Category: Research Paper
* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.Abstract
We have applied inductive learning of statistical decision trees to the Natural Language Processing (NLP) task of morphosyntactic disambiguation (Part Of Speech Tagging). Previous work showed that the acquired language models are independent enough to be easily incorporated, as a statistical core of rules, in any flexible tagger. They are also complete enough to be directly used as sets of POS disambiguation rules. We have implemented a quite simple and fast tagger that has been tested and evaluated on the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) corpus with a remarkable accuracy. In this paper we basically address the problem of tagging when only small training material is available, which is crucial in any process of constructing, from scratch, an annotated corpus. We show that quite high accuracy can be achieved with our system in this situation. In addition we also face the problem of dealing with unknown words under the same conditions of lacking training examples. In this case some comparative results and comments about close related work are reported.
This research has been partially funded by the Spanish Research Department (CI-CYT's ITEM project TIC96-1243-C03-02), by the EU Commission (EuroWordNet LE4003) and by the Catalan Research Department (CIRIT's quality research group 1995SGR 00566).
All tags appearing in the paper are from the Penn Treebank tag set. They are described in figure 2. For a complete description see for instance (Marcus et a1.93).References
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15. Notional and functional parts of speech. Notional parts of speechThe linguistic evidence drawn from our grammatical study makes it possible to divide all the words of the language into:
The division of language units into notion and function words reveals the interrelation of lexical and grammatical types of meaning. In notional words the lexical meaning is predominant. In function words the grammatical meaning dominates over the lexical one. However, in actual speech the border line between notional and function words is not always clear cut. Some notional words develop the meanings peculiar to function words - e.g. seminotional words - to turn, to get, etc.
Notional words constitute the bulk of the existing word stock while function words constitute a smaller group of words. Although the number of function words is limited (there are only about 50 of them in Modem English), they are the most frequently used units.
The features of the noun are the following: 1) the categorical meaning of substance ("thingness); 2) the changeable forms of number and case; the specific forms of derivation; 3) the substantive function in the sentence (subject, object, predicative); prepositional connections; modification by an adjective.
The features of the adjective . 1) the categorical meaning of property (qualitative and relative); 2) the forms of the degrees of comparison (for qualitative adjectives); the specific forms of derivation; 3) adjectival functions in the sentence (attribute to a noun; adjectival predicative)
The features of the numeral . 1) the categorical meaning of number (cardinal and ordinal); 2) the narrow set of simple numerals; the specific forms of composition for compound numerals; the functions of numerical attribute and numerical substantive.
The features of the pronoun . 1) the categorical meaning of indication (deixis); 2) the narrow set of various status with the corresponding formal properties of categorical changebility and word-building; 3) the substantival and adjectival functions for different sets.
The features of the verb: 1) the categorical meaning of process; 2) the forms of the verbal categories of person, number, tense, aspect, voice, mood; the opposition of the finite and non-finite forms; 3) the function of the finite predicate for the finite verb.
The features of the adverb . 1) the categorical meaning of the secondary property (the property of process or another property); 2) the forms of the degrees of comparison for qualitative adverbs; the specific forms of derivation; 3) the functions of various adverbial modifiers.
Writing a research report requires focusing the topic into a specific area of study. According to Chilin Shih from the University of Illinois, phonetics is a term used to describe the study of sounds in human speech. When looking for a research paper topic relating to phonetics, the topic must relate to sounds in some manner.Comparison Topic
Since phonetics is the study of speech and sounds, one option for research is comparisons between countries. There are a few ways students can break down their research when doing a comparison topic: compare countries that speak the same language, such as Britain and America, compare different language sounds or compare dialects from the same country and the way sounds differ or are the same.Singing Vs. Speech
Students can research singing and the sounds associated with singing and the differences and similarities between singing and speech. For example, during singing the voice might have more enunciation in sounds while in speech the words might have less enunciation. Students might research how the vocal folds work in singing and in speech and compare the two.Influences on Speech
Writing a paper on the items that influence speech and sounds is another option for a paper. For example, write a paper based on the question "what makes people talk faster?" or "what makes people talk slower?" or on factors that influence accents, dialects or expressiveness in speech.Child Speech Research
Children have an amazing capacity to learn speech when they are young. Students might research speech as it relates to children and the development of speech through childhood. Topics might cover development of speech, growth of speaking or non-speech communication sounds.
