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Linguistic Variation and Change

Scott F. Kiesling

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The study of variation and change is at the heart of the sociolinguistics. Providing a wide survey of the field, this textbook is organised around three constraints on variation: linguistic structure, social structure and identity, and social and linguistic perception. By considering both structure and meaning, Scott F. Kiesling examines the most important issues surrounding variation theory, including canonical studies and terms as well as challenges to them. Research in non-English and non-European contexts is also addressed.

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List of figures
List of tables
Preliminaries and acknowledgements
Terminology and Notation conventions
Phonetic notation
Part I: Questions and method
1 Questions about language and variation, and where we got them
Questions about language
Where we got the questions: From comparative philology to variationist theories
Orderly heterogeneity and constraints on its form
2 The Linguistic Variable
Definitions and types
Linguistic variables at different linguistic levels
Variable rules and their 'quiet demise'
Criticisms of the notion of linguistic variable
The tyranny of correlation and the problem of atomization
3 Discovering and Describing patterns of variation and change
Ethical linguistics
Finding language to measure
Speech communities and sampling
Getting speech: interviews and other talk
Recording and managing recordings
Coding variables
Describing patterns
Finding structure in variability
Testing statistical significance and modelling variation
Part II: Variation and social relationships
4 Social patterns I: Interspeaker variation
Canonical patterns: Accommodation
Canonical patterns: Differentiation
Challenges to canonical patterns
5 Social patterns II: Intraspeaker variation
Intraspeaker patterns, community patterns, and style
Speech event, register, genre, frame
Stance and identity
6 Meaning and social patterns
Indexicality: Meaning in the sociolinguistic variable
Experimental evidence for meaning
Indexical webs, cycles, and fields
Dimensions of social meaning in language
7 Acquisition of variation
How is variation learned?
Early childhood
Older children and adolescents
Transmission and incrementation of changes
Part III: Variation, change and linguistic structure
Introduction to Part III
8 Structural patterns I: Phonology and Morphology
Phonological variation: Patterns of change, structural effects, and explanation
Change in progress
Shifts and chain shifts

About the Author

Scott F. Kiesling is Associate Professor of Linguistics at the University of Pittsburgh. He has published on a wide variety of sociolinguistic projects. Through analyses of language in use in a number of different populations and places, he has focused on understanding how speakers create social meaning with language.


Kiesling succeeds in beginning most chapters with guiding, thought-provoking questions, outlining topics discussed in previous sections or chapters, presenting what will be discussed subsequently, and linking the previous and forthcoming theories or concepts together. He also explains findings and conclusions in technical and plain language and buttresses complex ideas with helpful examples that are sometimes related to personal hypothetical situations… This book will be particularly fitting as a textbook for introducing graduate students to linguistic variation for the first time.
- Memoria C. James, University of Texas at Austin, LINGUIST list

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