What’s in a sociolinguistic norm? The case of change in prevocalic /r/ in Received Pronunciation: From the book Norms and the Study of Language in Social Life

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The field of Labovian quantitative sociolinguistics, also referred to as sociolinguistic studies of Language Variation and Change (hereafter LVC), to the extent it uses the term at all, understands linguistic norms as norms of production and perception and, crucially, evaluation of linguistic performance. These norms and the behaviors they constrain have traditionally played a central role in circumscribing speech communities, the bounded sets of speakers that feature in sociolinguistic studies. In this conception, some combination of norms will be shared within, but not outside, a speech community, at whatever scale we are considering. The establishment of these boundaries is then a matter of empirical investigation. In this case, scale can matter, because some patterns of variable production will be nation-wide (or worldwide), while others will be more local. The indeterminate and perception-driven status of the speech community comes out in Eckert’s definition of the speech community as “an aggregate of people who are committed to talking the same, in the face of the fact that they don’t quite” (2018: 165). Speakers are hereby participating in a belief (or ideology, or tacit understanding) that all members speak the same way, and in that sense are conforming to norms that delineate the speech community, although performance, measured quantitatively and statistically, will not be identical for all speakers. Sociolinguistic norms (and deviance from them) also carry indexical and ideological baggage, as Fabricius and Mortensen (2013) and Mortensen (2014) demonstrate. The concept of ‘construct resource’ discussed in those papers will be revisited here in a discussion of to what extent we can understand processes of sociolinguistic change as norm–transformation. The paper considers the example of the trajectory of change in prevocalic /r/ in Received Pronunciation, the elite sociolect of the United Kingdom.
TitelNorms and the Study of Language in Social Life
RedaktørerJanus Mortensen, Kamilla Kraft
Antal sider28
ForlagDe Gruyter
Publikationsdato21 mar. 2022
ISBN (Trykt)9781501511882
ISBN (Elektronisk)9781501519147
StatusUdgivet - 21 mar. 2022
NavnLanguage and Social Life

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