theoretical and practical value. The object of investigation is the adverb, including simple, derived, compound and composite. The subject of research is the paradigmatic correlation and syntagmatic peculiarities of adverbs, their combinability patterns. Such methods of investigation, as structural-semantic, distributional and the elements of the quantitative analysis are used in this paper. The tasks of the diploma paper are: to determine the categorial meaning of the adverb and its formal characteristics; to carry out the analysis of syntactic functions of the adverb; to analyze the main classes of adverbs; to compare paradigmatically relevant classifications of the adverb; to explore syntactic valency and combinability patterns of adverbs; to examine the use of adverbs of
degree and to determine their semantic preferences. According to the spheres of concern the work falls into an Introduction, three chapters, conclusions and the list of references which together with the appendix comprises __ pages. Chapter 1 deals with the analysis of the adverb in accord with the 3-criteria principle of the lexico-grammatical word classification. Chapter 2 is concerned with the paradigmatic relations of adverbs, providing the semantic and lexico-grammatical classifications of the adverb. In Chapter 3 semantic and syntactic valencies of adverbs and their realization in speech are described. Most of the examples presented in this diploma paper are taken form modern English dictionaries. Chapter 1. The adverb in English theoretical grammar Categorial meaning of
the adverb In accord with the 3-criteria principle of the lexico-grammatical word classification (semantic, formal and functional) , parts of speech are discriminated on the basis of: common categorial meaning; common paradigm (morphological form and specific forms of derivation); common syntactic function. The categorical meaning of the adverb is secondary property which implies qualitative, quantitative, or circumstantial characteristics of actions, states, qualities. The adverb is usually defined as a word expressing either property of an action, or property of another property, or circumstances in which an action occurs [22, 146]. From this definition it is difficult to define adverbs as a class, because they comprise a most heterogeneous group of words, and there is
considerable overlap between the class and other word classes. They have many kinds of form, meaning and function. Alongside such undoubtful adverbs as here, now, often, seldom, always, there are many others which also function as words of other classes. Such words which are different in their lexical meaning and also in their grammatical category (part of speech) but identical in their form are interparadigmatic homonyms (lexical-grammatical) [17, 118]. Thus, adverbs like dead (dead tired), clear (to get clear away), clean (I've clean forgotten), slow, easy (he would say that slow and easy) coincide with corresponding adjectives (a dead body, clear waters, clean hands). Adverbs like past, above, in, up, down, about, since, before, over are homonymous with prepositions. There is
also a special group of pronominal adverbs when, where, how, why used either as interrogative words or as connectives to introduce subordinate clauses [3, 87]: Where would you like to go? (an interrogative pronominal adverb) We’ll go where you want. (a conjunctive pronominal adverb) Some adverbs may be used rather like a verb, as in “Up. Jenkins! Down, Peter!”, where the first word is like an imperative [25, 92]. There are three adverbs connected with numerals: once, twice, and thrice (the latter being archaic). They denote measure or frequency: She went there once a week . I saw him twice last month . Twice is also used in the structure twice as long, etc. [22, 92]. He is twice as tall as his brother . She is twice as clever . Beginning with three the idea
of frequency or repetition is expressed by the phrases three times, four times [25, 92]: He went there four times. He is four times as bigger. She is ten times cleverer. [25, 92] In many cases the border-line between adverbs and words of the other classes is defined syntactically: I called out to him as he ran past . (adverb) I called out to him as he ran past the house . (preposition) We were locked in . (adverb) We were locked in the warehouse . (preposition) He did everything slowly but surely . (adverb) Surely you know him . (modal word) The definition of adverb presented above, though certainly informative and instructive, also fails to directly point out the relation between the adverb and the adjective as the primary qualifying part of speech. In an
During the past four and a half decades, studies of the relations between language and society have coalesced to form the field of academic research known as sociolinguistics. In 1952 the late Haver C. Currie published a paper, first drafted in 1949, entitled “Projection of sociolinguistics: the relationship of speech to social status” (reprinted in 1971). It took some time for the term “sociolinguistics,” for which Currie claims priority, to take root, but by the early 1960s the first sociolinguistic conferences were being held and anthologies of articles dealing with properties of language calling for the inclusion of social factors in their analysis had started to appear. In the meantime, hundreds of research papers and books on the social organization of language behavior have been published, and sociolinguistics has become a recognized branch of the social sciences with its own scholarly journals, conferences, textbooks, and readers of seminal articles. The sociolinguistic enterprise has grown so much that it is difficult to keep up with developments in its various subfields. Written by leading researchers in the field, this Handbook offers an introduction to and an overview of the state of the art in key areas of sociolinguistic inquiry.
