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Sociolinguistics in Scotland Hardcover – 14 Feb 2014

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About the Author

Robert Lawson is Lecturer in English Language and Linguistics in the School of English at Birmingham City University, UK. His research interests include language in Scotland, language and masculinity, and the use of ethnographic approaches in the study of linguistic variation. He was the recipient of the Fulbright Scholars Award in Scottish Studies in 2012/13.

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A broad range of sociolinguistics studies—all focused on Scotland 22 Aug. 2014
By Joey Stanley - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I saw this book on the shelf at the library, and ended up reading it over the course of a month. I'm a grad student studying Sociolinguistics, and the fact that it was published just this year drew me in. I had also read a little on the language situation of Scotland before, so that also helped.

Overall it was a great book. Each chapter covered a different area of sociolinguistics, but focused on Scotland, obviously. Here are my chapter summaries from my own notes. Note that they are not meant to be a comprehensive review of each chapter, but sort of my own personal views:

• Chapters 1 and 2 just give some general background on Scotland and the linguistic situation there.
• Chapter 3 talks about a dialect in Aberdeen where [wh] is pronounced as [f]. It's on its way out though and it's socially marginalized, so it'll probably die out pretty soon.
• Chapter 4 was about the continuum of syllable-final rhoticity. It's well below conscious awareness by speakers, but still very socially marked.
• Chapter 5 discussed two pairs of towns on each side of the Scottish-English border. Even though cities were only 10 miles from each other, there were distinct differences in post-vocalic /r/. Overall, in some ways the speech was converging in some ways and remaining distinct in others.
• Chapter 6 was about Polish immigrants and how well they acquired the variation of some features. Lots of statistics that I didn't follow.
• Chapter 7 was about /e/ and /o/ and whether they are becoming diphthongized because of contact with Southern Standard British English.
• Chapter 8 talks a lot about priming. It looked at when [th] is realized as [f] and showed that the previous instance of the variable had considerable influence. Also, there was some cool mention and visualization of social networking which showed that the innovators and leaders of this change were the ones that didn't belong to a tight-knit group but were friends with everybody.
• Chapter 9 looked at the media. I didn't really get most of it actually.
• Chapter 10 explains how ethnography can be another tool in the linguist's toolkit. The author looks at 3 students in a Scottish high school and shows that their speech reflects what social group they associate themselves with.
• Chapter 11 was about the speech and naming practices of Scottish-Pakistani teenagers. Ethnic variation isn't exactly super interesting to me, and there wasn't a lot of quantitative analysis, so I didn't like this one as much.
• Chapter 12 was an interesting one about lexical attrition. The author referred to an older corpus of local Scottish words, and then asked residents of a former fishing community what specialized words they knew (words for kinds of fish, sizes, about preparation, other flora and fauna, and taboo avoidance terms). Generally, the words are fading though not in any clearly systematic way.
• Chapter 13 took variables that have been labeled distinctively Scottish and looked at them in various corpora to see if they hold up. The main point was to show that there is so much more work that needs to be done on Scottish features by using corpora. The problem is a lack of a good, large corpus.
• Chapter 14 was about code-switching and conversation analysis. The author describes in detail when and why an older woman switches between English and Gaelic when telling a narrative of about 8 minutes.
• Chapter 15 looked at teenagers' attitudes towards the local dialect in 1983 and 2010. There were three groups, Shetland heritage, Shetland born (but of immigrant parents), and outside Shetland. The 1983 survey showed that there was a fair degree of diglossia with the local variety and a more standard English. However, there's been a shift towards English in the past 30 years.

I'd recommend this to anyone who's studying sociolinguistics. It's a pretty broad field, and this book does a good job at covering many aspects of it (socially marked sound change, statistics, ethnic varieties, ethnography, social groups, lexical attrition, code-switching, and attitudes towards other varieties). Even if you don't read the whole book, or even if you aren't studying Scotland, each chapter is great by itself.
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