New speakers: Challenges and opportunities for variationist sociolinguistics

Kasstan, J. 2017. New speakers: Challenges and opportunities for variationist sociolinguistics. Language and Linguistics Compass . 11 (8) e12249. https://doi.org/10.1111/lnc3.12249

TitleNew speakers: Challenges and opportunities for variationist sociolinguistics
TypeJournal article
AuthorsKasstan, J.
Abstract

While the field of variationist sociolinguistics has advanced rapidly since Labov (1966), it remains the case that a socially informed theory of language change continues to be influenced by only very few languages, typically English and a handful other dominant European languages. This article considers recent work on the emergence of new speakers in (severely) endangered or minority language communities, and what they might have to offer variationist theory. Although definitions can vary, it has become convention to describe new speakers as individuals ‘with little or no home or community exposure to a minority language but who instead acquire it through immersion or bilingual education programs, revitalization projects or as adult language learners’ (O'Rourke, Pujolar, & Ramallo, 2015: 1). There is now a wealth of literature available on new speakers in typologically dissimilar language contexts, though, so far, very little work has adopted the variationist paradigm. This article will argue that new speakers can figure prominently in variationist models of diffusion and change, taking the classic sociolinguistic factor of social networks as an example. The article ends by proposing a manifesto of potential research trajectories, based on current gaps in the literature.

KeywordsNew speakers
Language variation and change
Variationist theory
Sociolinguistics
Article numbere12249
JournalLanguage and Linguistics Compass
Journal citation11 (8)
ISSN1749-818X
Year2017
PublisherWiley
Accepted author manuscript
File Access Level
Open (open metadata and files)
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1111/lnc3.12249
Publication dates
Published25 Aug 2017

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