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Estimated reading time 1–2 minutes

Lots of gems in Sociolinguistics: the study of speakers’ choices by Florian Coulmas (2005; Cambridge University Press). A serious introduction to the field aimed at students, with discussion points and references at the end of each chapter, with plenty of pointers to further study. I am interested in how language choice affects taxonomy, in labels and names, and what we perceive to be “natural” or “obvious” categories. Linguistics is a huge area of study, and even ignoring everything other than sociolinguistics still leaves an awful lot to take on board, so this clear and straightforward text was very helpful as a starting point. Coulmas says the “principal task of sociolinguistics is to uncover, describe, and interpret the socially motivated restrictions on linguistic choices” so I believe its findings must have some relevance to taxonomists, in that our main tool is language. I also think there are interesting parallels between what happens when governments try to define and impose language policies on people and when information managers try to impose “corporate language policies”. If they are welcomed and supported by the users they can bring great benefits, but can be disastrous if imposed dictatorially or when one group suffers at the expense of another.