A presentation of historical sociolinguistic research: scope, methodology and case studies
From its inception in the 1980s, the historical sociolinguistic approach has been a source of original and novel interpretations of linguistic change and variation in the past. These processes are now contemplated no only in connection with systemic, internal factors, but also with the inter- and intra-personal peculiarities of users of languages in the past, with socio-cognitive factors as well as with a range of external circumstances —institutional, ideological, national, colonial— that transcend the individual. The increase of publications in the field, especially from the 2000s, involving different languages and varieties has contributed to the methodological consolidation of the discipline, overcoming the procedural difficulties of early research. In my presentation, I will first review some of the principles and tenets of the discipline which have contributed to solve its methodological quibbles. Then I will focus on the main areas privileged in the last years: (a) approaches based on the sociology of language, (b) variationist approaches and (c) ethnographic or third-wave approaches. Some case studies will be deployed to illustrate their scope and results. I will finally advocate the relevance of an interdisciplinary approach that accommodates the findings of sociologists, sociolinguists and ethnographers of communication in favour of a holistic interpretation of linguistic variation and change in the past.