Presentation on theme: "Alireza Dehbozorgi Allameh Tabatabai University. It is well known that individuals perceive the languages and/or varieties which exist in their environment."— Presentation transcript:
It is well known that individuals perceive the languages and/or varieties which exist in their environment differently. Hence, the creation of the perceptual dialectology, as a subfield of folk linguistics, which itself can be considered a subpart of sociolinguistics. The publication of a classic two-volume book titled Perceptual Dialectology (Preston (1999); vol. 1) and (Long & Preston 2002; vol. 2) illustrates the importance that the field of perceptual dialectology has already gained.
Preston (1999) consists of 22 articles divided into three main parts which deal with Dutch language and its varieties, the Japanese language and its varieties, and a final part which consists of a variety of different articles on different languages. Part one begins with the origins of modern folk linguistics by the Dutch dialectologist, Antonius Weijnen (1946), Little arrows method.
Chapter 3 of part one discusses the grey areas in the mutual intelligibility of Dutch and German speakers at the German-Dutch border. One can simply infer that Dutch is one of the most varied languages in the world. Part 2 deals with the dichotomy objective vs. subjective dialect boundaries, especially with regard to Japanese varieties. On the whole, it consists of 7 chapters.
Part 3 contains 12 articles each discussing problems regarding the language attitude towards English and Japanese (ch. 11), English varieties in the Great Britain (ch. 12), Japanese local dialects (chs. 13 and 14), German varieties in the post-unification area (ch. 15), Parisian French (ch. 16), Turkish dialects (ch. 17), American English varieties (chs. 18 and 19), English varieties in Welsh (ch. 20)
Chapters 21 and 22 deal with the general problems of dialect recognition from a perceptual viewpoint. What these papers try to convey is that speakers can, to a more or less extent, perceive the distinctions and differences between ones own language and the others in their geographical and social environments.
Volume 2 is more descriptive, consisting of a wide variety of individual case studies. Summarily, we can have the following thematic list: Ch. 1: deals with the Cuban perceptions of Spanish varieties. Ch. 2: investigates the speakers aesthetic evaluation of Dutch. Ch. 3: illuminates the language situation of the Mandigo Region in Mali, an African country.
Ch. 4: discusses the gender-related perceptual differences of Turkish varieties. Ch. 5: talks about mental maps using linguistic -geographic concepts; a classic article Ch. 6: deals with Montreal inhabitants varieties of French. Ch. 7: is about the acoustic and perceptual analysis of imitation (as the title exactly suggests)
Ch. 8 is about the Californian students perception of those US regions in which you know is very common. Ch. 9: is again about dialect distance perception of Dutch. Ch. 10: considers the language perception situation in the Norwegian city of Bergen. Ch. 11: takes into account the effects of the demography, dialect leveling, and social networks on the perceptual differences of dialects in old and new towns.
Ch. 12 provides us with an aesthetic account of perceptual dialectology of Hungarian. Ch. 13 deals with levels of linguistic awareness in the Noirmoutier Island (France) Ch. 14 discusses the perceptual differences with respect to the Korean language varieties. Ch. 15 investigates perceptual dialectology from an Anglophone perspective Ch. 16. deals with Madridian perception of Spanish varieties
Ch. 17 investigates language attitudes toward a group of American English varieties (i.e., Midwestern) Ch. 18 is a case study from Southern Italy concerning the perceptual differences of urban varieties Ch. 19 is a perceptual dialectological study of Swiss French. Ch. 20: investigates the effect(s) of a phonological process (i.e., vowel devoicing) on the perceptual abilities of the Japanese speakers towards the dialects.
Almost all of the previous articles mentioned so far cover one the following comparison types: 1. Different (geographical and social) varieties of the same language (e.g. chs. 3-10 of Preston 1999; and chs. 1, 2, 4, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19) in the same geographical area (usually a country) judged by informants speak a different variety of the language and/or variety in question.
2. Dialect differences that overlap geographical boundaries between adjacent countries (e.g. The German-Dutch dialect perception case near the border) 3. Dialect differences between varieties which have a superstratum-substratum relation (such as Standard Spanish and its Cuban counterpart)
But as far as the present author is concerned, no individual and comprehensive research has been up to the present date carried out to consider the perceptual abilities of speakers not only towards a foreign language, but also towards the varieties of the foreign language concerned. In the present article, it has been tried to overcome these shortcomings by carrying out a research in the above-mentioned line.
