In the early 1990s, John R. Rickford asked me for advice on a research topic he had been thinking about for some years. John and I had been colleagues and friends for over a decade, but our backgrounds and research topics seemed so different that I never thought we would collaborate. After all, he was a Labov student, and I was a Chomsky student. But his request to me was perfectly timed: I had just finished a four-year stint as a dean, during which time I did essentially no research. Moreover, I had some years earlier lost faith in the theoretical assumptions and methods that I had been trained in, and I was a bit unsure how to proceed professionally. So John’s approach was very welcome.