hogarthMenu_layout

Variation, consciente ou inconsciente?

21 avril 2014. Reprise le 6 mai 2017

William Labov posait comme hypothèse fondatrice de la sociolinguistique que les changements dans la langue parlée (linguistic change) se situaient bien au-dessous du niveau de la conscience (well below the level of consciousness) et qu'ils échappaient au contrôle, aux intentions, aux désirs du locuteur. Une hypothèse contraire est avancée entre autres par Penelope Eckert dans Linguistic Variation as Social Practice (Oxford, Blackwell, 2000), selon laquelle les changements sociolinguistiques se développent à partir de la conscience des locuteurs, de leurs stratégies d'utilisation performative de formes spécifiques telle que la prononciation des voyelles pour affirmer leur appartenance à une communauté linguistique particulière. Dans le modèle que propose Eckert, chaque locuteur tisse individuellement un style de parole composite qui entrelace à chaque fois plusieurs positionnements sociaux et affirme simultanément son appartenance à plusieurs communautés.

Dans la recension de cet ouvrage, Labov met en évidence (p.281) cette controverse:

This encapsulates the major ideological position of the book — and perhaps the only one with which I am in disagreement. It continues the argument of Chap. 1 that emphasizes the role of the individual as an "active agent" who is continually constructing "social meaning." To me, this stress on the role of individuals is problematic. I do not believe that it is Eckert's intention to return us to the focus on the individual that was the cornerstone of Paul's philosophy of language [Il s'agit de Paul Grice, universellement appelé "Paul"], or to reinstall the primacy of the idiolect that was the major target of the critique of Weinreich et al. 1968. In one sense, we all agree that sociolinguistics takes the individual as primary, because we begin with the observation and recording of individual speakers, not with general impressions of how people speak. At the same time, we all join in recognizing the fundamental dogma of sociolinguistics: that the language of individuals cannot be understood apart from the speech communities of which they are members. We recognize that the individual, as a linguistic object, is the intersection of all the social groups in which he or she has participated. The issue in dispute seems to center on how consciously and actively individual speakers participate in and influence the course of language change.

William Labov, Review of: Linguistic Variation as Social Practice by Penelope Eckert, Language in Society, Vol. 31, No. 2 (Apr., 2002), pp. 277–284.

A mon sens, cette controverse oppose la Sociolinguistique (Labov) à l'Anthropologie linguistique (Eckert).

Linguistic anthropology vs. Sociolinguistics

Partons d'une histoire des distinctions disciplinaires des années 1960 aux années 1980.

Mary Bucholtz and Kira Hall, All of the above: New coalitions in sociocultural linguistics, Journal of Sociolinguistics 12/4, 2008: 401–431.

(402) In 1964 Hymes proposed the term Linguistic anthropology for a field that he defined as 'the study of language within the context of anthropology' (1964: xxiii). Yet a decade later, acknowledging that the term had been eclipsed by the more widely used anthropological linguistics, he revised his terminology for pragmatic reasons: 'Sociolinguistics is the most recent and most common term for an area of research that links linguistics with anthropology' (Hymes 1974: 83–85). Interestingly, in the original version of the paper on which the 1974 chapter is based, Hymes proposed a broader definition of sociolinguistics as 'an area of research that links linguistics with anthropology and sociology' (1971: 47). The elision of sociology as a contributor to sociolinguistics between the 1971 and 1974 versions appears to reflect the growing attention to disciplinary boundaries in this stage of the field's development.

[Note. Jack Sidnell (personal communication) observes that this shift in Hymes's view may have been due to two factors: the move of Goffman from sociology at Berkeley to anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania in the early 1970s and the publication of Sacks, Schegloff, and Jefferson's (1974) paper on turn-taking, which may have made clear to Hymes the difference between the conversation-analytic approach within sociology and his own vision for sociolinguistics.]

The differences between anthropological and linguistic approaches to sociolinguistics were also becoming apparent,with the former seeking to explicate culture through the investigation of speech events (e.g. Hymes 1974) and interactional practices (e.g. Gumperz 1982) and the latter largely drawing on social information to illuminate issues of linguistic structure, variation, and change.

Depuis les années 1980, une autre distinction est venu interférer avec la première. On oppose souvent l'ethnographie (anthropologues linguistes) à l'analyse statistique (sociolinguistes). Mais la distinction originelle reste la plus éclairante. Nous avons bien deux méthodes d'étude de la variation sur la scène langagière: le Variationnisme au sens strict (Labov et ses successeurs), et l'ethnographie des façons de parler qui rejoint, en anthropologie, l'étude des arts de parole (stratégies performatives).