In the present paper, the notion of an still existing RP (Received Pronunciation) and GA (General American), albeit very controversial, is taken for granted for scientific purposes. In other words, the wide varieties of English spoken in the Great Britain have been idealized and thus represented by RP, and those varieties spoken across the United States have also been represented by GA. As mentioned earlier, these idealizations are only for special purposes and only theoretically plausible.
It is noncontroversial that nowadays pure RP and pure GA hardly, if ever, exist. For instance, in the case of England, the influence of Estuary English (Rosewarne 1984) and Cockney on RP has been noticeable. The same interactional relationship holds almost true for the GA, in which AAVE (African-American Vernacular English), Boston English, Latino English, etc. have been very influential on GA. For the actually existing varieties in US and Canada see Labov et al. (2006).
In the present article, the fact is investigated that Persian speakers of Iran not only have a level of awareness of English as a foreign language, but also show different perceptual abilities and biases towards the two most common varieties in the world, namely British English, as represented by RP, and American English, as represented here by GA. Furthermore, it can be demonstrated that these different perceptual differences are based not only on linguistic and aesthetic factors, but that other factors also play a role in dialectal perception.
Edwards (2006: 325-326) proposes three possible reasons for the preference of one variety over another: 1. Intrinsic difference 2. Aesthetic difference 3. Social perception Intrinsic difference is related to the structural (phonological, morphological, semantic, syntactic, etc.) differences between languages.
Aesthetic differences concerns the sensory (mainly auditory) reactions to the external world. As will be discussed later, intrinsic and aesthetic abilities can be influenced by social factors. Social perception is deeply related to the social psychology of different societies (whether micro- or macro-) and their tendency to have a certain kind of belief and opinion towards a phenomenon.
But, having considered all of the above- mentioned three factors, one question is still being unanswered. Do these factors act independently without respect to the socio- political conditions and events that have occurred in the history of a nation? This can be considered as the second research question of the paper. The first one, as mentioned before, can be paraphrased as the following:
1. Do Persian speakers inhabiting Iran have different perceptual abilities and biases towards RP and GA? The second question can also be paraphrased in the same way: 2. Do socio-political factors influence the judgments about the intrinsic, aesthetic, and social factors?
The research has been carried out in four major Iranian cities, namely, Tehran, Mashhad, Isfahan, and Shiraz. The informants have been divided according to their awareness of the English language and its varieties into two groups: 1. Those with common awareness (i.e., the highest level of informants awareness of a linguistic topic; see Preston 1996a) which consist mainly of language learners and university students (not necessarily studying English language and related fields, but which may have passed some related credits in English). These group of informants were tested beforehand to see if they were sufficiently proficient to distinguish between RP and GA, and if they passed the test, they were requested to fill out questionnaires and participate in some oral interviews.
2. The second group of informants had mainly suggestible awareness (see Preston 1996a) of linguistic topics in question, and mainly consisted of commoners, with no noticeable knowledge or official training in English. They were only requested to take part in the oral interview.
The main aim of the interviews is to compare the results of the two group of informants and to see whether there are any correlations of the two judgments of the two groups? A number of 40 informants are selected from each town (altogether 160), half of which belonged to each group. The questionnaires and oral interviews involved asking the informants to specify the features that seem characteristic of that variety.
In written questionnaires, four phonetic features distinguishing RP and GA were considered: - rhoticity - nasality - creaky voice - context-dependent vowel lengthening
In oral interviews, the informants were asked to listen to parts of a recorded speech in one of the varieties and then to specify its characteristic features. After doing the first phase, the next step would be to reveal the real answers (i.e., names of the varieties in question). Before revealing the name of the variety, the results of the two groups largely converged (154/160), in that:
- They considered RP to be more nasal, non- rhotic, creakier, and by its less use vowel lengthening in words such as possible. The reverse was held to be true for GA. As they were informed of the true name of the variety, the results changed way a bit: The second group of informants (i.e., those with little awareness of the English language), preferred American with a high majority (68/80) for solely sociopolitical reasons.
