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The acquisition of sociolinguistic variation: looking back and thinking ahead

Abstract : Although developmental sociolinguistics is a relatively under-researched field, several studies have described children's use of sociolinguistic variables and some have suggested theoretical accounts for the learning mechanisms underpinning their acquisition. Taking a historical point of view, this paper aims firstly to provide an exhaustive review of the studies focused on phonological variables over the past four decades. In the second section, we then deal with three theoretical approaches to the acquisition of variation: abstract variable rule formation, case-by-case concrete learning and exemplar theory. We discuss the main assumptions of these accounts, such as the role of input frequency, abstraction and generalization processes and the construction of the relationship between linguistic and social information. Finally, in the light of this discussion and in line with the available results, we argue in favor of the usage-based theory of language acquisition (Tomasello, 2003) as a general framework including exemplar theory and explaining how children learn variable and categorical linguistic forms as well as their social use.
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Contributor : Jean-Pierre Chevrot <>
Submitted on : Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - 7:11:07 AM
Last modification on : Thursday, January 14, 2021 - 11:26:41 AM
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Aurélie Nardy, Jean-Pierre Chevrot, Stéphanie Barbu. The acquisition of sociolinguistic variation: looking back and thinking ahead. Linguistics, De Gruyter, 2013, 51 (2), pp.255 - 284. ⟨10.1515/ling-2013-0011⟩. ⟨hal-00706704v3⟩



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