in each chapter a discussion section immediately follows the survey of a topic. This pattern of organization facilitates the understanding of the issues covered by the preceding topic. Moreover, at the end of each chapter is a section titled Further Reading, which provides a very helpful pointer to the major works related to the topics covered in that chapter.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER Liwei Gao is a graduate student of linguistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His major research interests are sociolinguistics and Chinese linguistics.