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Auteur: Aurélie NARDY

Co-Auteur(s): Jean-Pierre CHEVROT, Univ. Grenoble Alpes, FR Stéphanie BARBU, Univ. Rennes, FR

Language acquisition and dialectal variation: when sociolinguistics meets psycholinguistics

Abstract/Résumé: Over the last thirty years, sociolinguistics and developmental psycholinguistics have made considerable progress. However, despite the evolution of these two disciplines they have not converged. To date, developmental sociolinguistics does not exist as an established field and there is a lack of studies placing the acquisition process within the context of the sociolinguistic variation inherent to languages. From its inception, sociolinguistics has focused on describing the phenomena of dialectal variation observed in adult speakers. Many studies have notably shown that the frequency with which adults use variants depends on linguistic and social factors. Where developmental psycholinguistics is concerned, studies have established the influence of effects of frequency and the interactional context on the acquisition process. These aspects linking input and social factors are characteristic of usage-based models of language acquisition. Despite this convergence, the question of the acquisition of sociolinguistic variation remains an under-explored field and yet taking this into account raises major theoretical issues. Firstly, it is a question of moving towards a conception of language development that explains how children construct stable linguistic knowledge in a variable linguistic environment that is, however, structured according to contextual and social aspects. Secondly, it is a question of understanding how the relationships between linguistic knowledge and social knowledge are constructed. This contribution to the desirable convergence of psycholinguistics and sociolinguistics takes the form of an exhaustive survey and analysis of the forty studies that have been carried out over the past four decades on the acquisition of sociolinguistic variables in different languages. On the basis of this review, we will bring to light developmental milestones allowing us to situate at what age and in which order the main factors of sociolinguistic variation appear. We will then examine the main tendencies in light of two theoretical questions focusing on the dynamics of development. The first concerns the motor for developing sociolinguistic competence: is this the result of learning sociolinguistic norms or rather of implicit learning of statistical regularities? The second question deals with the relationship between the child’s linguistic environment and the acquisition of sociolinguistic variables. To conclude, this literature review will enable directions to be outlined for future research linking developmental sociolinguistics and developmental psycholinguistics.