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Variation in Language and Language Use

Linguistic, Socio-Cultural and Cognitive Perspectives

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Monika Reif, Justyna Robinson and Martin Pütz

This volume grew out of the 34th International LAUD Symposium, which was held in March 2010 at the University of Koblenz-Landau in Landau, Germany. The symposium was dedicated to the ongoing convergence between the disciplines of Cognitive Linguistics and Sociolinguistics, bringing together concepts and methods from both fields. The 15 studies contained in this volume explore the relations between linguistic (structural), socio-cultural and cognitive aspects involved in language variation. Methodologically, the contributions range from individual case studies to larger-scale corpus analyses and combine both qualitative and quantitative findings.

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Introduction

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The present volume grew out of the 34th International LAUD Symposium, held in March 2010 at the University of Koblenz-Landau in Landau, Germany. The title of this volume, Variation in Language and Language Use: Sociolinguis- tic, Socio-cultural and Cognitive Perspectives, was selected in order to show that speakers in diverse settings and communities are constantly faced with the options of making meaningful choices in a non-haphazard way; that is, inherent variability is a characterizing feature of the language system and of language use. Indeed, according to Fasold (1984: 180), sociolinguistics only exists as a field of study “because there are choices in using language”. Similarly, from the perspective of cognitive linguistics, we may assume that speakers have linguistic alternatives available to them when organizing and structuring, i.e. construing, their social and cultural experiences in the world. In fact, speakers constantly make choices and engage in variable use of language when communication strategies and interaction are at work. We may divide the kinds of choices that speakers make into two main interrelated perspectives: the sociolinguistic para- digm and the socio-cognitive paradigm. In this vein, the symposium’s original theme was “Cognitive Sociolinguistics”, focusing on social and cognitive per- spectives on language use, in other words the ways in which individual minds and cognitive processes are shaped by their interaction with social and cultural structures. This idea is captured by the notions of language, mind and socio- cultural situatedness (Frank et al. 2008). Central to cognitive linguistics proper is the assumption that language...

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