SLICE Experimental – University of Copenhagen

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SLICE Experimental strand

Since William Labov’s pioneering research in the US in the 1960s, it used to be common sociolinguistic ‘knowledge’, theoretically assumed or stated more than empirically established, that covert social values (subconsciously held attitudes) are a very important factor among the forces involved in processes of language change, particularly in the sense that covert values are thought to effect defence and maintenance of vernacular speech in face of the advances of standardized speech.

In recent years Labov himself has increasingly been questioning this position, based on what he summarizes as a continued failure to establish firm evidence for the existence of covert speech related values; in stead, his explanation of change processes now relies first and foremost on internal linguistic factors (Kristiansen 2010a).

Also in the work of the European pioneer sociolinguist, Peter Trudgill, the role of internal, ‘mechanistic’ linguistic factors has been upgraded and strongly emphasized in recent years (Trudgill 2004). Thus, the role of social values and social identities in processes of language change has become a debatable theme in sociolinguistic theory (see the debate in Language in Society 37/2, 2008), and it seems a more open issue than it used to be.

Against this background, the SLICE experimental strand aims to critically re-examine the present tendency to downplay the role of social evaluations; this will be done by putting theoretical and empirical focus on the respective roles played by overt and covert values (conscious and subconscious attitudes).

Coordinator of the experimental strand is Tore Kristiansen.