The Micro–Macro Distinction
The primary concern of sociolinguistic scholarship is to study correlations between language use and social structure. Its focus is different from other disciplines that take an interest in language, in particular from what are sometimes called “autonomous” or “theoretical linguistics,” psycholinguistics, and neurolinguistics, which are interested respectively in the human mind, the individual's acquisition and use of language, and the cognitive and biological apparatus of language storage and processing. Sociolinguistics is concerned with describing language use as a social phenomenon and, where possible, it attempts to establish causal links between language and society, pursuing the complementary questions of what language contributes to making community possible and how communities shape their languages by using them. Since sociolinguistics is a meeting ground for linguists and social scientists, some of whom seek to understand the social aspects of language while others are primarily concerned with linguistic aspects of society, it is not surprising that there are as it were two centers of gravity, known as micro- and macro-sociolinguistics or alternatively sociolinguistics in the narrow sense and sociology of language. These represent different orientations and research agendas, micro-issues being more likely to be investigated by linguists, dialectologists, and others in language-centered fields, whereas macro-issues are more frequently taken up by sociologists and social psychologists. However, there is general agreement that both perspectives are indispensable for a full understanding of language as a social phenomenon.
Stated in very general terms, micro-sociolinguistics investigates how social structure influences the way people talk and how language varieties and patterns of use correlate with social attributes such as class, sex, and age. Macro-sociolinguistics, on the other hand, studies what societies do with their languages, that is, attitudes and attachments that account for the functional distribution of speech forms in society, language shift, maintenance, and replacement, the delimitation and interaction of
Introduction. The Handbook of Sociolinguistics. Blackwell Reference Online
speech communities. Along these lines, the organization of this book also reflects the micro–macro distinction: Part I addresses two fundamental issues, the historical evolution of sociolinguistic thought (Le Page) and the basics of language demography (Verdoodt). This is followed by Part II which deals with social dimensions of language, or micro-issues, and Part III which deals with linguistic dimensions of society, or macro-issues. A range of applications of sociolinguistic research is treated in Part IV. This partition offers some orientation, but the assignment of chapters to Parts II and III should not be regarded as more than it is, a matter of emphasis.
Many questions can be investigated with equal justification within microor macro-sociolinguistics. For instance, Uriel Weinreich's (1968) concern with language contact focused on the traces that can be detected in linguistic systems of the contact and interaction of neighboring speech communities through their bilingual members. However, the preconditions and consequences of language contact involve a range of interesting phenomena, social and linguistic, which have both microand macroaspects. The following can all be viewed as consequences of language contact: Language generation, i.e. pidginization and creolization; language degeneration, i.e. language displacement; and novel patterns of language use, i.e. code-switching. Of these and some other matters, such as diglossia and the investigation of terms of address and kinship systems, it is impossible to say, without making arbitrary decisions, whether they should be treated properly in microor macro-sociolinguistics. Myers-Scotton's two books (1993a, b) dealing with microand macro-aspects of code-switching respectively, were originally conceived as one, but for technical reasons they were eventually published separately. Thus the divorce of sociolinguistics proper from the sociology of language is often one of appearance rather than substance. There is no sharp dividing line between the two, but a large area of common concern. Although sociolinguistic research centers about a number of different key issues, any rigid micro–macro compartmentalization seems quite contrived and unnecessary in the present state of knowledge about the complex interrelationships between social and linguistic structures. Contributions to a better understanding of language as a necessary condition and product of social life will continue to come from both quarters. Most articles in this Handbook draw in various proportions on insights from social sciences and language sciences.
Theories but No Theory
Some sociolinguists tend to be very defensive about their double reliance on social and language sciences because they consider this the major reason for what has been diagnosed as the theoretical deficit of sociolinguistics. Some expectations concerning the relationship between linguistics and other social sciences have not been borne out. In the heyday of structuralism, linguistics, particularly phonology, was envied for its systematic stringency and even celebrated as a model to be emulated by other social sciences (Lévi-Strauss, 1963). In the meantime, social scientists and linguists have parted company and the relationship between linguistics and the social sciences has been radically redefined. Social theory has gone its own system-theoretic way, maintaining at best a very esoteric interest in language and more commonly ignoring altogether the role of language in constructing society. At the same time, the advent of the powerful generative paradigm in linguistics led mainstream linguists to turn their back on society and sociology. The following quote is representative of the importance linguists attribute to the social functions of language.
