As I see it , there are a number of
points where the ethnography of speaking could bring some interesting improvements to
variationist methodology. The securing of a greater balance between qualitative and
quantitative analysis is a potential instance. On this point, I should like to point out,
that while it is obvious that Labovian methodology places special emphasis on
quantification, it is no less true that from its beginnings Labov employed various
different methods of observation. The other major issue where the ethnography of speaking
has much to tell us is in the subcategorisation of functional variation. Since stylistic
variation occupies pride of place in pragmatics, variationism could profit from the
accumulated experience in a host of different research. Despite the fact that segmentation
of the stylistic continuum continues to generate many discussions, if any of the
disciplines succeeded in approaching it in a reasonably acceptable way, it is surely
pragmatics. Here at home, the research gathered together in the 1998 volume Oralment.
Estudis de variació funcional, (Orally. Studies of functional variation) edited by L.
Payrató, has to be considered as the most complete reference text.
It is no
coincidence, therefore, that one of the participants, S. Romero should orientate her
doctoral thesis (Romero, 2001) along the precise lines mentioned here. This work,
taking pragmatics as its basis, shows how the use of the quantitative methods of
sociolinguistics could pay a successful role in the analysis of a communicative situation
as fixed as are the council plenary sessions (general meetings). This linguistic
manifestation of the local government was characterised based on the table of components
speech events put forward by Hymes (1962/1968: 110.124) and situational parameters for
variation put forward by Biber (1994: 40-41). The article of this author has contributed
to this monographic issue is a sample.
The historical vertex
The lack of
interest in the historical perspective in the different paradigms of modern linguistics
has been partially offset by the emergence of historical sociolinguistics. Ever since
Labov correlated language variation and language change, in the sense that change
presupposed prior variation, but not vice versa, interest in the description and
explanation of language change in progress has once again found a place on research
mentioned in section 3.2, the bias to synchronism that variation studies took on from
their outset was decisive in relegating historical sociolinguistics to second place. At
this moment in time, here at home we have only B. Montoya and A. Mas working on historical
aspects, with admirable perseverance, but the methodological approach that they adopt,
centred on the study of the language of written texts, according to the now familiar
parameters of linguistic and social variation, still tends to have relatively little
impact. Notwithstanding, as A. Mas argues in the excellent
synthesis which he offers us in this issue of Noves SL, "
sociolinguistics, with all its drawbacks, enables to understand contemporary language
through the diachronic study of the language of earlier times. Also, it enables to
reconstruct earlier stages of the language by drawing on analysis of the spoken language
of today". (7)
of linguistic change, in contrast, has occupied pride of place in variation studies. The
concept of "apparent time" has flourished, constituting as it does, a notable
epistemological novelty in an area where the diachronic perspective has traditionally
ruled the day. It consists in giving maximum priority to one of the social variables
through which variation shows its systematic nature: study the pattern of change that
defines the different age groups in a speech community.
One proof of the
success this approach has had here, is the presence of the age variable in the majority of
research studies on variable phenomena in Catalan. Indeed, in some of them (e.g. Carrera
2002) it has become the most relevant interpretive dimension. It can also be seen that
this factor is becoming ever more present in the field of dialectology. Probably the
largest-scale project of this sort has been L. Pons (1992) on yodisation (replacement of
palatal / l / by /j /) and apitxament (substitution of voiceless fricatives) in
Barberà del Vallès, Catalonia (Pradilla 2002).
In view of all
this, the time has probably come to undertake studies of language change in real time,
that is, by contrasting methodologically comparable speech data gathered at different
points in time. This will mean going back to studying speech communities first explored in
the eighties and above all at the beginning of the nineties. Such studies would be of
vital important in validating, or otherwise, the predictions made by research dating from
that time, and in particular, setting the seal of approval, paradigmatically speaking, on
the theoretical and methodological underpinning of variation sociolinguistics. To this
end, the group co-ordinated by M. T. Turell in her 1995 publication putting the finishing
touches to the methodological design of a new research project, develops this approach, an
approach lacking until then.
The geolinguistic vertex
When we analyse
the positions taken up by linguists with respect to the relationship between dialectology
and the sociolinguistics of variation, we find a range of opinions that go from asserting
they are identical to arguing for separate taxonomies//. In the middle of this range,
there are a whole series of proposals with a common denominator: the reinforcing or
underlining of ties between these two perspectives and a wish to reconcile differences. F.
Morenos approach, in section 3, above, recognises, as we have seen, the concerted
variation of a whole series of different factors, but accepts the possibility of studying
each factor separately to the detriment of the rest. In this respect, he warns that the
indiscriminate criticism levelled at dialectology only had a degree of justification in
the case of local monographs. In the case of geolinguistics, the upscaled methodology
means that its inherent diatopic interest compensates the partial sacrifice of other
aspects. What no one has questioned, however, is that dialectology and sociolinguistics
focus research interest on speech, on performance, and assume therefore the heterogeneous
nature of language. The sociolinguistics of variation can therefore be considered heir to
point of conflict is to be found in the consideration of social and stylistic factors.
