A linguistic variable in sociolinguistics and dialectology is a unit with two or more variants that are used by speakers depending on age, gender, socio-economic status or situation. So e.g. For example, the pronunciation of / h / at the beginning of words in British English depends on social class: the higher the social class, the more likely it is that speakers will pronounce / h /. The / h / dropping is a feature of the working class in England .
Examples of linguistic variables
A classic sociolinguistic study that examined a linguistic variable is a study by linguist William Labov on the use of an r - sound in New York that can either be pronounced as / r / or not at all ( zero ) at the end of a word . The study showed that the use of the variable (r) depended on the prestige of the department store and thus on the typical social class of the customers: salespeople in the department stores with customers from higher social classes used / r / more often.
German examples of linguistic variables are the pronunciation of the consonant at the beginning of the word China as [ ˈçiːnaː ], [ ˈʃiːnaː ] or [ ˈkiːnaː ] or the use of dat or das in German dialects .
In addition to sounds as linguistic variables, inflectional forms and, in dialectology, especially the vocabulary are examined. It is asked which word forms stand for a term in different areas . In a language atlas , the areas of different characteristics of a linguistic variable are delimited by isoglosses .
- David Crystal: The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language , 2nd edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1997, ISBN 0-521-559677 , p. 32.
- David Crystal: The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language , 2nd edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1997, ISBN 0-521-559677 , p. 334.
- Victoria Fromkin, Robert Rodman: An Introduction to Language , 4th Edition. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Fort Worth 1988, ISBN 0-03-006532-1 , pp. 258-259.