Edited by Gunther De Vogelaer and Matthias Katerbow
[Studies in Language Variation 20] 2017
► pp. 1–41
Chapter 1. Bridging the gap between language acquisition and sociolinguistics
Introduction to an interdisciplinary topic
Despite repeated calls for in-depth research, the acquisition of patterns of sociolinguistic variation has long been an underinvestigated topic both in sociolinguistics and in language acquisition research. With the exception of a few exploratory studies, most notably Labov (1964), it has long been rare for sociolinguistic research to focus on non-adults, whereas most research on language acquisition tended to take place in a sociolinguistic vacuum (see, e.g. Mills 1985: 142 and Labov 1989: 96 for statements to this effect). Over the last few years, however, the situation seems to be changing. Two reasons may be given for this: first, and quite trivially perhaps, technical advancements are making it possible to gather, store and explore data in cheap and efficient ways, providing researchers with the necessary data to conduct empirically sound research on the topic. And second, parallel to a paradigm shift from rule-based to usage-based conceptions of grammar, linguistic variation has moved into the centre of the attention of theoretical linguistics. As a result, the acquisition of variation can now be considered an ‘emergent topic’ in research on language variation in general.
The aim of this book is to offer a state-of-the-art of current research on the topic, thereby focusing on two particular objectives: (1) the acquisition of sociolinguistic variation presents itself as an interesting research topic for sociolinguists and psycholinguists working on acquisition, but also for a broad range of other sub-disciplines of linguistics, including historical linguistics, dialectology, and for researchers working in different theoretical frameworks. This book aims at bridging the gap between these disciplines and frameworks and allowing an interdisciplinary perspective on the topic; and (2) in order to enable cross-linguistic comparison, the book wants to bring together research carried out in different sociolinguistic constellations, as most obviously found in different language areas or different countries.
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