It is obvious that different communities exhibit variation in their speech: people in Paris speak French while those in Washington speak English and those in Montreal cope with both; it is equally clear that children don't speak the same way as their grandparents, that males and females are not necessarily identical in their linguistic abilities, and so on. In short, any social parameter whatsoever may be the locus of some linguistic difference. Unfortunately nothing of interest to linguistic theory follows from this.
If it is true that there is nothing of theoretical importance in variation, then it is obvious that linguistics fails to address a whole range of questions which would be asked by many who want to understand what language is and how it works. Some such questions are the following:
Introduction. The Handbook of Sociolinguistics. Blackwell Reference Online
How is it that language can fulfill the function of communication despite variation?
What exactly does it mean that people in Washington and Montreal speak “English,” even though it is clear for everyone with ears to listen that what is spoken in these two places differs in many significant ways?
What part of the speech of Anglo-Canadians in Montreal is baffling if only English is considered, but easily explained if we take notice of the fact that it coexists and, in the heads and conversations of bilinguals, interacts with French?
Is the range of language units that are judged to be the same and treated as such by linguists defined by physical parameters or social conventions?
Why do languages change, and what does it mean that they do; that is, what kind of an object is it that changes while in some sense preserving its identity?
By not admitting questions of this sort to its agenda; by refusing even to consider the possibility that the social factors of language should play a role in its analysis because language is essentially a socially constituted system; and by discounting variation as an imperfection rather than recognizing it as an inherent feature of human behavior and the working of the human mind, linguistics has constructed language as a highly abstract object about which statements can be made in the framework of a coherent theory. The question, however, is what this theory has to say about the nature of language.
Dismissing, as it does, variation as an accidental feature of language, linguistic theory does not even allow us to rely on empirical evidence, let alone make empirical evidence the basis of our understanding of what (a) language is. Since it is, as Smith says, evident that “different communities exhibit variation in their speech,” it would seem equally evident that this is something to be accounted for by a theory of language.
Speech is what creates community and mediates between individuals and members of various subgroups who, as all experience tells us, are able to communicate with each other in spite of the fact that their codes are not completely congruous. If Occam's razor is applied, as a necessary abstraction for the sake of the theory, to variation and a homogeneous speech community is assumed, one might as well assume no community at all and conceive of Homo loquens as a solipsistic being which uses language as a means of organizing its thoughts, but has no need or ability to communicate these to others. Linguistic theory is hence a theory about language without human beings. It is a formal model of structural relationships of which it is basically unknown how they relate to actual speech. Whatever the merits of this model, it is hardly the theory that will help unravel the structural foundations of society which linguistics was once expected to provide.
On the other hand, as pointed out above, sociological theory generally pays minimal attention to language. Durkheim, Weber, and Parsons took little interest in language as a social fundamental. And even where language is assigned a role in the sociological enterprise of explaining social facts, as in Alfred Schütz's (1965) concept of “intersubjectivity,” the foundation of ethnomethodology, or in Habermas's (1985) “universal pragmatics,” it is at a highly abstract level probing the (universal) conditions that make social interaction possible. Only a few social scientists investigate actual speech or have anything to say about its variable nature. Sociological studies that are based on actual speech data, such as those by Bernstein (1971), Cicourel (1991), and Grimshaw (1980) are rare and not widely credited for contributing much to social theory. Thus, sociological dealings with language have not produced a theory of language use in social contexts any more than linguistics has.
To construct such a theory is seen by some as a vital task for putting sociolinguistics on more solid theoretical foundations (Figueroa, 1994). However, sociolinguists are divided among themselves as to the feasibility of such an endeavor. Fasold (1990: viiiff.) has expressed pessimism about a unified theory of sociolinguistics on a par with that of “linguistics proper,” whereas Romaine (1994: 221ff.) thinks that such a theory is both desirable and feasible. It should, she argues, not only supplement linguistic theory with respect to phenomena which cannot be explained properly without reference to social factors, but should indeed form the core of a “socially constituted” theory of language, i.e. an alternative paradigm for studying all aspects of language.
