Given the rigidity with which certain
writers have interpreted this taxonomy, it should be remembered that it is the basis of a
number of controversies, either over the cataloguing of the research areas and their
implicit aim, or arising out of domestic priorities when defining the scope of the
discipline as a whole. In the ambit of Catalan sociolinguistics, this second type of issue
has recently provoked discussion which I would like to stop and look at in more detail. It
has been said many times that our tradition was -and is- essentially sociological. This
choice of direction is entirely understandable, given that in a situation of language
contact in which the very future of the language is under debate, the majority of
researchers have concentrated their intellectual efforts on guaranteeing a comfortable
communicative ecosystem for the Catalan language. Nonetheless, macrosociolinguistics has
also had the opportunity of making its mark, and has brought about a good list of work,
which though slight in comparative terms, is far from negligible.
A. Mas and B.
Montoya, in an article (in press) on the state of the question of variation
sociolinguistics (that is, taking stock up until the present) in the area of Catalan, the
writers express regret -in my opinion with every justification- over the carping
criticisms made of variationism by adherents of the self-styled "soberania
sociolingüística" (sociolinguistic sovereinty) or "sociolingüística del
conflicte" (the sociolinguistics of conflict) (Ruiz, Sanz and Solé 2001: 252,
257-258). The line of argument designed to minimise the contribution of sociolinguistics
centres on, on the one hand, the negation of the social implications of the phenomena that
it studies, and on the other the alleged total lack of "emancipatory usefulness"
of an essentially erudite scientific model.
Taking quite the
contrary view, Mas and Montoya conclude: "We have no doubt that the three types or
tendencies we have observed in linguistic change under way in different parts of the
Catalan-speaking Countries will, apart from constituting a map of speakers' language
loyalty, prove useful information for centres of language planning. In synthesis, these
three types of change are: genuinely Catalan changes, changes in the direction of Spanish
and "atrophy"). This will be true of both the corpus and status information, in
orientating work on the normalisation of the Catalan language. As I see it, what we have
above is a restricted interpretation of the multifaceted interests of sociolinguistics.
Interests which are constantly intertwined, with totally permeable boundaries to the
disciplines, and which are striving to consolidate, by means of solid epistemological
debate and a constant drip, drip of research, the much sought after paradigmatic status.
The study of linguistic variation
linguistics has striven to establish abstract, model units, to provide solid ground in the
instability of the unvarnished facts of variation, which dialectology and sociolinguistics
have brought to the fore. However, it is the field of pragmatics and discourse analysis
where variation, without any doubt, takes centre stage. Indeed, the entrance on the scene
of pragmatics and both discourse and conversation analysis has raised a series of new
issues, arising in the main from the pressing need to incorporate factors of context and
use into the proposed models - factors which it is essential to introduce. These amount to
a large number of variables that need to be carefully managed to accurately reflect a
particularly complex dimension, additional to the other difficulties." Salvador
A multidimensional approach
objective of this section and its title is to take stock of the forms taken by
sociolinguistic variation studies here in Catalonia. According to the scheme arrived at as
if by consensus, the current within sociolinguistics most frequently adopted was that of
strict sociolinguistics or, as it has come to be called in our nomenclature here, the
sociolinguistics of variation. (5) The question, then, was to
evaluate the most significant "deviations" from the reference model, either
through pressure from more traditional disciplines or thanks to the infllux of new
approaches and new issues.
The type of
approach that concerns me here is to be found in Moreno (1990) and its flawless
methodology. Moreno defines linguistic fact as multi-dimensional in character and places
its study in the contextual framework of the linguistics of speaking/acting. Its
multidimensional nature consists of four vertices occupied by geolinguistics, historical
linguistics, pragmatics and sociolinguistics -with intermediate positions being possible.
This proposal recognises that variation brings together diverse factors, but allows for
the possibility of studying each of these factors separately, minimising the rest.
