Slavic Sociolinguistics in North America: Lineage and Leading Edge

By Lauersdorf, Mark Richard | Journal of Slavic Linguistics, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

Slavic Sociolinguistics in North America: Lineage and Leading Edge


Lauersdorf, Mark Richard, Journal of Slavic Linguistics


Abstract: This article provides a general overview of North American research in Slavic sociolinguistics from the beginnings of the field at the start of the 1960s up to the present day. The work of North American scholars published in a selection of journals, series, and special collections, as well as in monographs and dissertations, is reviewed to illustrate the research trends and the overall coverage of languages and sociolinguistic subfields as Slavic sociolinguistics developed and matured in a North American context. This study is intended to serve as a historical backdrop for the new research presented in this volume, and it closes with a brief overview of the studies in this collection and their contribution to the further development of the field.

1. Introduction

Sociolinguistics as a distinct field of linguistic investigation in North America is generally considered to have come into being in the 1960s, nurtured by specialists from the areas of linguistic geography, dialectology, language contact, diachronic linguistics, multilingualism, and language planning, all interested in developing new theories and methods of linguistic research that would address in a principled and systematic way the socio-cultural embedding of language use, variation, and change. (1) This rough dating of the beginnings of sociolinguistics as an independent field of linguistic investigation is mirrored in the Linguistic bibliography/Bibliographie linguistique, where a specific bibliographic subcategory for "Sociology of language/Sociologie du langage" debuted in the 1962 annual volume, replaced by the category heading "Sociolinguistics/Sociolinguistique" in 1969. In Linguistics and language behavior abstracts, which began appearing in 1967, the category "Sociolinguistics" is present already from volume 1, number 2. (2) This is not to say that there was no work being done before this time that scholars today would acknowledge as having a sociolinguistic direction in its methodologies and analysis, (3) but it is in the 1960s that the theoretical underpinnings of the discipline began to be elaborated in a systematic way.

In the intervening 50 years, the field has grown to include a broad range of theoretical positions, research methodologies, and areas of application; and sociolinguistic research on the Slavic languages has, over these same 50 years, covered much of that broad investigative range, producing a wealth of literature across the Slavic languages and sociolinguistic subfields. This article does not, therefore, attempt to provide an exhaustive historical recounting of all activity in Slavic sociolinguistics by North American scholars, but rather seeks, through a survey of major professional journals and series, research collections, scholarly monographs, and doctoral dissertations, to sketch in broad strokes the general tendencies and focal points in the North American tradition of Slavic sociolinguistics as a background for the contributions to this volume--that is, this article seeks to establish the general lineage of Slavic sociolinguistics in North America, from which the leading edge of current research, as exemplified in the present collection, has grown and developed. (4)

2. Lineage

2.1. Slavic Sociolinguistics in Professional Journals and Series

Professional journals and series with their regular periodic publication schedules tend to give a fairly accurate picture of the research trends and the ongoing development of a discipline over time. We will therefore begin our look at the lineage of Slavic sociolinguistic research in North America with an investigation of the diachronic development of the field as mirrored in the research work published in the journals and series: Canadian Slavonic papers/Revue canadienne des slavistes (CSP, 1956-present), Slavic and east European journal (SEEJ, 1957-present), Canadian contributions to the International Congress of Slavists (CCICS, quinquennially 1958-present), (5) American contributions to the International Congress of Slavists (ACICS, quinquennially 1958-present), International journal of Slavic linguistics and poetics (IJSLP, 1959-2004), Folia slavica (FS, 1977-87), Journal of Slavic linguistics (JSL, 1993-present), and International journal of the sociology of language (IJSL, 1974-present), representing respectively the publishing organs of two large North American scholarly organizations for Slavic studies, the official records of the Canadian and American delegations to the International Congress of Slavists, three prominent journals of the North American Slavic linguistics community, and a leading international journal in sociolinguistics. …

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