The first group (i.e., the one with more linguistic awareness of English), remarked that they preferred British English over American English. Now the question remains that what are the sociopolitical factors that affect the informants first judgements?
- Britain and the United States have been actively engaged in Iran both economically and militarily. The British Petroleum had been in the Southern parts of Iran, mainly operating refineries. The British Council also had an active role in foreign language education in Iran. In the 1970s, the US considered Iran an ally and friend (Iran was part of an alliance called CENTO, a NATO subsidiary). Thus, Iran was financially, militarily, and educationally (by student exchange programs) assisted by the US.
The British have always (somehow mistakenly) been taken as cunning, and interfering by the common Iranians. The US financial assistance, together with the high price of oil made Iran a powerful country, not only in the region, but in the world. Iranians travelling to US in the 1970s liked the friendliness of the Americans as opposed to the relatively conservative behavior of the British.
The noticeable result is that almost all of the second group associated nasality, etc. with being posh, colonialism, bias. But for the first group (70/80), this is quite the reverse. This is shows that affection towards UK and, in general has increased within the past two decades. Especially, the younger generations attitude illustrates this point.
This effect has actually revealed itself after the Islamic Revolution, after which the diplomatic relations were officially cut. As evidence, we can now also observe that teaching RP in language institutes is becoming more common in Iran. In fact, as a subsidiary part of the survey, I also asked my informants whether the teaching of RP instead of GA has advantages or disadvantages, 87.5% (70/80) of the first group had positive opinions about this.
Aesthetic, intrinsic (linguistic), and socio- political factors can be considered as different components of a complex system (Simon 1969). In other words, these factors have themselves several sub-components, e.g., social component has as its members the features [harshness], [arrogance], etc. Intrinsic differences may include [rhoticity], [nasality], [vowel lengthening].
As language other social conventions are considered as complex systems, they must have a hierarchical structure towards each other. In other words, they must be involved with the interaction of their subcomponents as well as with those of other (higher or lower) counterparts. In a hierarchical system, the higher we go, the stronger the components become, and less resistant to manipulations by lower components.
The position of factor components are different in different languages (and thus, in different societies). For instance, in more literate societies, the linguistic component possesses the highest position in the hierarchy, with the aesthetic and social factors laying below it. Here, the linguistic factors, thanks to their higher position, have command over the other factors and resist any influence from other ones. This can be clearly illustrated by the relatively pure linguistic judgments of speakers in more literate societies on different languages.
Aesthetic beautyugliness Sociopolitical arrogancecolonialistic Linguistic Vowel lengtheningnasality
The situation is sometimes changed the change of position in the hierarchy. Thus, in less literate societies, sociopolitical factors are placed higher in the hierarchy, and affect the linguistic and aesthetic factors in speakers judgments. That can be observed in group 2 informants (i.e. the older generation) in this research. But the judgments of group 1 (i.e. the younger generation) suggests that Iran is in a process of gradual change in the hierarchical structures mentioned.
This model can also be illustrated through (the originally Fodorian) concept of module. Different modules also can consist of subsections, and can interact with each other. Two of the features that Fodor (1983) considered necessary for a module to have are information encapsulation, i.e. that other modules cannot interfere in the internal processing of a module, and domain-specificity, which states that each module can only store and/or process certain inputs.
The balance relationship between modules can change by the decrease in their domain- specificity and information encapsulation. The weaker these features in a module, the more it can be penetrated and manipulated by other modules. Lets call this event modular leakage. Modules can also take a hierarchical formation. Lets call this model the dynamic hierarchical- modular model.
Edwards J. Language Attitudes. In Brown K. (ed.). Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics (2 nd ed.). Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2006. vol.6. P. 325-326. Labov W., Ash S., Boberg, C. Atlas of North American English. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. 2006 Long D., Preston D. R. (eds.). Handbook of Perceptual Dialectology. vol.2. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2002.
Preston D. R. (ed.). Handbook of Perceptual Dialectology. vol.1. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1999. Rosewarne D. Estuary English, Times Educational Supplement, 19 September 1984. Simon, H. A. The Sciences of the Artificial. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 1969
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