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On the sociological side, Williams (1992) has castigated sociolinguistics for failing to produce a theory of its own while at the same time uncritically relying on Parsonian structural functionalism and the individualistic consensualist view of society associated with it. He calls for a conflict model of society to be taken as the cornerstone of a sociolinguistic theory which takes into account social-class relations and power differentials within and across speech communities in analyzing the social forces governing speech behavior. The most promising approach to such a sociolinguistics, he argues, may be found in the work of French sociologists such as Bourdieu (1977) and Achard (1993). Many will grant Williams the proposal that a theory about language in society will not only be toothless but miss a crucial point if it fails to address power and social control. However, there is little agreement among sociologists about society's class stratification, and sociolinguists can hardly be expected to provide a definition that would turn social class into an unambiguous and operational concept. Thus, some of the difficulties that stand in the way of a convincing sociolinguistic theory stem from the fact that sociologists take language for granted rather than as an object of theorizing and at the same time they fail to furnish a social theory to which a theory of language use can be easily linked.
Another aspect of the theory question is that scientific fields differ considerably with respect to the importance that is accorded to theories. Sociology is a field that emphasizes abstract theories more than other social sciences, and sociologists have little patience with purely descriptive research. The same can be said of “linguistics proper.” The major purpose of empirical studies in both sociology and linguistics is to test theories. By contrast, sociolinguistics is preoccupied with descriptive research. Methodological questions concerning the delimitation, collection, and processing of empirical data have therefore been much more in the foreground than theory construction. Survey sampling, participant observation, questionnaire design, interview and elicitation techniques, multivariate analyses and other methodological tools have been developed or adapted to fit language data. In contradistinction to the formal modelling along the lines of syntactic theory, logic, and computer science, sociolinguistic method is mostly empirical, dealing as it does with observable speech behavior. This is not to say, however, that sociolinguistic research is atheoretical. As documented in this Handbook. a number of viable theories have grown out of sociolinguistic research. The emphasis here is on the plural, because there can be no denying that a single all-embracing sociolinguistic theory does not exist. However, this is a result not of the empirical inclination of sociolinguistics and its emphasis on descriptive studies, but simply of the great diversity of phenomena that sociolinguists investigate. A brief overview of the major sociolinguistic phenomena requiring theoretical explanation by reference to general principles or laws must suffice here.
An important current of sociolinguistic research focuses on language change, and some of the most influential scholars in the field consider that the proper task of a sociolinguistic theory should be to explain and predict language change. Although based on assumptions that differ considerably in detail, this is the common position underlying three major recent works (Milroy, 1992; Labov, 1994; Chambers, 1994). What are the causes and mechanisms of language change? Why are certain distinctions maintained while others are lost? What are the forces that resist language change? What are the underlying principles that make predictions of changes in select communities possible? Such are the questions dealt with in this area of sociolinguistic scholarship. In this Handbook they are addressed in the chapters by Bright (5) and Denison (4).
Closely related to the pursuit of knowledge about language change is variation research. Indeed, both are often subsumed under the same heading, historical change being conceived as one kind of variation. Among the general questions addressed in this connection are the following: What is language variation and what does it imply for our conception of what (a) language is? What are the relevant social attributes that have a bearing on language variation? How do temporal, regional, and social variations interact? These and related issues are dealt with in the chapters by Honey (6) and Lesley and James Milroy (3). In addition, more specific issues concerning variation are the subject of three other chapters by Wolfram (7, dialect), Wodak and Benke (8, sex), and Eckert (9, age).
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The medium of communication is yet another dimension of linguistic variation sociolinguistic research should direct more attention to than it has in the past. Two chapters specifically devoted to this general area have therefore been included in this Handbook: Roberts and Street (10) discuss the role of literacy in society and the differences between spoken and written language. They argue that literacy should not be conceptualized as a technology, but rather as a social practice which can be understood only if it is seen in interaction with other communication practices. Concentrating on a kind of communicative practice typical of modern society, Leitner (11) reviews research carried out over the past several years on communication styles and language varieties characteristic of mass media.
Another major theme in sociolinguistic research is the symbolic function of language as a means of group formation. In treating this theme, theories have been proposed about language in ethnic group relations (Giles, Bourhis, and Taylor, 1977; Landry and Allard, 1994); language alliance as acts of identity (Le Page and Tabouret-Keller, 1985); linguistic nationalism and language shift and loyalty (Fishman, 1978, 1993; Gal, 1979). The chapters by Fishman (20) and Tabouret-Keller (19) address major findings in this area. McConnell's chapter (21) puts the sociolinguistic universe of the language usage of human groups into a global perspective.
