Sociolinguistic Typology: Social Determinants of Linguistic Complexity

Sociolinguistic Typology: Social Determinants of Linguistic Complexity

by Peter Trudgill
     
 

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Peter Trudgill looks at why human societies at different times and places produce different kinds of language. He considers how far social factors influence language structure and compares languages and dialects spoken across the globe, from Vietnam to Nigeria, Polynesia to Scandinavia, and from Canada to Amazonia.

Modesty prevents Pennsylvanian Dutch Mennonites

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Overview

Peter Trudgill looks at why human societies at different times and places produce different kinds of language. He considers how far social factors influence language structure and compares languages and dialects spoken across the globe, from Vietnam to Nigeria, Polynesia to Scandinavia, and from Canada to Amazonia.

Modesty prevents Pennsylvanian Dutch Mennonites using the verb wotte ('want'); stratified society lies behind complicated Japanese honorifics; and a mountainous homeland suggests why speakers of Tibetan-Burmese Lahu have words for up there and down there. But culture and environment don't explain why Amazonian Jarawara needs three past tenses, nor why Nigerian Igbo can make do with eight adjectives, nor why most languages spoken in high altitudes do not exhibit an array of spatial demonstratives. Nor do they account for some languages changing faster than others or why some get more complex while others get simpler. The author looks at these and many other puzzles, exploring the social, linguistic, and other factors that might explain them and in the context of a huge range of languages and societies.

Peter Trudgill writes readably, accessibly, and congenially. His book is jargon-free, informed by acute observation, and enlivened by argument: it will appeal to everyone with an interest in the interactions of language with culture, environment, and society.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This bold new book, by one of the field's leading sociolinguists, outlines the need for a new intellectual project at the heart of our discipline, emphasising the crucial role of the small face-to-face societies that have shaped most of human history in generating the outer reaches of linguistic complexity."—Nicholas Evans, Australian National University

"This focussed and important work shows that degree of contact, the size of the community of speakers, and coherence within that community are all important factors in the degree to which languages become structurally simpler (losing agreement and gender for example) or more complex. This is a must-read for anyone interested in language change."—Gary Miller, author of Language Change and Linguistic Theory

"An exciting book, multi-faceted and lucid, a book that can not only be recommended to researchers on linguistic change and historical sociolinguistics but also to advanced students in the field."—Juerg Schwyter, Neuphilologische Mitteilungen

"In this thought-provoking work, Trudgill proposes that linguistic complexity may be determined by five interrelated social parameters: community size, density of social networks, level of social stability, amount of contact with other communities, and amount of shared information...this book offers a fresh and compelling reason for linguists to focus on less commonly studied endangered languages. We therefore recommend this stimulating book to anyone interested in exploring possible connections between sociolinguistics, language change, and typology."—Studies in Language

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199604357
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
12/17/2011
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet the Author

Peter Trudgill is Professor of Sociolinguistics at the University of Agder, Norway. He has held Chairs in Linguistics at the Universities of Reading, Essex, Lausanne, and Fribourg (where he is now Emeritus). He is also an Adjunct Professor at the Research Centre for Linguistic Typology at La Trobe University and Honorary Professor of Sociolinguistics at the University of East Anglia. His many books include Sociolinguistics: an Introduction to Language and Society (Penguin, 1974, 4th edn 2000), On Dialect (Blackwell, 1983), Dialects in Contact (Blackwell, 1986), The Dialects of England (Blackwell 1990, 2nd end 1999), New-Dialect Formation: on the Inevitability of Colonial Englishes (Edinburgh, 2004), and Investigations in Sociohistorical Linguistics: Stories of Colonisation and Contact (CUP 2010).

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