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First published in Web Journal of Modern Language Linguistics in association
with the publishers (to be announced). © 1998 Aidan Coveney.
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These two volumes are collections of articles, previously published between 1986 and 1995, and covering four areas considered by the editors to be central to the now well established discipline of sociolinguistics. In their Introduction, which is common to both volumes, the editors state that they have aimed both to make more readily available some of the most important and exciting research of this period, and also to provide a "state-of-the-art" account of sociolinguistics at the present time. In preparing the volumes, Cheshire and Trudgill asked twenty or so colleagues from around the world which articles they recommend to students most frequently, and so, although the volumes are not quite a sociolinguistics "hit-parade", the selection does reflect the judgement of a range of other scholars in addition to the editors themselves.
There are 28 articles in all, seven in each of the four areas referred to in the titles of the two volumes, and they are drawn from a wide variety of sources: four from Language in Society and from Discourse and Society, three from Language Variation and Change, and one each from Multilingua, International Journal of the Sociology of Language, Language, International Journal of Applied Linguistics, American Speech, Discourse Processes and Journal of Pragmatics; ten articles have previously been published in books. This diversity of sources suggests that the two volumes do indeed represent a convenient gathering together of what is undoubtedly first-rate material. Given the longevity and frequency of publication of IJSL, one might have anticipated that it would have contributed more than just the one article, but this is perhaps because the editors have chosen to give the two volumes a linguistic, rather than a sociological, focus. This choice no doubt reflects their own primary interests, but it may also be partly because many sociologists are - I have the impression - rather less concerned with language than they were in the sixties and seventies, and fewer of their courses therefore deal with sociolinguistic issues.
Has sociolinguistics become more anglocentric since the 1960s? The articles in these volumes are drawn almost exclusively from English-language sources (though several contributors are not native anglophones), and it is striking that there is far less on Third World contexts than was the case in early "readers" such as Giglioli's Language and social context or Pride and Holmes' Sociolinguistics . And whereas Ralph Fasold devoted a whole chapter to a cross-linguistic account of Address Forms in his 1990 textbook, The Sociolinguistics of Language, the topic does not appear to figure at all in the two volumes under review. Nevertheless, several of the articles deal with languages other than English (including French, German, Norwegian and Spanish), and with cross-cultural communication.
In Volume 1, the section devoted to "Multilingualism and language contact" includes: C. Roberts and P. Sayers, "Keeping the gate: how judgements are made in interethnic interviews"; R. B. Le Page, " 'You can never tell where a word comes from': language contact in a diffuse setting "; B. Horvath, "Finding a place in Sydney: migrants and language change"; P. Trudgill, "Language contact and inherent variability: the absence of hypercorrection in East Anglian present-tense verb forms". Also in this section is C. Béal's fascinating socio-pragmatic study, "Keeping the peace: a cross-cultural comparison of questions and requests in Australian English and French". She shows that differences between the ways in which speakers of French and Australian English make and interpret questions and requests can lead to miscommunication and negative stereotyping in the workplace. S. Poplack, in "Contrasting patterns of code-switching in two communities", compares Spanish/English bilinguals in New York with French/English speakers in Ottawa-Hull, Canada, and finds that "smooth", apparently sub-conscious, code-switching is far more widespread in the former group, for whom this kind of bilingual discourse signals a distinct identity. In "Cultural bases of language use among German-speakers in Hungary", Susan Gal reports on awareness of, and attitudes towards, varieties of German. In Section II, "Linguistic variation and change", all the articles except one focus on varieties of English: J. Cheshire, "English negation from an interactional perspective"; J. K. Chambers, "Dialect acquisition"; J. Milroy and L. Milroy, "Mechanisms of change in urban dialects: the role of class, social network and gender"; G. Guy and S. Boyd, "The development of a morphological class"; D. Britain, "Linguistic change in intonation: the use of high-rising terminals in New Zealand English"; G. Bailey and N. Maynor, "Decreolization?". The linguistic exception in this section is "Language planning and language change", by Ernst Håkon Jahr, who examines three examples of planned changes in Scandinavian languages: the introduction into Norwegian of the "tens + units" method of counting numbers between 21 and 99 (as in "twenty-five"), as an alternative to the traditional "units + tens" method (as in "five-and-twenty blackbirds"); the merging of certain front high vowels in Icelandic; and the devoicing of certain stops in Oslo Norwegian.
