Can dialect features survive as socio-stylistic variants?

Anna Borbély

Research Institute for Linguistics, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary


Can dialect features survive as socio-stylistic variants?

– Studying two verbal forms in the Budapest Sociolinguistic Interview (BSI) corpus –

As the evidence accumulated in Harlig and Pléh (1995) shows, in most East European, formerly socialist countries one common denominator of language policy – as well as an obstacle for the advent of modern, value-free sociolinguistics – was and remains the omnipresent centralized language cultivation. Profound social changes in the 20th centuries in Hungary (e.g. urbanization) and the spread of standard Hungarian by school, media, etc., are considered as factors of loss of importance and prestige of Hungarian regional dialects. What are the destinies of the stigmatized Hungarian dialectal variants: do they remain as variants used only by old rural people and will pass away with them simultaneously, or will they survive as sociolinguistic and/or stylistic variants? In Hungarian the verb forms as jösztök (‘you-pl. come’), and tudnák (‘I would know’) are labelled as stigmatized dialectal forms. In our paper using data collected by field methods of sociolinguistic interview (see Labov 1984), we will study sociolinguistic and stylistic variation of these two verbs in Hungarian spoken in Budapest.

The inter-speaker and the intra-speaker variation of the variables we will examine using the 50 pilot interviews. These were conducted in 1987 with a quota sample of ten teachers over 50 years of age, ten university students, ten blue-collar workers, ten sales clerks, and ten vocational trainees aged 15–16 (see Kontra 1990). The itemized data will be analyzed statistically from the following tasks of the BSI version 2 corpus: oral sentence completion, judgement: “same or different”, reading test (slow-fast), and also in the guided conversations stratified by different modules for at least thirty minutes (see in detail

Budapest is a melting pot with lots of in-migrants. According to our analysis on spoken Hungarian from Budapest the dialectal variants of the studied verbs can not pass away together with old rural people, they will survive them primarily as sociolinguistic variables.


Harlig, Jeffrey and Pléh, Csaba (eds.) 1995. When East Met West: Sociolinguistics in the Former Socialist Bloc. (Contributions to the Sociology of Language series 68, Joshua Fishman, general editor). Mouton de Gruyter Publisher.

Kontra Miklós 1990. Budapesti élőnyelvi kutatások. In: Magyar Tudomány, 1990/5, 512–520.

Labov, William 1984. Field Methods of the Project on Linguistic Change and Variation. In: John Baugh – Joel Sherzer (eds.) Language in Use: Readings in Sociolinguistics. Englewood Cliffs, N.J. Prentice-Hall, 28–53.

Session: Paper session
Variation 2 (Grammar)
Thursday, April 3, 2008, 13:45-15:15
room: 09