CHAPTER 18: LANGUAGE AND REGIONAL VARIATION
THE STANDARD LANGUAGE
It is an idealized variety; it has no specific region or accent. It is associated with administrative, commercial and educational centers, regardless of region. It is printed in books, newspapers and it is used in mass media. Examples, RP received pronunciation and GenAme General American English.
Accent and Dialect
We all speak with an accent. Accent is the aspects of pronunciation that identifies where an individual speaker is from, regionally or socially; while dialect is features of grammar and vocabulary as well as aspects of pronunciation.
Some dialects become more prestigious than others. Specially those dialect that develop a standard language status are associated to center of economic and political power.
Isoglosses and Dialect Boundaries
Isogloss represents a boundary between the areas regarding to one particular liguistic item. Dialect boundary is created when various isoglosses representing other features overlap each other.
The Dialect Continuum
In most dialect boundary areas, one dialect or language variety merges into another. The regional variation is seen as a dialect continuum. The same continuum occurs when two languages merge on both sides of a political border. Examples: Holland and Germany. Some speakers of these areas are called bidialectal because they speak the two dialects.
Bilingualism and Diglossia
There are two types of bilingualism. The first one is political and it means that two languages are accepted inside a country. The individual bilingualism refers to the fact that a person speaks two languages for personal reasons.
Diglossia: it makes reference to two distinct varieties of one language, one of them is a low variety and the other is a high special variety.
Low variety: It used locally and for everyday affairs.
High special variety: learned in schools and used for important matters.
Government and legal and educational organizations in many countries have to plan what variety of the languages spoken in a country are to be used for official business.
Pidgins and Creoles
Pidgin is a variety of a language that developed for some practical purpose, such as trading among a group of people who had a lot of contact, but who didn't know each other's languages.
Creole is a descendant of pidgin. When a pidgin develops beyond its role as a trade or contact language and becomes the first language of a social community, it is described as a Creole.
The Post-Creole Continuum
Creolization: it is the process of a pidgin in evolving into a Creole. In some areas some varieties prestige and higher social forms are related or associated with some languages or varieties, this process is known as decreolization. In one extreme there is a higher model and on the other extreme there is an external standard model and in between there is a range of slightly different variety. This range of varieties is called post-Creole continuum.
CHAPTER 19: LANGUAGE AND SOCIAL VARIATION
The term sociolinguistics is used for the study of the relationship between language and society. This is a brad area of investigation that developed through the interaction of linguistics with other academic disciplines (anthropology, sociology and psychology)
The study of social dialect focuses on speakers of towns and cities. In social dialects, social class is used to analyze and define groups of speakers. The two main groups are generally identified as middle class and working-class.
Middle-class: those who have more years of education and perform non-manual work of some kind.
Working-class: those who have fewer years of education and perform some manual work of some kind.
When we refer to working-class speech, we are referring to a social dialect. The terms lower and upper are used to subdivide the groups on economic basis.
Pronunciation, words and structures are treated to analyze sociolects. So pronunciation may be an indicator of economic status. The use of structures such as "ain't" is also an indicator of working-class status.
Education and Occupation
Idiolect is a personal dialect. We generally tend to sound like others with whom we share similar educational backgrounds or occupations.
Speakers who have left early educational system have patters and form infrequent in those who have completed their college.
Social markers are the special pronunciation and phonetic features that denote social status or position. Some examples of social markers are:
1- The post-vocalic /r/ sound
2- The dropping of velar "ng" in -ing endings
3- The /h/ dropping in initial position
Speech Style and Style-Shifting
Speech style makes reference to formal or informal speech:
Formal style: when we pay more attention to how we are speaking
Informal style: when we pay less attention to our speech form.
These styles sometimes are described as "careful styles" and "casual styles" respectively. When a speaker change from one to another one is called "style-shifting". Middle-class speakers tend to shift their style to upper-class pronunciation.
When speakers change their speech, we say that they change it:
1- In direction of a norm more frequent in speakers perceived to have higher social status (Over Prestige)
2- Covert Prestige is associated with speakers who do not change their speech, they may value group solidarity rather than upward mobility.
Among younger people of middle-class status tend to shift their speech to covert prestige.
Speech accommodation is the ability to modify our speech style towards or away from the perceived style of the person we're talking to. We can adopt a speech that reduce social distances (called convergence) and use the same forms used by the person we are talking to. When a certain style is used to emphasize distance, we call it divergence.
Register and Jargon
Register is a conventional way of using language that is appropriate in a specific context, which may be identified as situational, occupational or topical. Each register has its specific language features.
Jargon is a special technical vocabulary associated with specific work areas or interest.
Slangs are more typically used among those who are outside established higher-status groups. Slang or colloquial speech describes words or phrases that are used instead of more everyday terms among younger speakers and other groups with special interest.
Inside slangs we find the "taboo terms" which is related to obscenity and prohibited or taboo behavior and activities.
