August 28, 2015
This paper takes a look at recent shifts in sociolinguistic paradigms and considers their applications to historical sociolinguistic research. Besides growth areas such as multilingualism, a current trend is convergence of established approaches. My discussion focuses on those that go even further, bridging the gap between macro- and micro-levels of analysis in the historical context of study. Presented as interdependent levels, layers or domains of analysis, these models usually imply that the analyst needs to cross boundaries between established sociolinguistic paradigms when moving from one level of analysis to another. From the analyst’s perspective the issues include the layered simultaneity of the multiple contexts present at any given point in time and the ways in which their chronologies stretch over time and space. I discuss the reconstruction of macro- and micro-contexts and their interdependence by presenting a case study of Samuel Pepys, a seventeenth-century English naval administrator. I conclude by advocating both informational maximalism and an empirical baseline for such studies. Digital humanities will no doubt facilitate this research in the future.