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Presentation on theme: "LANE 422 SOCIOLINGUISTICS"— Presentation transcript:

Summarized from SOCIOLINGUISTICS An Introduction to Language and Society Peter Trudgill 4th edition. 2000, and other sources Prepared by Dr. Abdullah S. Al-Shehri

2 Language and Ethnic Group
Chapter 3 Language and Ethnic Group

3 In the previous chapter..
We saw how linguistic variation may be caused by physical distance or barriers that separate speech communities from each other. We also learned that variation in the way people use language is also due to social class differentiation. In this lecture we will learn about language variation along ethnic lines.

4 Ethnicity & Ethnic Groups
Ethnicity means having an identity with, or membership in, a particular racial, national, or cultural group. Observance of that particular group’s customs, beliefs, and language or dialect usually signals one’s identifying with, or membership of, that group.

5 In the United States.. There are, for example, differences between the English spoken by the (so called) White Americans and Black Americans. It is easy to assign people to one of the two ethnic groups solely on the basis of their language. This indicates the ‘black speech’ and ‘white speech’ have some kind of social reality for many Americans.

6 However.. Whether one speaks ‘White’ or ‘Black’ English is the result of learned behavior’. People do not speak the way they do because they are “white” or “black”. What actually happens is that speakers acquire the linguistic characteristics of those they live in close contact with. Members of the two ethnic groups learn the linguistic varieties associated with them in exactly the same way that social-class dialects are acquired. By no means all American Blacks speak African American Vernacular English (AAVE), but the overwhelming majority of those who do speak it are Blacks, and can be identified as such from their speech alone.

7 Obviously then.. There is no racial or physiological basis of any kind for this particular type of linguistic variation. In the past, there was a believe that there was an inherent connection between ‘language’ and ‘race’. Any human being can learn any human language. There are many cases of whole ethnic groups switching language through time – for example, the large numbers of people of African origin who now speak European languages only. It is therefore unlikely that groups of people are ‘racially related’ because they speak related languages.

8 It remains true, however, that…
Language may be an important or even essential concomitant of ethnic-group membership. This is a social and cultural fact, and it is important to be clear about what sort of process may be involved. Linguistic characteristics may be the most defining criteria for ethnic-group membership. Ethnic-group differentiation in a mixed community, then, is a particular type of social differentiation, and as such, will often have linguistic differentiation associated with it. The different ethnic groups therefore maintain their separateness and identity as much through language as anything else.

9 Varieties of Language and Ethnicity
The separate identity of ethnic groups is not only signaled by different languages. Ethnic affiliation can also be signaled by different varieties of the same language. Differences of this type may be perpetuated by, the same sort of social mechanisms as are involved in the maintenance of social-class dialects. Ethnic group differentiation may then act as a barrier to the communication of linguistic features in the same way as other social barriers. Individuals who are black, for example, are much more likely to be aware of the fact that they are ‘black’ than they are to recognize that they are, say, ‘lower middle class’. This means that ethnic-group membership and identity may be an important social fact for them which can be signaled by persistent linguistic differences.

10 It Should be Noted… Ethnic groups are relatively fluid entities whose boundaries can change and which can come into being and/or disappear during the course of history. An interesting example of this comes from the former Yugoslavia…

11 Former Yugoslavia: A Case in Point
Between 1918 and the 1990s, Yugoslavia was a multi-ethnic, multilingual nation-state. Most of this country was covered by a geographical dialect continuum of South Slavic dialects. Everybody was agreed that the dialects of Slovenia in the north-western part of this continuum were dialects of Standard Slovenian; and from 1945 onwards, the official position was that the dialects of Yugoslavian Macedonia, in the north, were dialects of Standard Macedonian. In the center of the country, however – Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Hercegovina and Serbia – the situation was rather more complex. The official position was that the language of these areas was Serbo-Croat. Serbian was often written in the Cyrillic alphabet and Croatian in the Latin alphabet. At various times in history, Serbian and Croatian have variously been considered a single language with two different varieties, or two different languages, depending on the prevailing ideology and political situation.

12 Former Yugoslavia: A Case in Point Continued..
In Bosnia, the central part of Yugoslavia, the position was even more complex. The dialects spoken in this central part of the dialect continuum are intermediate between those of Croatia and Serbia. The people who live in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia, might perhaps say that they spoke Croatian if they were Croats because their Croatian ethnic identity is important to them. The Serbian population of Sarajevo may say that they spoke Serbian because their Serbian identity is important to them also. However, the dialects the two ethnic groups spoke were exactly the same, and therefore for them the combined name Serbo-Croat actually made more sense.

13 Former Yugoslavia: A Case in Point Continued..
Since early 1990, with the break-up of Yugoslavia, this situation has changed. The now independent government in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, calls its national language Croatian, and strongly favors the Latin alphabet. The Serbian government in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, calls its national language Serbian, and strongly favors the Cyrillic alphabet. In both cases, the governments have attempted to carry out what some opponents have called ‘lexical cleansing’ – in parallel with the tragic instances of ethnic cleansing that have occurred in various places in former Yugoslavia. Both Croatian and Serbian governments are also attempting to remove Turkish words from their languages, while the Bosnian government seems to be favoring them. New governments in former Yugoslavia are thus deliberately attempting to stress their separate identities, nation-hoods and ethnicities by focusing on linguistic differences.

14 So… As we saw earlier in the first lecture, whether a linguistic variety is a language or not is by no means entirely a linguistic question. When sociopolitical issues are also connected with issues of ethnicity, they can become very complex indeed, and one language can end up being three languages.

15 The African American Vernacular of English (AAVE): Another Case in Point
In the English-speaking world, one of the most striking examples of linguistic ethnic-group differentiation is the difference we have seen between the speech of black and white Americans. It is believed that the lack of integration between black and white American communities is leading to a linguistic divergence of the black and white varieties of English in America, showing a dramatic reflection of the severe racial division between the two communities.

16 Origins of AAVE There are two main views:
AAVE features are derived from the English dialects of the British Isles. AAVE features are derived from West African languages. Another major argument suggests that the first African Americans spoke an English Creole, which has, over the years, gone though a process of decreolization to become the AAVE of today.

17 The Divergence Hypothesis
Due to the racially divided nature of American society, and the lack of integration between blacks and whites, AAVE and White speech in America are believed to be growing apart, showing a dramatic reflection of the severe racial division between the two communities.

18 So, why does race and language entail so much emotional reaction then?
The answer lies in the symbolic function of the language. One of the most important ways of identifying members of a community is by the language or variety of language they speak. Language is a very important marker of ethnic identity. Most ethnic groups believe that their language is the best way to preserve and protect their ethnic identity.


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