This paper offers a variationist critique of aspects of phonological
theory and method,
focusing on advances in descriptive methods and highlighting the problems
to be addressed in explaining phonological variation. On the one hand,
situated language samples which have been systematically collected and
constitute a legitimate – indeed often vital – source of
evidence to be utilised by
linguists for assessing and refining theoretical models. On the other
cannot operate in isolation from theoretical concerns, and can benefit
evaluation of the competing theoretical frameworks available to them.
The paper begins with a brief review of the philosophical foundations
the tension between ‘external’ and ‘internal’
methodology. We then focus on a
particular phonological example – glottalisation in English.
We demonstrate that
phonological models of this can be complemented by systematic and accountable
data collection and analysis of the kind associated with sociolinguistics.
It is suggested
that the patterns of variation produced by speakers are significantly more
than has been indicated in the phonological literature. Consequently, these
approaches can be usefully expanded and extended as theoretical models.
some desiderata for extending the range of phonological models, focusing
the need to account for variability and change in language.