The section on "Gender" in Volume 2 includes: W. Labov, "The intersection of sex and social class in the course of linguistic change"; R. K. Herbert, "Sex-based differences in compliment behaviour"; A. Sheldon and D. Johnson, "Preschool negotiators: linguistic differences in how girls and boys regulate the expression of dissent in same- sex groups"; C. West, "Not just 'doctors' orders': directive-response sequences in patients' visits to women and men physicians"; J. Coates, "Gossip revisited: language in all-female groups"; S. Ehrlich and R. King, "Gender-based language reform and the (de)politicization of the lexicon". In "The construction of gendered discourse in Chinese-German interactions", S. Günthner analyses conversations in German between two German women working as counsellors in Chinese universities and some of their Chinese students, both male and female, and she finds that, as counsellors and as native-speakers, the German women are more powerful than their Chinese interlocutors and that their more direct, less polite way of speaking reflects this. In the "Discourse" section of Volume 2, German figures again in M. Clyne's article, "Cultural differences in the organization of academic texts: English and German". This fascinating study shows that English academic articles tend to exhibit fewer digressions and a greater "symmetry" (e.g. sections of more equal length) than do German texts, and that these norms of writing are deeply embedded in the respective cultures. The other articles in this section are: J. Holmes, "Apologies in New Zealand English"; S. Romaine and D. Lange, "The use of like as a marker of reported speech and thought: a case of grammaticalization in progress"; J. Maybin, "Children's voices: talk, knowledge and identity"; J. P. Gee, "Two styles of narrative construction and their linguistic and educational implications"; M. Stubbs, "Judging the facts: an analysis of one text in its institutional context"; T. A. van Dijk, "Principles of critical discourse analysis".
It is instructive to compare the overall content of these two volumes with the scope of sociolinguistics as defined elsewhere. Twenty years ago, Peter Trudgill edited Sociolinguistic Patterns in British English, and in his Introduction to that volume he reviewed the sub-disciplines which, at one time or another, were mentioned under the heading of sociolinguistics, from the more sociological to the more linguistic ends of the spectrum. These sub-disciplines included the Ethnography of Communication, Anthropological Linguistics and the Social Psychology of Language, and these also figured fairly prominently in the volumes edited by Giglioli and by Pride and Holmes. Now it is of course difficult to draw clear-cut boundaries between sub-disciplines such as these and, let us say, pragmatics and discourse analysis, but nevertheless the three areas mentioned above do seem to have been relegated in the two volumes under review, whilst the most notable topic to have been promoted here is Gender. This is no doubt an accurate reflection of the growth of interest in this area in recent years, though it is perhaps out of line with the overall organisation of the two volumes, since Gender is not traditionally thought of as a type of linguistic behaviour, unlike the three other sectional themes: "Multilingualism and language contact", "Linguistic variation and change" and "Discourse". (Though Günthner does refer to gender as "learned social behaviour" on page 153 of Volume 2.) In contrast with the two volumes under review here, another recent collection (Sociolinguistics. A reader and coursebook, edited by N. Coupland and A. Jaworski) adopts both a longer time-depth and a broader scope, so finding space for extracts from many "classics" from the 1960s, as well as important topics such as style and attitudes. The main strength of the Cheshire and Trudgill volumes is that they provide in-depth and up-to-date coverage of their selected areas, and they are therefore suited to more advanced students. The editors have written brief introductions, with suggestions for further reading, for each of the four sections, and both volumes are completed by general subject indexes.