Review of Eckert book “Meaning and Linguistic Variation”

In 2018, Penelope Eckert published a new book, Meaning and Linguistic Variation: The Third Wave in Sociolinguistics. I was invited by the journal Language in Society to publish a review. I accepted, but then got caught up that summer in other things that took priority. Every week I told the members of my accountability group that I would get to it. I didn’t.

An entire year passed, and the book editor finally wrote to me and asked, was I actually planning to send them anything? Embarrassed, I told the students in that summer’s accountability group that they should under no circumstances ever follow my unprofessional example! A six month extension later, and with the moral support of my writing partner, Silvina Bongiovanni, I wrote the review. You can find it here at https://doi-org.proxy1.cl.msu.edu/10.1017/S0047404520000354, or open the free read-only version.

It was a pleasure to read Penny’s book. I found slivers of time for it during the 2019-20 winter break: On a plane trip to Portland, OR; on a ferry from Port Angeles, WA to Victoria, BC; during my 5am-7am daily writing time at home. The peripatetic reading experience reminded me of how I’d read Eckert’s previous book, Linguistic Variation as Social Practice, while traveling across the US. In 2007 I took an Amtrak train from East Lansing, MI to San Francisco, CA, to attend the Linguistic Society of America summer institute at Stanford. Discovering that — unlike on the East coast trains I was used to — there were no power outlets, and that I couldn’t use my laptop, I opened up Linguistic Variation and read it from cover to cover on the 72-hour trip. Then I attended Penny’s LSA course, co-taught with Miyako Inoue, in which they were really fleshing out 3rd Wave variation theory. Collectively, the book and the course transformed my dissertation for the better, and the ideas have stayed with me and inspired me ever since.