Looking through the vast literature on dialectological research, one can hardly fail to
see the central interest in geography. And, at the same time, we find fascinating
indications of social approaches that constitute unmistakable precedents for
sociolinguistics: Gauchat, the A.I.S of Jud and Jaberg, Rohlfs, the A.L.E.I.C of
Bottiglioni, and so forth. The very emergence of the labels social dialectology, urban d
dialectology, socio-dialectology, the new dialectology, etc. can be seen as a kind of
bridge between the two. As a consequence of this terminology and lack of precision in
delimiting the conceptual scope of the different labels, we not infrequently see
differences in cataloguing within the same work. (8)
variationism incorporates some of the theoretical pillars of dialectology and shares
certain specific fundamental interests, the latter former constitutes, in my opinion, a
discipline that responds to overall principles and methodological orientations which are
distinctly different. Silva-Corvalán (1989:15) pin-points some of these differences: the
obtaining of linguistic data by recording spontaneous conversation, the use of
quantitative methods of analysis, the recognition that the linguistic homogeneity of even
the smallest place is a myth; consideration of the subjective attitudes toward the
different dialectal variants; the techniques for the obtaining and identification of
different language styles and the assumption that all individuals are capable of
communication in more than one style, of which the spontaneous style is the most difficult
for the researcher to obtain.
In the regions
where Catalan is spoken in the Spanish State, the coming of democracy (after Franco) has
meant a new ordination of the power structure which has allowed the language native to the
area to be used in formal areas of communication. Education and the media are the two most
emblematic ambits from which the standard model of the language has been transmitted with
greater or lesser intensity, depending on the territory. The emergence of this new
referential variety has created a certain dynamic of change in relation to the colloquial
geographically based varieties. It was in view of such developments that J. Ponsoda at the
Universitat dAlacant has set in motion a project designed to evaluate the impact of
the model language of the school on traditional geographical dialects. In this framework,
J.M. Baldaquí and C. Segura wrote their doctoral theses on this same topic. Representing
the group, Segura has offered us a sample
of her doctoral thesis (Segura 2001), which presents a very useful methodological hybrid
on a solidly geolectal base. Thus, the variables age and contact with the normative
variety have enabled Segura determine the direction of change taken by variable phenomena
in the county of Baix Vinalopó (Valencia).
sociolinguistics of variation, within the wider sociolinguistics framework, has continued
to advance along the difficult road towards consolidation of its paradigmatic status. The
theoretical reticence expressed by modern linguistics (in the structuralist and
generativist traditions) as well as the unbending attitude of traditional linguistics in
its dialectologist and historical variants, has not smoothed the way. Even so, having
overcome a period of manifestly hostile dialectic, the interdisciplinary debate has had
some patently favourable consequences for all concerned.
In the area of
Catalan language research, alongside the ubiquitous sociology of language, variationism
has participated in a similar way in achieving the consensus that makes possible the study
of the multilevel phenomenon of language, depending on the primary interests of the
researchers in question.
multidimensional approach I have presented here, has witnessed how the theoretical and
methodology transactions have, thanks to self-criticism and mutual dialogue, contributed
to upping the quality of research. Transferences too, both the incoming ones, and those
export, can and do have beneficial influence on language science. In short, as I see it,
the dogmatism that emanates from doctrinaire orthodox has a paralysing effect which needs
to be combated. In an area of knowledge with boundaries as diffuse as sociolinguistics
has, we need to promote mechanisms of understanding that will enable us to make advances
in a general explicative theory of language in which all of us working on it will a
suitable niche will find where we can fit in with ease.
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variació lingüística. Barcelona: PPU, p. 15-44, 1997.
"La variació lingüística: el fet i la seva significació. Caplletra 25, p. 11-20,
BIBER, D. "An
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Sociolinguistic Perspectives on Registers. New York: Oxford University Press, p. 31-36,
CARRERA, J. L'alternança
A/E al Segrià. Doctoral thesis, Universitat de Barcelona, 1999. Publicada amb el
títol Escola catalana i variació fonètica. Una evolució del vocalisme àton a
Alguaire i a Lleida. Lleida: Pagès, 2002.
FERNÁNDEZ, A. M.; PRADILLA, M. À. "De fonètica contrastiva: els africats
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Llengua i Literatura Catalanes-AILLC, Girona [in press].
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PRADILLA, M. À. "Características de las africadas alveolopalatales del
catalán oriental central". V Congreso de Lingüística General, Leon, in press.
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