Peter Trudgill

28.–30. 5.


Peter Trudgill


  Agder University

Odborné zaměření:
– Sociolingvistika
– Jazyková variace
– Jazyková typologie
– Dialektologie

28. 5. / 14.10 / č. 300

1. The sociolinguistics of non-equicomplexity


The notion that all languages have an equivalent degree of complexity was at one time very much part of the conventional wisdom of the linguistics community. And that view was,
understandably, particularly strongly maintained in the face of a non-specialist public who still held to the view that some languages really were more “primitive” than others. Hockett wrote that “the total grammatical complexity of any language, counting both morphology and syntax, is about the same as any other”. The idea was that simplification at the level of morphology would be compensated for by complexification at the level of syntax, and vice versa. However, this invariance of linguistic complexity hypothesis has always been implicitly rejected by certain sorts of linguists, notably those sociolinguists, creolists and dialectologists who had learnt that language contact of certain sorts leads to simplification. It has always been obvious to them that, if the same language could be more or less simple at different points in time, then different languages could be more or less simple at the same point in time. This paper will address the topic of what exactly the social determinants of linguistic simplicity and complexity might be.
29. 5. / 14.10 / č. 300 2. 

Societies of intimates and mature linguistic phenomena


This paper explores aspects of the hypothesis that the distribution of grammatical structures over languages is sociolinguistically not entirely random. The suggestion is that there may be a tendency for different types of social environment and social structure to give rise to, or at least be accompanied by, different types of grammatical structure. I will outline facets of this sociolinguistic take on linguistic typology with respect to grammatical change, with a particular focus on changes that might be labelled simplification and complexification, and with the suggestion that not only is grammatical complexity of certain types variably distributed over the world’s languages, but that it is also likely to diminish in the future. Of particular importance in this discussion will be the notions of sociolinguistic typology; mature linguistic phenomena; and societies of intimates.


30. 5. / 12.30 / č. 300
3. Sociolinguistic typology and the uniformitarian hypothesis
One of the fundamental bases of modern historical linguistics has been the uniformitarian principle (Labov 1972). This principle states that knowledge of processes that operated in the past can be inferred by observing ongoing processes in the present: language structures in the past were subject to the same constraints as language structures in the present; and the mechanisms of linguistic change that operate around us today are the same as those which operated even in the remote past. This leads to the methodological principle of using the present to explain the past: we can’t try to explain past changes in language by resorting to explanations that would not work for modern linguistic systems. But, from the point of view of sociolinguistic typology, the present is not like the past at all, particularly with respect to demography and, as a consequence, social network structure. Labov himself warns that we must be “wary of extrapolating backward in time to neolithic preurban societies”: the methodology of using the present to explain the past might be less useful the further back in time we go. So where does that leave the uniformitarian principle?