Social borders meet linguistic variation. One-way influence or interdependent relationships?

Social borders meet linguistic variation. One-way influence or interdependent relationships?

Mikołaj Nkollo (Poznań)

Linguistic variation, be it of historical or synchronous character, is an important methodological tool enabling scholars to track various social borders found inside a given speech community. Moreover, some of the variables – region, literacy, type of communicative situations and age – are good predictors for those scholars who look ahead to identify future dividing lines. Yet, a certain imbalance intrinsic to this approach is due to the fact that the orders found in a given speech community are perceived as prompting linguistic variation rather than the other way round.
This session relies on the assumption that rather than being unidirectional (stemming from language-external factors and reflected in grammar), the dependence has a mutual nature. The concept of diglossia is thought to help analyze how grammatical variation can shape borders in a given speech community. Aside from being taken in its traditional meaning as depicting sociolinguistic situations in which two varieties of one language or two distinct languages are used in the same area for different purposes, diglossia is going to be extended so as to cover two competing individual grammars. The latter are assumed to represent one of the mechanisms triggering linguistic variation, and, ultimately, consolidating social contrasts. This view is an extension of David Lightfoot’s (2006) idea that grammatical change comes about only during language acquisition. It originates from individual cues available to new generations of speakers that compute a large-scale grammatical system on the basis of parent’s speech. The change boils, then, down to a series of micro-scale transitions between synchronically stable individual grammars. The principal mechanism prompting the change is the devious imitation of older generation’s grammatical habits.
Papers submitted to this session therefore deal with those instances of language variation that both reflect and prompt divisions found inside a given speech community or between two neighboring communities.


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