II. THE SOCIOLINGUIST'S INTEREST IN THE FIELD OF SOCIAL
Every single language has a repertoire 3 of varieties, including a standard variety which is the result of deliberate intervention by society. A language undergoes standardization 4 in order to create a standard language which serves as an orientation for linguistic norms. A non-standard variety of a particular language may differ from the standard language on all linguistic levels. It may be characterized by differences in pronunciation, grammar and in vocabulary. A variety differing from the standard variety in pronunciation only is often called accent, whereas variation in grammar and vocabulary may be referred to as dialect. A linguistic variety differs from the standard variety on at least one of these levels. It is shared by a speech community which is defined by the use of certain linguistic features and by a common attitude towards the variety 5 . The members of a particular speech community may not all know nor use the entire repertoire of "their language", but they are aware of the norms about the selection of varieties,
" [...] so we may define a variety of a language as a set of linguistic items with similar [regional or] social distribution." (Hudson 2 1996, p.22)
The sociolinguist concerned with the relation between social and linguistic features confines himself to the investigation of a restricted number of variables. He concentrates on a certain social variable and identifies its variants which appear to promote the usage of a certain variant of a linguistic variable instead of another. "The choices among the variants of a linguistic variable are influenced by both social and linguistic forces" (Fasold 1990, p.272). The fieldworker has to deliminate the speech community which he will be focusing on from other communities, and it is necessary to know who is using the relevant features in which context. He will then prepare a procedure in order to elicit relevant data confirming his hypothesis about the relation between linguistic and social variables in this particular speech community.
3 See Spolsky (1998), p.25
4 See Hudson (²1996), p.32
5 The term „speech community“ is used to refer to a community based on language [...] to which varieties or items may be related. The definition is subject of disagreement among linguistits (See Hudson 1996, p.24ff).
manner of identification with a certain group of people by means of a specific linguistic feature was investigated by Labov among Afro-American teenagers in Harlem. He divided his selection of speakers into four groups, identifying "core members" of a gang called "the Jets", "secondary members", "peripheral members" and "non-members" (Hudson ²1996, p.185). He found out that the closer the speaker's relation to the gang, the more often occurred the socially marked variant [is=∅]. Even the non-members occasionally used this stereotype identifying themselves with the "black community", but at the same time they distanced themselves from the gang, using it less often than any of the members. This study illustrated that linguistic variables may be employed for the purpose of identification with a particular group or speech community which is defined by a particular social variable.
III. THE COLLECTION OF DATA
Before beginning with the actual research work and the collection of data about a particular sociolinguistic phenomenon, the fieldworker propounds a hypothesis, i.e. he defines an assumption of the relation between a particular social and a linguistic variable. He has to choose a social variable which he expects to be relevant to the variation of a linguistic feature. Usually the linguist chooses a linguistic variable which has been previously observed by other scientists and which is therefore likely to be socially significant. Some scientists even fall back upon predetermined lists of variables which have been made by dialectologists or other linguists. The fieldworker also has to decide in what way he expects the two variables to relate to each other. This initial decision already contains the problematic aspect of social stratification as the variable needs to be appropriately graduated. He then has to settle which variants of the linguistic variable carry social information at all, and to which social variant they will probably relate to.
The first step in collecting sociolinguistic data is the preparation of a questionnaire which is necessary for the performance of the interviews. It is designed with regard to the hypothesis. It is important to elicit sociolinguistic information as definite as possible, either confirming or refuting the scientist's assumptions. Creating this questionnaire, the scientist has to deliberate on the best way of bringing about representative data without which the interview becomes subject to unnatural conditions. This might turn out to fatally influence the results of the interviews. Formulating the questions, the fieldworker has to think over which words or grammatical constructions are suitable for the interviews. He has to bear in mind that the
In the course of my work at this paper, I realized that the field of sociolinguistics is very extensive and difficult to survey. When I was looking for relevant literature on my topic, I found it hard to decide which aspects I should take into consideration and which to leave out. I noticed that many different topics in this field of linguistics are closely related to one another and it was difficult to keep them separate. As this field seems to be subject to constant controversial discussion among sociolinguists, it is difficult to find a central theory which would help to find one's way through the range of opinions, experiences and approaches of the experts.
I decided to shortly discuss language variation in general in my introduction in order to help the reader locate the level of Social Variation. There are of course many aspects of this topic which, in this paper, have only been touched upon as I have confined myself to a general introduction. There is, for example, a wide range of investigations which were carried out under very different circumstances. I think it would be interesting to directly compare a selection of studies and to evaluate the different proceedings. I used a few sociolinguistic studies to illustrate the general procedure but did not go into detail about one particular research work as this would have been beyond the scope of an "Einführungsseminar"- termpaper.