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Journal of Cross-Cultural and Interlanguage Communication

Ed. by Piller, Ingrid

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On explaining language shift: Sociology or social psychology of language?

1Assistant professor in the German Department of the University of Pécs, Hungary.

Address for correspondence: University of Pécs, Institute of German Studies, Ifjúság útja 6, H-7624 Pécs, Hungary.

Citation Information: Multilingua - Journal of Cross-Cultural and Interlanguage Communication. Volume 30, Issue 2, Pages 147–175, ISSN (Online) 1613-3684, ISSN (Print) 0167-8507, DOI: 10.1515/mult.2011.008, June 2011

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This study investigates the potentials and limits of sociolinguistic research on language shift. Starting from a position that the ultimate goal of the research must be to create a general theory of language shift of predictive power, the author examines the explanatory potential of current mainstream research methodology now regarded as canonical in the practice of research. He argues for the view that, for the purposes of the research goal mentioned, the arsenal of social psychology may prove more fruitful than sociologically-based correlational-global analysis methodology. There are, however, two necessary conditions to this. On the one hand, we cannot be satisfied with a mere additive consideration of the ‘subjective’ psychological factors in addition to the ‘objective’ factors of language shift. Instead, there is a need for a general change in point of view. On the other hand, sociolinguistics needs to show greater care in treating terms, notions, and theories borrowed from social psychology in a methodologically more precise way than is reflected in today's research practice.

Keywords:: sociolinguistics; language choice; language shift; social psychology of language; linguistic methodology; linguistic minorities

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