The impact of Labov’s contribution to general linguistic theory

L.M.E.A. Cornips, Frans Gregersen

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The paper first discusses the influence of Labov on certain recent
Chomskyan developments, starting from an identification of two radically
different readings of the relationship between Labovian variationist
sociolinguistics and the dominant theoretical paradigm of the latter half
of the 20th century which is Chomskyan theoretical linguistics, i.e. as
either a supplement or an alternative. Variation at the level of closely
related languages, at the level of the language community, and at the level
of the individual, have all been treated by Chomskyans under various
headings, thus giving evidence that empirical results stemming from
variationist sociolinguistics cannot be ignored. However, the treatment has
not led to an integration of variation into Chomskyan theory, nor could it.
In the final section we outline what a Labovian materialist alternative to
Chomskyan idealism could be. We argue that this calls for a broader
definition of sociolinguistics than just variationism and poses demands for
both internal integration, viz. of linguistic disciplines, and external integration
of the language sciences with evolutionary psychology, anthropology and
social history.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20(4)
Pages (from-to)498-524
JournalJournal of Sociolinguistics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 24 Sept 2016


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