Abstract and Keywords
The central ideas of variationist sociolinguistics are that an understanding of language requires an understanding of variable as well as categorical processes, and that the variation witnessed at all levels of language is not random. Rather, linguistic variation is characterized by orderly or “structured heterogeneity.” In addition, synchronic variation is often a reflection of diachronic change. This chapter reviews representative studies and outlines the main assumptions underlying the variationist approach. It presents an example of variationist analysis, using the well-known case of variation between Spanish null and overt subject personal pronouns. Then, the chapter considers a number of relatively recent developments in variationist sociolinguistics including the expansion of the variationist paradigm into new areas such as second-language acquisition and sign linguistics, as well as recent work that combines ethnographic observation and quantitative analysis.
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