8. The development of social meaning in heterogeneous speech communities

social meaning, contact-induced variation and change, developmental sociolinguistics, language policy, language ideology

Laura Rosseel, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Eline Zenner, KU Leuven
Itxaso Rodríguez-Ordóñez, California State University Long Beach

Speech communities are “never homogeneous and hardly ever self-contained” (Weinreich 1970:vii). In these volatile contexts where linguistic contact is the rule rather than the exception, every language user remains a language learner, confronted with the transient social meanings attached to language variation (Eckert 2019). This sociolinguistic learning in heterogeneous speech contexts is the focus of our thematic section, which aims to uncover how the social meaning  of contact-induced variation emerges and develops in bi- and multilingual speech communities. This way, our theme session will contribute to both sociolinguistics and contact linguistics.
First, studies on the acquisition of sociolinguistic variation can benefit from a contact linguistic perspective. Researchers in this field have so far mainly studied how children acquire the social meaning of standard and vernacular in monolingual contexts (De Vogelaer & Toye 2017). In two ways, our thematic section complements this implicit priority: (1) by targeting more heterogeneous speech communities (bi-or multidialectal, bi- or multilingual and/or L2 speakers e.g. Kaiser2019); (2) by backgrounding the focus on standard/vernacular variation in favor of the contact-induced linguistic outcomes essential to heterogeneous speech contexts (Oxbury&DeLeeuw2020).
Second, by scrutinizing the development of sociolinguistic variation in heterogeneous contexts, this thematic section likewise contributes to contact linguistic research. As social meaning has so far largely remained under the radar in studies targeting multilingual acquisition (Cornips2018), both methodological and theoretical challenges remain. Methodologically, we aim to present new ways of uncovering the social meaning awarded to contact-induced variation in developmental contexts (Miller2017). Theoretically, this thematic section foregrounds the role of (macro and micro) ideology and language planning in the development of contact-induced variation and change (Berthele 2019).
Together, these perspectives illustrate how the complex nature of bilingual communities can help enhance our general understanding of language variation as an intricate interplay between human faculty and sociolinguistic competence (Matras2009).

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Cornips, L. (2018). Bilingual child acquisition through the lens of sociolinguistic approaches. In D. Miller, F. Bayram, J. Rothman, L. Serratrice (eds.), Bilingual Cognition and Language. The state of the science across its subfields (pp. 15-36). Amsterdam: Benjamins.
De Vogelaer, G., Toye, J. (2017). Acquiring attitudes towards varieties of Dutch: A quantitative perspective. In De Vogelaer, G., Katerbow, M. (Eds.) Acquiring sociolinguistic variation (pp. 117–154). Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Eckert, P. (2019). The limits of meaning: Social indexicality, variation, and the cline of interiority. Language 95(4), 751-776.
Kaiser, I. (2019). Dialekt-Standard-Variation in Deutsch bei mehrsprachigen Kindern in Österreich. ÖDaF-Mitteilungen, 35(2), 68-84.
Matras, Y. (2009). Language Contact. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Oxbury, R., & de Leeuw, E. (2020). Style-shifting in Multicultural London English in an all-girls homework club: A group of 11-year-old girls in Hackney change their pronunciations of the innovative Multicultural London English diphtongs according to the speech context. English Today 36(3), 59-69.
Weinreich, U. (1970). Languages in contact. Findings and problems. The Hague/Paris: Mouton.

  1. Introduction to the thematic section ‘The development of social meaning in heterogeneous speech communities’, Laura Rosseel, Eline Zenner and Itxaso Rodríguez-Ordóñez
  2. Personal frame of reference and social meaning in heterogeneous contact, Devyani Sharma
  3. The sociolinguistic monitor in second language acquisition, Erik Schleef
  4. Categorisation accuracy of speaker provenance: social-psychological salience or geographical proximity?, Robert M. McKenzie
  5. Perceiving and evaluating standard-dialect variation in one’s second language: data from multilinguals in Austria, Andrea Ender, Gudrun Kasberger and Irmtraud Kaiser
  6. Measuring language attitudes towards ethnolectal features in bilingual Swiss-German-speaking children, Melanie Röthlisberger
  7. Belgian Dutch children’s preferences for English-sounding neologisms: an experimental approach, Gillian Roberts, Eline Zenner and Laura Rosseel
  8. Language socialisation in day-care centres –  Toddlers between multilingualism and monolingual language ideologies, Marie Rickert
  9. What can explain newly developing (implicit) language attitudes in predominantly bilingual areas? A case study of the Coloured communities in Cape Town by means of Implicit Association Test (IAT), Pedro Álvarez Mosquera
  10. Monolingualism and Multilingualism as Curable Diseases: Language Policy and Scholarly Discourse on linguistic Heterogeneity, Raphael Berthele
  11. Emergent social meanings of Basque variation in its revitalization context, Itxaso Rodriguez
  12. Discussion slot for the thematic section ‘The development of social meaning in heterogeneous speech communities’