Susan Gal Colloquium

April 7
Pick 016
Sociolinguistic differentiation: What does similarity have to do with it?

This year is the 50th anniversary of Labov’s “Social Stratification of English in New York City” and thus the birth of an entire subfield. Labovian quantification, however, has been challenged from the start by ethnographic and semiotic approaches that ask: How do we know what to count? The answer has been “meta-communication” and “indexicality.” This paper builds on those concepts in order to argue for the usefulness of the principle of similarity (iconism) in analyzing how political projects are pursued through linguistic differentiation, thereby changing linguistic forms in the process. I draw on my fieldwork in bilingual (Hungarian/German) communities in Central Europe and published sources.