Variation and Change
The ten volumes of the <i>Handbook of Pragmatics Highlights</i> focus on the most salient topics in the field of pragmatics, thus dividing its wide interdisciplinary spectrum in a transparent and manageable way. While the other volumes select specific philosophical, cognitive, grammatical, cultural, interactional, or discursive angles, this sixth volume focuses on the dynamic aspects of language and reviews the relevant developments in variationist and diachronic scholarship. The areas explored in the volume concern several general themes: specific methodological approaches, from comparative reconstruction to evolutionary pragmatics; issues in intra-lingual variation in terms of standard and non-standard varieties; cross-linguistic variation, including its cross-cultural dimension; and the study of diachronic relations across linguistic patterns, including changes in all areas of pragmatic patterns and categories. The contributions document two prominent and interrelated trends that shape contemporary variationist and diachronic research. One, it has moved from situating change within context-independent systems toward incorporating patterns of language use and the speaker’s role in language change. And two, it has reoriented its focus away from cataloguing instances of variation and toward seeking theoretically informed accounts that aim at <i>explaining</i> variation and change. On the whole, the volume argues for accepting and developing actively a systematic connection between research in diachrony, synchronic variation, and typology, while also incorporating the socio-cognitive perspective in linguistic analysis as a particularly promising source of useful methodology and explanatory models.