The locus of linguistic variation
  • ISSN 2211-6834
  • E-ISSN: 2211-6842
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The conventional methodology of variationist linguistics foregrounds the variable as the object of study: each variant is situated in the envelope of variation against the other variants it competes with. This paper argues that it is necessary to look beyond the context of the alternations a variant participates in in order to get a full picture of the factors affecting variation. The multi-functional variant is used as a case study to illustrate the value of a variant-centered analysis: the fact that several distinct variables are all simultaneously changing toward the variant suggests that a variant can be targeted for change across multiple variables, parallelling Campbell-Kibler (2011)’s model of the variant as the carrier of sociolinguistic meaning. It is conjectured that the set of changes toward can be explained as a top-down discursive change targeting as an indicator of vague literality, a function it retains in multiple distinct variable contexts.


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