In the subsections
which follow, I shall set out to make an initial attempt to reduce to order the
variationist kaleidoscope of research on variable phenomena in Catalan. Let me say at the
outset that this will not be an overview of research as such, with subsequent
compartmentalisation. My intention here is to provide a qualitative (and initial)
evaluation of theory-cum-methodology of the writers of the articles that appear in this
monographic issue of Noves SL. Not surprisingly, the selection reflects the
3.2 The sociolinguistic vertex
In the ambit of
sociolinguistics strictly defined, a number of different models have been developed
designed to provide an explanation for systematic variation. Two of the most important are
the dynamic (C. J. Bailey, D. Bickerton and D. DeCamp) and the quantitative (W. Labov). At
the same time, the fact that the majority of our researchers opt for the second option
-also given the name urban dialectology, social dialectology, sociolinguistics
("strict defined", "properly speaking"), quantitative research on
speech, the variable rule model, correlational (socio)linguistics, variationism and the
sociolinguistics of variation- explains why I will be devoting my attention exclusively to
this branch. This is all the more justified if we consider that this branch,
methodologically speaking is thepoint of departure for transferences and transactions as
announced in the title of the article.
idea of doing sociolinguistics can be seen as the most successful development to have come
out of the article by Weinreich, Labov and Herzog (1968) "Empirical Foundations for a
Theory of Language Change". His work constitutes nothing less than a quantum leap in
the social understanding of language.
At the beginning,
Labov drew on the structuralist model defended by his teacher Uriel Weinreich.
Nonetheless, at the end of the sixties he adopted aspects of the generativist approach,
even as he proposed an extension which would incorporate a social component. As we have
already said, Labov's approach was essentially linguistic: to study language as used by
speakers in everyday communication, that is, to study its structure and evolution in the
social context formed by the speech community. From this realist perspective, the object
of study would be observed in all its diversity.
The vision of
language as an orderly heterogeneous and dynamic system is achieved by correlating
linguistic, social and stylistic variables. And the methodological instruments developed
to provide an empirical model are the sociolinguistic interview and statistical
quantification, first in terms of straight frequencies, and then later on with the
contribution of the Canadian school (Sankoff, Cedergren and colleagues), probability
values. This last development is in no wise trivial, since it is based on the
epistemologically essential idea that the performance data is merely a statistical reflex
of competence, which could now be quantified by the application of a multiple logistic
model, the latter making it possible to convert observed frequencies into theoretical
probabilities. This processing meant, in short, going from treating performance data as
rigorously as possible, to developing theoretical models that take account of speakers'
sociolinguistic competence. (6)
sociolinguistics of variation arrived in Catalan speaking regions (and in Spain as a
whole) for the first time thanks to the Alacant-based researcher F. Gimeno. As a teacher
at the Universitat dAlacant, the first result of his influence was Montoya (1985), a
doctoral thesis that approached the study of linguistic change both from the synchronic
and diachronic standpoint (historical linguistics). At the same time, Maria-Teresa Turell,
first at the Universitat de Barcelona and then at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili, began
to bring together a group of collaborators who would focus their work essentially on the
synchronic aspects of changes in progress. The publication in 1995 of her volume La
sociolingüística de la variació (The sociolinguistics of variation) would make
available a part of the research that was carried out.
interest here at home in historical sociolinguistics, quantitatively insubstantial but
qualitatively of exceptional interest, enthusiastic reception of the Labovian models meant
the adoption of a clearly synchronistic approach inspired by Labov. The paper read in 1972
at the XI International Linguistics Conference held in Bologna, "On the use of the
present to explain the past" (Labov 1974), or the work presented in Montreal at the
conference on New Ways in Analysing Variation in English (NWAVE) entitled "What can
be learned about change in progress from synchronic descriptions?" constitute two
good doctrinal samples. Thus centred on this approach, and with numerous small
methodological differences in detail (see Pradilla 2002 for the phonic variables and Mas
and Montoya in press - for an overview of all levels of analysis), the
"orthodox" variationist approach is accumulating a good long list of successful
research projects carried out. And looking at the contributors to this monographic issue
of Noves SL, it is worthwhile noting that Josefina Carrera, who read her
doctoral thesis in 1999 (Carrera 2002) is also present.
