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  • An introduction to sociolinguistics 4th edn. by Ronald Wardhaugh
  • Zdenek Salzmann
An introduction to sociolinguistics. 4th edn. By Ronald Wardhaugh. (Blackwell textbooks in linguistics 4.) Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2002. Pp. viii, 408. ISBN: 0-631-22540-4. $36.95.

In this edition, the topics are organized as they were in the third, but the text has been revised and updated, and the coverage of certain topics extended, in particular those dealing with gender, linguistic disadvantage, and language planning. Wardhaugh’s conception of sociolinguistics is quite broad: He has also included, for example, a discussion of the Whorfian hypothesis and the ethnography of speaking.

The fifteen chapters that follow the ‘Introduction’ are assigned to four parts. In Part 1, ‘Language and communities’, W deals with some of the traditional language issues—dialects, styles, pidgins and creoles, diglossia, multilingualism, code-switching, and speech networks and repertoires. Part 2, ‘Inherent variety’, is about regional and social variation, data collecting, and analytical approaches, and it contains reports on several studies (among them William Labov’s study of the social stratification of English in New York City [The social stratification of English in New York City, Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics, 1966] and Peter Trudgill’s study of social differentiation of English in Norwich, UK [The social differentiation of English in Norwich, London: Cambridge University Press, 1974]); it concludes with a survey of the development of modern approaches to language change.

In Part 3, ‘Words at work’, W takes up such traditional social and cultural issues as the relationship between language and culture, the manner in which language is used, linguistic means of expressing solidarity and politeness, and the use of utterances in conversation. Part 4, ‘Understanding and intervening’, examines three areas of life in which a sociolinguistic approach is proving particularly useful—the extent to which men and women use language differently, African-American Vernacular English, and language planning in modern nation-building.

In Ch. 16, ‘Conclusion’, W makes a number of interesting observations: that rich variation appears to be an inherent property of language and therefore communicative competence in any given society is too complex a phenomenon to specify and describe adequately; that the use of the quantitative method has both its strengths and weaknesses—weaknesses because ‘individuals are never typical, and . . . their behavior is never ideal’ (379); and that at least for the present ‘there is no central doctrine a sociolinguist must adhere to’ (381).

The book is written clearly, with the text generously illustrated with examples, tables, and figures. It would prove useful not only in an introductory course in sociolinguistics but also as a supplementary [End Page 824] text in higher-level courses dealing with language in society.

A very useful feature of this textbook is the inclusion of several ‘Discussion’ sections in each chapter (four such sections on average). These serve to stimulate further discussion or research and pose questions designed to help the student apply the information gained to concrete linguistic data. In addition, the reader is referred to related, specialized, and background sources at the end of chapters and also in the ‘Bibliography’ of well over 600 works.

Zdenek Salzmann
Northern Arizona University


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