A great deal of effort by sociolinguists has been devoted to the investigation of social aggregates characterized by the use by some or all of its members of two or more languages. Once again, much work in this field is descriptive and taxonomic with an emphasis on identifying and differentiating different patterns of speech involving more than one language. Several explanations of coexisting or competing languages in the speech behavior of individuals and groups have been advanced which are theoretical in nature, constitute testable hypotheses, or models which can then be evaluated with regard to how large a proportion of such a corpus they can satisfactorily account for. Deserving of mention here is work about the functional distribution of languages in a society associated with the notion of “diglossia” (Ferguson, 1959); the dynamics of societal multilingualism involving language shift (Veltman, 1983) and language attrition (Dorian, 1977); and code-switching (Blom and Gumperz, 1972). These aspects of the sociolinguistic research agenda are reviewed in the chapters by Schiffman (12, diglossia), Clyne (18, multilingualism), Nelde (17, language conflict), and Myers-Scotton (13, code-switching).
The retreat or replacement of languages and the emergence of new ones must also be seen as effects of multilingualism and language contact. These phenomena, which have attracted much attention with research topics on both the level of language structure and patterns of usage, are treated in the chapters by Rickford and McWhorter (14), Craig (15), and Brenzinger (16).
The linguistic relativity hypothesis, which occupied an important position in the works of Sapir and Whorf, has also played a role in sociolinguistics. When Bernstein (1971) first introduced the notions of a “restricted” and “elaborated” code, these were rather hastily interpreted on the background of relativistic and deterministic assumptions. Differential cognitive abilities of the speakers of the codes Bernstein had identified seemed to be an inescapable consequence. A bigger problem than the fact that such a difference could not be substantiated was that it was politically unwelcome. Bernstein's approach to class-related differences in speech behavior was therefore quickly put aside and influenced the development of sociolinguistic discourse perhaps less than it should have done.
Whether or to what extent the structure of one's language (assuming it is only one) shapes one's view of the world remains an unresolved issue. Yet the idea that language exercises an influence on people's perception and concepts is still espoused by many (Lucy, 1992) and often forms the underlying paradigm for describing the relation between language and society (Chaika, 1989). The view that gender-related language variation corresponds to different views of the world and that misunderstandings between men and women arise because the male and female world views as encoded in language do not coincide is an instance of Whorfian relativism that has proved to be quite popular. Stubbs's chapter (22) gives an overview of research into linguistic relativism and examines
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the question of what kind of speech data can be used for raising work along these lines to a level of empirical testability.
Relativism is also an issue when it comes to the problem of comparing speech communities, their linguistic resources, and conventions of language use. In this connection many descriptions of politeness phenomena in various languages have been published in recent years and have stimulated theoretical discussions about such questions as whether politeness can be defined independently of a given language or speech community; whether it can be measured and how it can be compared across languages; and whether politeness should be construed as a notion belonging to the language system, language use, or both. On the basis of a review of an extensive body of literature, Kasper's chapter (23) assesses the findings and makes suggestions for viable approaches in the study of linguistic politeness.
Applications of Sociolinguistic Research
From its inception, sociolinguistics has been concerned in a very practical sense with the functions language fulfills in social institutions and the organization of society. Research into the relationship between dialect and social class grew out of a perception that, in many settings, language was used as a means of social control and discrimination. Much work reflects a desire to understand better the ways in which language is used to perpetuate social distinctions, power differentials, advantages, and stigmas. Thus sociolinguistics has always been and continues to be a field of scholarship in which potential applications of research findings are readily apparent. For example, school curricula have traditionally presupposed standard language, ignoring the fact that the standard is accorded preferred status for social reasons alone and is hence closer to the speech of some children than to that of others. That, by virtue of this class-related distinction and the higher prestige associated with standard language, the language that is spoken in the surroundings of children's primary socialization influences their life chances was recognized as one of the linguistic mechanisms of sustaining social systems, a mechanism that stood in the way of realizing equality of opportunity.
Many sociolinguistic projects were therefore designed not only to understand the properties and functions of class-specific speech and the differences between standard language and dialects, but also to enable both teachers and pupils to cope with these differences in a non-discriminatory way and thus help reduce language-related prejudice. Language in socialization and education are two areas of applied sociolinguistic scholarship that have been especially active and prolific. They are reviewed in this Handbook by Verhoeven (chapter 24).
