Authored by: Martin J. Ball

The Routledge Handbook of Sociolinguistics Around the World

Print publication date:  November  2009
Online publication date:  December  2009

Print ISBN: 9780415422789
eBook ISBN: 9780203869659
Adobe ISBN: 9781135261054


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It is generally recognized that the term sociolinguistics was coined by Currie (1952) in an article exploring the relationship between speech and social status, which is of course still one of the main aims of the field (see Chambers 2002, for a fuller description of Currie’s work). Currie’s paper did not present any new data, but was basically a discussion of how some of the trends then present in linguistics, especially in dialectology, could be developed into a new field of investigation. Currie had correctly noted a trend in American dialectology where, unlike in Europe, work was not restricted to rural areas. It may be that the urban situation prompted more forcefully the realization of the importance of social factors. However this may be, McDavid (1948) published a study of postvocalic-r usage in South Carolina that contained information on social differences. At the time, this was not seen as an end in itself; McDavid comments, “A social analysis proved necessary because the data proved too complicated to be explained by merely a geographical statement” (ibid.: 194). This clearly implies that at this stage the social analysis was not the primary impetus behind the study; but this attitude gradually changed over the following fifteen years or so.

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