Chambers, J. K. and Trudgill, Peter, 1998:

Dialectology (second edition)

Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Pp. xiv + 201
ISBN 0 521 59378 6 (hardback) 37.50 (US$59.95); 0 521 59646 7 (paperback) 13.95 (US$22.95)

reviewed by

Nigel Armstrong

Department of French Studies, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU

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First published in Web Journal of Modern Language Linguistics in association with the publishers (to be announced). © 1998 Nigel Armstrong.
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As with Richard Hudson's CUP Sociolinguistics (first edition 1980; second 1996), the Dialectology of Chambers and Trudgill has received its second edition quite a while after the first–18 years in the latter case. Clearly, both sociolinguistics and dialectology have moved on over this period, as indeed the publication of these new editions demonstrates. Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the first edition of Dialectology was that it recognised no substantial boundary between the more venerable sub-discipline of dialectology and its newer, urban counterpart of variationist sociolinguistics. 'Chambers and Trudgill' has doubtless seen service as a textbook of sociolinguistics as much as of dialectology. The motivation behind this parallel treatment of the two sub-disciplines was (and remains) the view that sociolinguistics and dialectology share the ambition of inferring language change from language variation. Put more modestly, both approaches have the aim of 'studying language variation between and within communities', as the authors state in the preface to the new edition.

When inspecting the second edition of a book, it is to the preface that reviewers perhaps more than most readers turn, to find out how the authors feel the current edition differs from the first. The preface to the new edition is brief; in it the authors state that one of the areas most in need of revising was dialect geography, which 'had lost much of its impetus in the decades before our first edition but has since been revitalised'. The authors attribute this recovery of impetus to two factors: on the one hand relatively mechanical ones, 'stemming from technological advances in the handling of large databases', and on the other theoretical innovations 'resulting from increased representativeness in sample populations and closer attention to the social dynamics of diffusion and change'.

To this one might add a further strand of development that has taken place in the interval between the two editions: over these 18 years urban dialectology has undergone a period perhaps of consolidation rather than upheaval, equipping itself in theory and meta-theory and trying to clarify thinking about language variation in relation to rather elusive social variables such as gender. Advances in thinking about the 'sociolinguistic gender pattern' are reflected in an updated section that incorporates more recent suggestions regarding this still puzzling issue, although the current focus on the construction of gender(ed) identity or 'doing femininity/masculinity' (cf. Holmes 1997) is not referred to; justifiably perhaps in a volume which aims to include all of and only what is demonstrably of lasting value, and which must therefore wait and see how certain things settle down.

In line with these different rates and types of development in sociolinguistics and dialectology, most chapters have undergone tidying and trimming rather than radical surgery; incidentally causing one to realise to what extent the book does concentrate on sociolinguistics. Perhaps the most notable example from sociolinguistics is that 'variable rules' have disappeared in favour of 'variable constraints'. Thus it is chapter nine, 'Variability', that has seen the most expansion and updating. Whereas the section headings in the very full table of contents (see below) are virtually unchanged for the other chapters, chapter nine, introducing the 'Mechanisms of variation' section of the book, sees an entire recast of section 9.4 . This section, in the 1980 edition rather negatively entitled 'Objections to implicational scales and variable rules', discusses developments, referred to above, in thinking about the social dynamics of diffusion and change. These are principally concerned with measuring the spatial diffusion of dialect features: dialectometry and multivariate analysis (known by several other labels, all more or less rebarbative) are designed to calculate the weighting of the various linguistic and extra-linguistic variables that influence the diffusion of innovating language features.

As the authors remark (p. 137), 'It is an exciting time, and one in which the singleness of purpose [of dialectology] easily outweighs the methodological pluralism [of the discipline overall]'. In their first edition, the authors looked forward in a concluding chapter to a time when social and spatial dialectologists should work together more closely in the field of 'geolinguistics': the phrase 'secular linguistics' appears to have lost currency, evoking as it does the complementary 'sacred' or perhaps 'ecclesiastical' linguistics (p. 207, first edition). This last chapter was entitled 'Towards geolinguistics' in the first edition; in the second its title is 'Cohesion in dialectology', emphasising the unity of purpose of the various dialectologies referred to above. Certainly, recent findings in sociolinguistics are confirming the insights of the traditional, geographical dialect studies that have shown conservative rural dialects to be largely the preserve of 'NORMs': non-mobile older rural males (pp. 29—30). Variationist sociolinguists have often interpreted differences in male and female patterns of linguistic behaviour in terms of their respective orientation to rather ill-defined constructs such as 'prestige' or 'standard' language varieties. It is only relatively recently that findings from English and other languages (L. Milroy 1992; J. Milroy et al. 1994; Armstrong and Unsworth forthcoming) have brought into sharper focus a pattern of urban dialectology that is comparable to this NORM pattern: young as well as old urban males appear also to resist the introduction of non-localised (and often 'non-standard') innovative linguistic variants, while females promote them; paradoxically transforming them into standard variables by virtue of their being promoted by females.

One feature of the first edition that could have benefited from an overhaul is the curious cross-over in function between index and table of contents: the latter is fuller than is customary, but of course is not alphabetical; while the slim index has omissions that can only be repaired by recourse to the table of contents. Thus a reader wanting to see what the authors have to say about sex differentiation in language will search the index in vain in for entries under 'women', 'men', 'female', 'male', 'sex', 'gender', 'differentiation', 'pattern' (as in 'sociolinguistic gender pattern'), 'innovation', and 'change'. In fact, one can only navigate the book comfortably having thoroughly internalised its contents first, when navigational aids have become less needful.

The new edition appears at first sight to be shorter than the first, at 186 pages of substantive text compared to 205 in the 1980 edition. In reality however, the second edition has fewer pages because a smaller typeface has been used, so that more words appear on each page. The typeface in the new edition is also less attractive. As a result the new edition is harder to read. If these are economy measures, they are depressing ones, because exercised at the reader's expense.

Against this the positive features of the volume remain preponderant: the text is perspicuously and elegantly written, the visuals are good, and the subject-matter and discussions, in line with the rest of the volumes in the CUP 'Textbooks in Linguistics' series, are well pitched between the introductory and intermediate-advanced levels. The concentration in Dialectology on the basics complements Hudson's quirky, sometimes controversial but very valuable Sociolinguistics in the same series.


Armstrong, N. and S. Unsworth Sociolinguistic variation in southern French schwa. Forthcoming in Linguistics 37/1, 1999.

Chambers, J. K. and P. Trudgill (1980) Dialectology (first edition). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Holmes, J. (1997) Women, language and identity. Journal of Sociolinguistics 1/2: 225—58.

Hudson, R. (1996) Sociolinguistics (second edition; first edition 1980). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Milroy, J., L. Milroy, S. Hartley, D. Walshaw (1994) Glottal stops and Tyneside glottalisation: competing patterns of variation and change in British English. Language Variation and Change 6, 327—357.

Milroy, L. (1992) New perspectives in the analysis of sex differentiation in language. In: K. Bolton and H. Kwok (eds), Sociolinguistics Today: International Perspectives, 163—179. London/New York: Routledge.

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