Article published in:Styles, Standards and Meaning in Lesser-Studied Languages
Edited by Uri Horesh, Jonathan R. Kasstan and Miriam Meyerhoff
[Language Ecology 4:1] 2020
► pp. 73–94
Modelling stylistic variation in threatened and under-documented languages
The centrality of style is uncontested in sociolinguistics: it is an essential construct in the study of linguistic variation and change in the speech community. This is not the case in the language-obsolescence literature, where stylistic variation among endangered-language speakers is described as an ephemeral, or “marginal” resource, and where speakers exhibiting “stylistic shrinkage” become “monostylistic”. This argument is invoked in variationist theory too, where “monostylism” is presented as support for the tenets of Audience Design (Bell 1984). This article reports on a study that adopts variationist methods in a context of severe language endangerment. Evidence from two linguistic variables in Francoprovençal demonstrates the presence of socially meaningful stylistic variation among the last generation of fluent speakers, offering counter-evidence to classic claims. This evidence is used to argue that accounts of stylistic variation in language obsolescence are not sufficiently nuanced and should be reconsidered in light of recent research.
Keywords: variation and change, language obsolescence, language death, language documentation, style shifting, Francoprovençal
- 2.Structure and use in “language obsolescence”
- 3.Recent variationist research on style shifting in language obsolescence
- 4.Research design
- 4.1Language context
- 4.2Sample population
- 4.3Linguistic variables
- 4.3.1(a)-backing and rounding
- 5.1Prior results: (l)-palatalisation
- 5.2Results: (a)-backing and rounding
- 7.Conclusion and limitations
Published online: 27 July 2021
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