Sociolinguistic study of variation and change has a long-standing bias towards speech communities in Western and especially Anglophone societies. We argue that our field requires a much wider scope for variation studies, which puts more emphasis on culturally contextualised social meaning in the full range of human societies. The pursuit of understanding, generalizations, and even universals in the study of the social life of human language demands a global empirical base. In a meta-analysis of studies appearing in major sociolinguistic journals and conferences, we find little broadening of the language and cultural scope in the last 30 years. English alone and a few Western societies continually account for the great majority of studies. We propose several ways for going forward: testing and rethinking existing theories using data from understudied languages and regions, engaging with sociolinguistic scholarship in languages other than English, learning from other disciplines that incorporate cross-cultural approaches, engaging the dimensions of social organization and practice instantiated in cultures of the Global South, and moving towards research designs that compare different places and languages.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Linguistics and Language