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Is variety as neutral as it seems?

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This article discusses the conceptual difficulties that are involved in the understanding of several basic linguistic notions: namely language, dialect, sociolect, register, style, genre, and in particular, variety. Using the definitions provided in various sources, particularly introductory textbooks and dictionaries of linguistics, I examine the ways in which these terms are explained, and discuss how there is actually no consensus on how they are understood and conceptualised. This is particularly true for the term variety, which is regarded by many linguists as a neutral and ideology-free unit for research. In this article, I show that whether a set of linguistic features is regarded as a variety depends on three main factors; there is no absolute Рand thus, ideologically neutral Рway that linguists can refer to this concept when considering what is or is not a linguistic variety.
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Keywords: Chinese; Hong Kong English; computer-mediated communication; pragmatics; register and style; sociolinguistics; variety

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 13, 2017

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