Emergent sociolinguistic variation in severe language endangerment

Kasstan, J. 2019. Emergent sociolinguistic variation in severe language endangerment. Language in Society. Advanced online publication. doi:10.1017/S0047404519000472

TitleEmergent sociolinguistic variation in severe language endangerment
TypeJournal article
AuthorsKasstan, J.
Abstract

Contrary to Labov’s Principle of style shifting, studies in language obsolescence portray speakers of dying languages as ‘monostylistic’, a characterization questioned here. Variationist methodology is adopted in a context of gradual language death. By combining quantitative and interactional analyses of data from older, younger, and new speakers of Francoprovençal in France and Switzerland, the article considers (a) to what extent variability in language obsolescence differs from that found in ‘healthy’ languages, and (b) how innovations might spread through communities speaking threatened languages characterized as ‘monostylistic’ and lacking overt normative infrastructure. It is argued that style variation (not monostylism) emerges from linguistic decay: among more fluent speakers, a categorical rule of /l/-palatalization before obstruents becomes underspecified, rendering palatalization available for strategic use. Among new speakers, novel palatal variants form part of an emergent sociolinguistic norm. The study offers fresh insights on the origins of sociolinguistic variation with implications for variationist theory.

Keywordslanguage obsolescence
language death
language variation and change
style variation
new speakers
JournalLanguage in Society
ISSN0047-4045
Year2019
PublisherCambridge University Press
Accepted author manuscriptLSY-A-18-120.R1-KASSTAN-PDF.pdf
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1017/S0047404519000472
Publication dates
Published online29 Jul 2019

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