Variation and Variables
The previous chapter outlined the themes we will explore in this book. However, before we embark on an overview of studies of linguistic variation, we need to clarify what we mean by “variation”, since this term is used in linguistics in a number of different senses, not all of which are relevant for our purposes. In this chapter, we begin by discussing the different definitions of variation and defining the sense in which it is used in this book. We then introduce a number of basic concepts in the analysis of linguistic variation, which it will be important to understand before proceeding to the following chapters. We begin by defining what we mean by “variation”, before introducing the concept of the variable and variants. We discuss the principle of accountability and the importance of defining the variable context. We also consider the difference between form-based and function-based approaches to defining the variable context.