The choice of a variant is submitted to definite regularities. This variation is determinate. So, which factors determine the choice of variants in a person’s speech?
W.Labov and his following say that linguistic behavior depends on such social conditions as the socio-economic status of a speaker, his age and sex. The quantitative and the qualitative approaches are used in studying the influence of social factors on the choice of linguistic variants.
W.Labov is the father of the quantitative approach. One of his works which is dedicated to the social stratification of English language in New York has caused the increase of the quantitative researches.
W.Labov studied the difference in the pronouncing of [r] after vowels (for example, in the word ,park) by New York residents. He came to a conclusion that the pronouncing of the sound is a sign of a person’s high social class position. The research shows that one should not ignore the social and economic differentiation of society while learning languages.
In New York W.Labov also studied the difference in the pronouncing of (th) in such words as three and thing. The results showed that the lower social strata used [t] in 90% of cases, the best social circles used it in less than 15% of cases. However, the percentage of pronouncing [t] decreased in formal and well prepared speech.
The conclusion that linguistic behavior depends on social and stylistic context is of primary importance.
The quantitative researches in sociolinguistics show a very close connection between the development of language and the development of society. They also prove that external factors have an influence on the choice of variants.