Publication details [#54181]

Publication type
Article in book
Publication language
Place, Publisher
John Benjamins


Correlational sociolinguistics is ‘vertically’ oriented. Initially, the major aim of correlational sociolinguistics was to explain differences in speech varieties with the help of social constructs (by means of their correlation with verbal production features), which were abstracted from concrete interaction. The main emphasis of the research has since shifted to the question of speech variation as part of social change. A prerequisite of all studies of language change is the comparability of the phenomena which undergo change. Socially induced change is indicated by the area in which the vocabulary (lexicon) prevails and by the grammaticalization of selected means of expression, if the identity of old and new can be methodologically established. Certain semantic and grammatical features are isolated as a structural domain, where their maximal dimension is defined, and their change is described within a codified continuum. In other words, the range of variation is defined by linguistic variables. The different forms of the variables are systematically correlated with constructs of social structures; the latter appear as functionalized feature forms, whose relationship with linguistic variables is measured (there are criteria for the validity of the type and quality of the correlation figures). Underlying correlational sociolinguistics, which deals with the finality of change, is the following axiom: Speakers have a natural basic variety which is spontaneous and not consciously controlled; verbal and non-verbal restrictions (constraints) operate on this basic variety. Parts of the variety and norm systems can be restructured within the framework of a general social structure, adapted to new conditions, and interpreted as an achievement of assimilation to social change. While the ‘horizontal’ sociolinguistic perspective has its roots in speech act theory, ‘vertical’ sociolinguistics emerged from the tradition of dialectology. In the present paper, correlational sociolinguistics (CSL) are presented in detail and evaluated from the viewpoint of pragmatic research. It addresses concepts of linguistic variation and especially the variationist paradigm.The aim of CLS is to describe grammatical change as a socially conditioned process at a historical moment, and as a systematic occurrence (rather than a phenomenon bound to singular interaction contexts). Only wide corpus analyses, which are supposed to cover everyday and institutional language use, can secure the authenticity of rules.There are two categories of data that belong to a sociolinguistic description following the variationist approach: linguistic and social. The undisputed opinion in sociolinguistics that the variationist approach is teleogically orientated towards the recording of processes of language change is based on the correlational methodology. Correlational sociolinguistics contribute to the explanation of the vertical dimension of linguistic and communicative variation; it shows the systemic subliminal social forces which steer the cognitive orientation of social action in an instance of interaction.