In the wake of extensive migration across linguistic and national borders, education systems in many countries have been confronted with school populations of diverse linguistic backgrounds. The presence in many societies of linguistic minorities – both autochthonous and recent migrant communities – has put the issue of bilingual education on the agenda of municipal, regional, and national governments. More often than not, the public debate surrounding language and the rights of linguistic minorities is controversial and highly politicized. In some cases, the courts have become battlegrounds for issues having to do with community rights and claims by speakers of minority languages to have their children instructed in these languages (Cummins, 1984; Hakuta, 1986). Considerable pressure has been put on several countries – traditional immigrant countries such as the United States and Australia as well as former colonial powers, e.g. Britain and France, and target countries of modern labour migration, e.g. Germany – to redefine themselves as multilingual and multicultural and to adjust their school systems accordingly. This in turn has generated counterpressure on the part of those who do not want to see the school charged with the responsibility to teach and thereby support community languages. In this unresolved dispute, bilingual education is regarded as socially beneficial or disruptive, as a social asset or a threat to national cohesion, largely dependent on political inclinations. As García's chapter (25) of this Handbook makes apparent, sociolinguists have an important role to play in this controversy, not just because they are called upon as expert witnesses by both sides, but also because their expertise is in demand when it comes to designing and evaluating bilingual education programs.
Sociolinguists are also actively engaged in language-related problems of professions outside education (Trudgill, 1984). Communication difficulties and breakdowns have been studied in the medical services delivery system (Mishler, 1984), control towers and cockpits (Cushing, 1994),
Introduction. The Handbook of Sociolinguistics. Blackwell Reference Online
business negotiations (Stalpers, 1993), the judicial system (Solan, 1994), and various other professional settings (Grimshaw et al. 1991). Recent years have seen the development of the role of language advisors in public administration and increased interest in language in industry and other areas of the economy (Coulmas, 1992). Limitations of space make it impossible to survey more than one of these fields of applied sociolinguistic scholarship. In view of the ever-growing importance of litigation in modern society, especially in the United States, the legal profession has been selected for this purpose. In his chapter (26), Finegan examines the contributions that sociolinguistic scholarship can make to resolving criminal cases and civil disputes.
To conclude the section on applied issues in sociolinguistics, Daoust provides a state-of-the-art report on language planning, an area of particular importance for a proper understanding of the intricate relationships between society and language, because it has to do with society's deliberate intervention in the course of a language's development. Other branches of the language sciences have very little to say about this, and theoretical linguistics in particular is both unable and disinclined to deal with it, since the very notion of planning a language interferes with its point of departure, the construct of “natural language.” As a matter of fact, however, language planning is much more common than is usually thought. Language planning operates on the microand macro-levels of sociolinguistics dealing with such issues as graphization, standardization, lexical augmentation on one hand, and status, prestige, and the functional allocation of languages in a society on the other. While in most other fields of language-related inquiry language is taken as an object which has an existence of its own with which the speech community is confronted, language planning highlights a different aspect of the social nature of language, emphasizing as it does that, in some respects at least, speakers and writers are the creators and masters of their language, hence the importance of language planning for the sociolinguistic enterprise as a whole.
Every collection is a selection. Given the size of this volume, it is evident that no claims can be made that it covers all the vast field of sociolinguistics. Critics will find it easy to point out domains of sociolinguistic research which are under-represented in this Handbook. For example, a whole range of studies in the general field of language in social psychology have been left out. Pragmatics and discourse analysis have no chapters of their own, although both are dealt with in several chapters, such as those by Wodak and Benke, Finegan, Kasper, and Stubbs. Sociolinguistic research techniques are discussed in several chapters, but their importance could have easily justified more extensive treatment had there been no limitations of space. The same is also true of the relationships of sociolinguistics with neighboring disciplines such as ethnography, psycholinguistics, and dialect geography. Yet the papers in this collection and its comprehensive bibliography should enable those interested in the major areas of sociolinguistic research to find informed answers to their questions, as well as directions about where to pursue them in greater depth.
Cite this article
COULMAS, FLORIAN. "Introduction." The Handbook of Sociolinguistics. Coulmas, Florian (ed). Blackwell Publishing, 1998. Blackwell Reference Online. 28 December 2007 <http://www.blackwellreference.com/subscriber/tocnode? id=g9780631211938_chunk_g97806312119382>
The Handbook of Sociolinguistics
Edited by: Florian Coulmas eISBN: 9780631211938
Print publication date: 1998