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Friday, October 11 • 11:45am - 12:10pm
Meyerhoff & Nagy: The role of standards in the field of variation

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The role of standards in the field of variation

​While the notion of a ‘standard’ or ‘norm’ is central to methods in sociolinguistics, an undocumented language is most unlikely to have experienced formal standardization, e.g. for use in education (cf. Vandenbussche 2007). As a result, there may be either multiple sets of norms or no defined norms within the community (Nagy 2009, Sallabank 2012, Coto Solano 2017). We comment on the state of the field and discuss the preceding contributions, focussing on two aspects of standardization. The first is the role that linguists play in setting and labelling ‘standards’. The second is the extent to which defining a standard is required in order to undertake sociolinguistic analyses of variation. These questions have practical import as well as theoretical. One barrier to increasing the frequency of writing is fear of writing/spelling the wrong way. This is especially acute when there is no ready access to institutionalized literacy resources.

Session abstract: What’s so standard about standards?
Standard language ideology (SLI) is a topic ripe for new cross-cultural comparisons, as notions of standard and prestige have been central to sociolinguistic theorizing (Meyerhoff 2019). Cheshire observes that ‘variationists have worked almost exclusively on languages that have been heavily standardized, so the potential influence of [SLI] on the selection of variables […] has been high’ (2005:87). Further, historically atypical standardized national languages of urban elites in modern stratified societies have entrenched hierarchical views of variation, that are grounded in a functional model and asymmetric power relations (e.g. Rickford 1986). These biases should be addressed if we are to build sociolinguistic universals (Guy & Adli 2019). This session continues the discussion by examining underrepresented communities where SLI is realized in different ways, or not at all. Six original research papers will explore this topic around the world, and a discussant presentation will contextualize the panel’s observations.


Miriam Meyerhoff

LALS, Victoria University of Wellington

Naomi Nagy

University of Toronto

Friday October 11, 2019 11:45am - 12:10pm PDT
EMU Gumwood
  S: What's so standard about standards?