The relationship between face-to-face sociolinguistic interaction and macro structure: social network analysis, sociolinguistics, and the micro-meso-macro relationship

Natxo Sorolla Vidal

Xarxa CRUSCAT - Institut d'Estudis Catalans, Spain

Paper

The relationship between face-to-face sociolinguistic interaction and macro structure: social network analysis, sociolinguistics, and the micro-meso-macro relationship

The relationship between social structure and face-to-face interaction has been widely discussed but it has not been settled yet. Traditionally, in the social sciences, holistic theories have considered that social structure limits the individual’s action, and more recently these theories have argued that in addition to limiting the individual’s action, social structure also prevents action from developing. Thus, structure is seen as a way for the individual’s action to become possible, but within some limits imposed by the social structure. On the other hand, from atomistic perspectives, the focus is on the individual, interactions and rational choice.

Recently, these opposed views have been superseded by a new framework that studies human behavior integrating both perspectives. New developments in network analysis have allowed to further study individuals, their interactions, and their relationships to structure. This view allows for the interrelationship of the individual level (micro) and the set of more or less structured relationships that the individual establishes with other individuals of his or her network (meso). This relationship is constricted since the structure and the position of the network nodes constrict the individuals’ actions. However, at the same time, the reproduction and innovation of individual action within the network transform the structures of the network itself (meso).

In addition, the widest structures of the institutional context (macro) restrict the behavior of the networks (meso). Finally, even though the individual and his or her action cannot easily intervene at the macro level, some individuals in key positions within the network (or groups of individuals) can impact on the macro system.

This paper applies network analysis theory to analyze the relationship between the micro and macro levels in language choice among speakers of different languages. More specifically, it analyzes language choice among preadolescents of primary school in two areas of contact between Spanish and Catalan: 1) Noguera, a rural area in western Catalonia, where schooling is entirely done in Catalan, and 2) Franja, a Catalan-speaking area where schooling is done in Spanish. Language choice norms among Catalan-speaking and Spanish-speaking students of one classroom in different areas which have different linguistic convergence norms (one converges toward Catalan, and the other toward Spanish) are studied. The social network analysis studies the historic convergence toward Spanish in the linguistic interaction between Spanish-speaking and Catalan-speaking students, which is valid in Franja (with plenty of Catalan-speakin students and education in Spanish), but less solid in Noguera, with a similar percentage of Catalan-sepeaking students and education in Catalan.

Session: Paper session
Networks
Saturday, April 5, 2008, 09:00-10:30
room: 10