Our next colloquium speaker will be Kathryn Campbell-Kibler (Ohio State), at 3:30PM today, Oct 31 in the Greenberg room.
Reducing sociolinguistic cognition to previously unsolved problems
More than half a century of research in language variation and related fields has documented speakers’ ability to alter small details of their speech to conform to or agentively change the social elements of an interaction. Likewise, listeners are able to note these speech patterns and use them to form or change their social reading of a situation. These abilities apply both to linguistic forms speakers can verbally describe or even manipulate on command, and to those they cannot. In this talk I discuss the cognitive structures necessary to accomplish these feats. I consider the history of the sociolinguistic monitor, variation’s most developed model, and discuss its shortcomings in light of current evidence. I propose that sociolinguistic cognition requires no specialized cognitive machinery, rather its patterns are explainable by independently motivated structures of linguistic and social cognition and their interactions. Given that linguistic and social processing are both as yet not fully understood, the study of sociolinguistic cognition can help illuminate their structure by examining their interactions. To do so successfully, both the linguistic and the social must be centered.