Dimensions of Linguistic Variation in a Socioeconomically Homogeneous Population
Considerable geographically based and some style‐related variation appear in fisherfolk Gaelic. The key contrast, however, is between personal‐pattern variation, in which no conservative variant may be identifiable and direction of change is weak or absent, and age‐related variation, in which conservative and innovative variants compete, with younger speakers' increasing use of the innovative variant indicating direction of change. Personally patterned differences in variant use appear in the routine conversational interactions of even closely related individuals. The social neutrality of individuals' variant choices is indicated by household members' demonstrated unawareness of each other's variant forms, by unremarked variant substitutions in dyadic conversational repetitions, by single speakers' apparently unmotivated variant alternations in rapid succession, and by variant alternation in supposedly fixed‐form traditional material. In marked contrast, social weighting appears clearly in strong responses to use of a single pair of disfavored variants and to substitution of English loanwords for familiar Gaelic equivalents.
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