Chapter 10. Between pragmatics and sociolinguistics

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Among recent studies of pragmatic variation, two directions stand out. One locates variation in the distribution of pragmatic meanings across macro-social dimensions (gender, ethnicity, region) and seeks ways to study it (Schneider & Barron 2008). Another adopts a variationist methodology to propose pragmatic explanations for morphosyntactic variation (Cameron & Schwenter forthcoming). As their proponents admit, these are two different projects: they use different methodologies and consider different types of variation. Nevertheless, both face difficulties stemming from their ambivalent understanding of pragmatic variation as closer to either pragmatics or sociolinguistics, respectively. I discuss these difficulties and propose some methodological steps that can help us move beyond them by remaining true to the pragmatic and social categories that emerge from the data itself.


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