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date: 22 April 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article provides a review of sociolinguistic literature on variation, including developments in the interpretation of such variation and the methods used to study it. Phonological variables in the sociolinguistic analysis of phonological variation and change are segmental loci of socially structured variability, broadly equating to a phonemic level of abstraction. The sociolinguistic analysis of a phonological variable is aimed at systematically tracking within and across-speaker variability in a single context with a view to identifying the extent to which such variability is governed by diverse social factors. The analysis in many cases proceeds by scoring the occurrence of a set of auditorily identified variants in order to track the variants of a phonological variable. The large volume of studies of socially correlated phonological variation focuses on the analysis of one language (English), and on a subset of variables, partly as a consequence of the adoption of the phonological variable methodology, and partly arising from the fact that certain variables have been investigated in order to test particular hypotheses regarding variation and change. The sociolinguistic analysis of phonological variables attempts to minimize positionally generated variation in order to capture significant inter/intra-speaker variation in the same context.

Keywords: sociolinguistic literature, laboratory phonology, sociolinguistic analysis, phonological variables, conversational interaction

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