The line of
investigation taken by B. Montoya deserves a separate mention, apart from his work on the
breakdown of intergenerational transmission of the Catalan language in Alacant (Montoya
1996), where, from the variationist perspective, he describes the phenomenon known as
linguistic atrophy or linguistic shrinkage. This, then, is a study of structural attrition
or disintegration of the recessive language (Catalan), the latter in the process of
extinction, or of convergence with the expanding language (Spanish) (Montoya 2000).
Lastly, I would
like to bear witness to the growing mutual interest that is occurring in the methodologies
of variation sociolinguistics and experimental phonology. At the 15th International
Congress of Phonetic Sciences, held in Barcelona in August 2003, it was evident that there
were a good number of studies that come under the label Sociophonetics. Since Labov (1966,
1972) established correlations between voice quality and social class of the speakers in
his samples, using technical instruments, linguists working in the same tradition have
produced a steady flow of work, slight at first but more prolific over the years. And, at
the same time, the results obtained have obliged phoneticians to rethink some
theoretical-methodological questions, having to do with socio-stylistic effects and
drastically underresearched up to that point. In the area of the Catalan language, the
present writer has repeatedly underlined the need to work towards a common vision of
methodology shared with those working in experimental methodology (Pradilla 1997, 2001a,
2001b and 2002). from the beginnings of his work with the quantitative treatment of
prepalatal intervocalic disaffricativisation, the variable looked at in his doctoral
thesis (Pradilla 1993). Also, with the prioritisation of acoustic analysis, the
recent work by Planes and Pradilla (in press) and by Carrera, Planes and Pradilla (in
press) also corroborate the influence of variationist postulates.
The pragmatic vertex
As we have just
seen, the variables studied by sociolinguistics are not discrete, but defined in terms of
statistical correlation. Note that, while language use can be discrete, and language
choice is one of the most cited examples, yet what also should be born in mind are the
different phenomena that emerge with contact and interference, codeswitching, or the
emerging of interlanguages (pigdinisation and creolisation). Pragmatics, seen as the
suiting of language use to the sociocultural context, will concern itself with these
At the heart of a
terminological fog, there emerges, as an alternative to variationism and with a diaphanous
connection with pragmatics, the ethnography of communication (Dell.H. Hymes, and John J.
Gumperz). Starting out with an anthropological orientation, it conceives the study of
linguistic variation in a community of human beings, "as the analysis of how its
members manage the phenomenon heteroglossia in their lives, while based on an active and
dialoguing concept of human communication" (Argenter 1998: 16).
By utilising an
architecture of units of analysis to form a dimension of more concrete types the
communicative act, speech event and speech act- the ethnographer's task will be to
correlate patterns of language use with the sociocultural context of a speech community.
This, then, will involve the identification of current speech acts, the speech styles
associated with that and the sociocommunicative contexts that they evoke.
this first round of characterisation, we turn our attention now to points of conflict with
the sociolinguistics of variation: a) while the latter is interested primarily with
spontaneous speech (the vernacular), the former the ethnography of speaking) gives
priority to the formal end of the stylistic contínuum; b) while the Labovian
procedure of compartmentalising the stylistic continuum establishes a priori segmentation
based on the degree of attention paid by a speaker to their speech, ethnographers on the
other hand search for natural language varieties in given contexts, that is, ways and
forms of speech which are often ritualised, marked and laced with aphorisms; and c)
the gathering of data and information for studies of the ethnography of speaking are made
by prioritising qualitative techniques, such as participant techniques, while variationism
uses techniques which are arguably less natural such as the sociolinguistic interview.