AAE is variety spoken in different regions of USA. It is used by many (not all) African Americans. This variety has a covert prestige among younger speakers of other social groups, especially in music and many people who are not African American.
The term "vernacular" has been used since the middle ages, first to describe European languages (lower prestige) in contrast to Latin (higher prestige). Then it was used to describe languages and varieties that were non-standard and were used by lower-status groups. Examples: AAE, Asian American English, Chicano English.
The Sounds of a Vernacular
Features of African-American vernacular English:
1- Reduction of final consonant cluster
2- Fricative dental sounds turn into alveolar voiceless stops
3- S-Dropping in subject-verb agreement
Grammar of Vernacular
Features of African-American Vernacular English:
1- Double negation
2- Frequent absence of verb to be
3- Don't and Doesn't shift use
CHAPTER 20: LANGUAGE AND CULTURE
It refers to all the ideas and assumptions about the nature of things and people that we learn when we become members of social groups. It can also be defined as "socially acquired knowledge". This knowledge is acquired as language is acquires, unconsciously.
It is a group with certain features in common. The words that refer to categories make reference to concepts that people in our social world have typically needed to talk about. There is a relationship between the set of words we have learned (categories) and the way external reality is organized. Example: in some cultures there are many words to refer to rain.
Words used to refer to people who are members of the same family. All languages have kinship terms. But not in all languages some words are referred to the same concepts. For example the word "father" in English refers to the male parent, however in other languages this word also refers to the brother's parent.
In western cultures we think of time in relation to "clock time" (two days, one week etc). However in other languages and cultures that system of concepts does not exist.
The structure of our language seems to have influence on how we perceive the world.
Linguistic determinism is a term which refers to that "language determines thought". Psychological and cognitive effect of the mother tongue on cultural variation. Two speakers of very different languages would conceptualize in a somewhat different way the same Phenomena, by cognitive effects associated with the vocabulary and grammatical particularities of their languages.
The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis
Sapir-Whorf said that "we analyze the nature according to our structures of our native language". An example of this is the differences of how the Hopi people and the European-speaking people perceive the world.
Our language reflects our concerns. We inherit a language used to report knowledge. So language influences the organization of our knowledge in some way. We also inherit the ability to manipulate and be creative with the language in order to express our perceptions. The human manipulate the language.
Hopi speakers inherit a language system in which clouds have animate as a feature may tell us something about a traditional belief system or way of thinking. Another example is the Yagua language, in Yagua entities such as moon, rocks and pineapples are considered animate, as people. Their concepts are closer to meanings like "having special importance in life" rather than" concepts having life.
We know about classification of words in languages like Yagua because of grammatical markers called classifiers that indicate a type of noun involved. Examples: Swahili, Dyirbal, English.
Categories of social organization we can use to say how we are connected or related to others. Uncle and brother is used to call a large number of people.
Brother can you spare a dollar? "Brother" is used as an address term, in this request there is a clear closeness in relationship associated with a family member, speaker's attempt is to create solidarity.
Sir: would mean a unequal relationship of power (difference in social status). Unequal relationship would require terms like "doctor" and use of last name (Professor Buckingham)
Lower status: use of the nicknames or first names among speakers
Closeness: Tu (close), Vous (distant) in French.
Mr, Mrs, Miss, Ms. Women's adress terms include information about their marital status.
It is a distinction in sex between the male and the female. Grammatical gender is the distinction between masculine and feminine, which is used to classify nouns in languages such as Spanish. A third use is for social gender, which is a distinction we make when we use the terms "man" and "woman" to classify individuals in terms of their roles in society.
In some languages such as Sidamo in Ethiopia there are certain words which are only used by man, "ado" (milk) and by women "gurda". In Japanese, male and female speakers use different words (personal pronoun "I") to refer themselves. Men use "boku" and women use "watashi or atashi".
There is and always was a tendency to use male word reference as the normal means of use; for example, "each student has his own right to take an exam"
Lower-prestige forms: men are more likely to use lower-prestige forms such as "I seen/I saw it" and women are more likely to use higher-prestige forms. This is because women are more aware of social status and they tend to be more aware of how people may judge them. Men prefer non-standard or associated with working-class speech.
Among women speaking American English there is also generally more use of pitch movement, more rising and falling intonation.
More use of rising intonation at the end of the statement, more frequent use of hedges, tag questions and indirect speech acts.
Men tend to use more assertive forms and strong language, direct speech acts.
Many features that identify women's speech facilitate the exchange of turns, allowing others to speak. Interaction among men seems to be organized in a hierarchical way, with the right to speak. Men generally take longer turns at speaking and in many social contexts may be the only ones allowed to talk.
Same-gender interaction: there is little difference in the number of times speakers interrupt to each other. Women produce more back-channels as indicators of listening and paying attention. Men produce fewer back channels.
Cross-gender interaction: men are more likely to interrupt women (96%)