The relation of quantitative data on language use to the grammar of the language remains an important problem in linguistic theory; it has also been the subject of ambitious claims within sociolinguistics. The paper discusses the evolution of socio-linguistic analysis to encompass 'syntactic variation', the consequences of confining analysis to those contexts exhibiting 'variation', and the theoretical implications of such an approach. © 1985 Elsevier Science Publishers B.V.
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