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Aux Sources De La Sociolinguistique

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Abstract:

RESUME
Bien que le terme 'sociolinguistics' n'ait ete introduit dans le vocabulai-re technique de la linguistique qu'en 1952 par Haver Currie et que la socio-linguistique ne soit devenue une sous-discipline importante de la science du langage que depuis les annees soixante (v. Bright 1966), cet article main-tient qu'une telle approche du langage existait depuis longtemps, peut-etre plus de cent ans. En d'autres mots, nous avangons qu'il y avait une sociolin-guistique bien avant la lettre.
En effet, on retrouve dans la linguistique generate de Wiliam Dwight Whitney (1827-1894) et de Heymann Steinthal (1823-1899) et dans quel-ques articles de Michel Breal (1832-1915) des annees 60 et 70 du siecle dernier des observations qui mettent en relief la nature sociale du langage. Les dialectologues de la meme periode, surtout en France et dans les pays de langue allemande, etaient tout a fait conscients du fait que l'etude des patois, des parlers et des langues orales en general devait etre guidee par des considerations sociologiques (v. Malkiel 1976). Dans la linguistique compa-ree et historique c'est Antoine Meillet (1866-1936), eleve de Saussure et de Breal et collaborates de la revue d'Emile Durkheim, Vannee sociologique, au debut de notre siecle, qui a insiste sur l'importance de l'aspect social (et sociologique) dans l'etude du changement linguistique (par ex., Meillet 1905). Avec ses eleves de Paris, surtout Joseph Vendryes (1875-1960), Alf Sommerfelt (1892-1965) et Marcel Cohen (1884-1974), Meillet etablit l'ecole sociologique du langage (par ex., Vendryes 1921; Sommerfelt 1932; Cohen 1956).
Enfin, il existe — a cote de la dialectologie et de l'histoire des langues — encore une troisieme source de la sociolinguistique: l'etude du bilinguisme (par ex., Max Weinreich 1931; Haugen 1953). Ces trois traditions de la recherche linguistique se trouvent toutes reunis dans l'etude de Uriel Weinreich (1926-1967), Languages in Contact (1953), et puisque l'ouvrage de William Labov de 1966, The Social Stratification of English in New York City, qui est souvent cite (bien a tort) comme point de depart de la sociolo-gie moderne, representait sa these de doctorate ecrite sous la direction de Weinreich, il n'est pas etonnant de voir ces traditions, surtout celles de la linguistique geographique et de la linguistique historique, maintenues dans l'oeuvre de Labov (par ex., 1976, 1982).
SUMMARY
Although the term 'sociolinguistics' was not introduced into linguistic nomenclature before 1952 (see Currie 1952) and the field became a recognized field of research in the late 1960s only (e.g., Bright 1966), it is clear that the subject did not begin two decades ago. Indeed, an investigation into the sources of 'sociolinguistics' reveals that its beginnings go back at least 100 years, to the work of William Dwight Whitney (1827-1894), Heymann Steinthal (1823-1899), Michel Breal (1832-1915), and others.
However, these were the first programmatic statements and a number of developments in the study of language were necessary to converge upon the kind of sociolinguistics which most students of language associate with the name of William Labov (e.g., Labov 1966), at least in North America. Interestingly enough, it is also in the work of Labov (e.g., 1972) that the origins of 'sociolinguistics' (to some extent in contradistinction to the 'sociology of language' approach associated with Basil Bernstein, Joshua A. Fishman, and others) could be traced, although neither Labov nor the prolific Dell Hymes has written anything on the history of sociolinguistics. (Indeed, the only paper that comes close to it was written by an outsider to the field, the great Romance scholar Yakov Malkiel, in 1976.)
In my paper, I shall demonstrate that there are essentially three major traditions of investigation that led to 'sociolinguistics', namely, (1) Dialectology, especially the work done in German-speaking lands and in France from the 1870s onwards (e.g., Georg Wenker [1852-1911], Jules Gillieron [1854-1926], and others) — part of which had been undertaken in an effort to verify and possibility to support the neogrammarian 'regularity hypothesis' of sound changes; (2) Historical Linguistics, in particular the kind advocated by Antoine Meillet (1866-1936) and his school (e.g., Meillet 1905; Vendryes 1921), which developed into a 'science sociologique' of linguistics in general (Sommerfelt 1932) and a 'sociologie du langage' (e.g., Cohen 1956) among the younger Meillet disciples, and (3) Bilingualism Studies (e.g., Max Weinreich 1931; Haugen 1953), traditions all of which can be found united in the 1953 study of Uriel Weinreich (1926-1967), who happens to have been Labov's teacher and mentor.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1075/li.10.2.08koe

Publication date: January 1, 1986

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