Locating place in variationist sociolinguistics: Making the case for ethnographically informed multidimensional place orientation metrics

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Cambridge University Press


Variationist research has much to gain from deepening engagement with theories about place, defined as space imbued with social meaning. One challenge that variationists face is how to adapt the complex and multifaceted aspects of place orientation into a single measure that can be included in models of sociolinguistic variation. In this paper, I advocate for an ethnographic approach to place, providing an example from Greater New Orleans, where post-Katrina displacement has highlighted individual connections to place. Using an ethnographically informed multidimensional place orientation metric (MPOM), I examine two local linguistic features among speakers from the suburban town of Chalmette, Louisiana according to place orientation. Via statistical modeling and case study of individual speakers, I demonstrate the value of MPOMs in quantitative analysis of sociolinguistic variation, arguing for further theorization of place orientation in our research and providing a model for variationist sociolinguists interested in engaging more with place theory.



variationist sociolinguistics, place identity, place attachment, place orientation, sense of place, mobility