Styles, standards and meaning: Issues in the globalisation of sociolinguistics

Miriam Meyerhoff*, Maya Ravindranath Abtahian, Roey J. Gafter, Uri Horesh, Jonathan R. Kasstan, Peter Keegan, Jeanette King

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Style, in the study of variation and change, is intimately linked with broader
questions about linguistic innovation and change, standards, social norms,
and individual speakers’ stances. This article examines style when applied to
lesser-studied languages. Style is both (i) the product of speakers’ choices
among variants, and (ii) something reflexively produced through the association
of variants and the social position of the users of those variants. In the
context of the languages considered here, we ask “What questions do we
have about variation in this language and what notion(s) of style will answer
them?” We highlight methodological, conceptual and analytical challenges
for the notion of style as it is usually operationalised in variationist sociolinguistics.
We demonstrate that style is a useful research heuristic which –
when marshalled alongside locally-oriented accounts of, or proxies for
“standard” and “prestige”, in apparent time – allows us to describe language
and explore change. It is also a means for exploring social meaning, which
speakers may have more or less conscious control over.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1–16
JournalLanguage Ecology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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