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Lecture Eight Language and Society.

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1 Lecture Eight Language and Society

2 Introduction Definitions Sociolinguistics: Sociolinguistics is the sub-field of linguistics that studies the relation between language and society, between the uses of language and the social structures in which the users of language live. (Dai and He, 2002, p. 111) Sociolinguistics is the field that studies the relation between language and society, between the uses of language and the social structures in which the users of language live. It is a field of study that assumes that human society is made up of many related patterns and behaviours, some of which are linguistic. (Spolsky, 2000, p. 3) Sociolinguistics: the study of linguistic behavior as determined by sociocultural factors. (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary: bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=sociolinguistics)

3 The study of language and linguistic behavior as influenced by social and cultural factors. ( Sociolinguistics is the study of the effect of any and all aspects of society, including cultural norms, expectations, and context, on the way language is used. (Wikipedia:

4 Language and society Social factors must be included in description of language and language use. Language is not only used to communicate meaning, but also maintain social relationships. What and how we speak may reflect ourselves. Lexicon reflects both physical and the social environments of a society. Judgments on language may vary among linguists and ordinary people.

5 Speech community and speech variety
General linguists and sociolinguists look at speech community differently. In a speech community there are different kinds of social groups which are divided in different ways (educational background, occupation, gender, age, ethnic affiliation) Speech variety: any distinguishable form of speech used by a speaker or a group of speaker. (three types: regional dialects, sociolects, registers)

6 Varieties of language Dialectal varieties Regional dialect Geographical barriers; loyalty to one’s native speech, physical and psychological resistance to change Media, transport and young people’s values may reduce the difference between varieties.

7 Sociolect Social dialect has to do with separation brought about by different social conditions. Differences in sociolects can be reflected in pronunciation, grammar and others Pronunciation: [n] for []; RP (Received Pronunciation) Grammar: third-person present-tense singular form of verbs; double negation Others: (maybe combined) Speaker A Speaker B I did it yesterday. I done it yesterday. He hasn’t got it. He ain’t got it. It was she that said it. It was her what said it.

8 Language and gender Difference in pronunciation. (women are more status-conscious than men) Difference in intonation (female speakers have a wider range in intonation) Difference in lexicon (some adjectives used more frequently by female) Women are more polite and milder Language and age The difference may come from the changing of society, social attitudes and value judgments.

9 Idiolect A person’s dialect of an individual speaker. (factors: region, social status, gender, age; reflected in: voice quality, pitch, speech tempo, rhythm) Ethnic dialect May be caused by racial discrimination or segregation. Black English is just another non-standard variety of English. Difference between black English and standard English in pronunciation and syntax. Passed [p:s], mend [men], desk [des], told [tl] He don’t know nothing. (He doesn’t know anything.) I ain’t afraid of no ghosts. (I’m not afraid of ghosts.)

10 Register The type of language which is selected as appropriate to the type of situation. Field (语场): refer to what is going on, subject matter of communication Tenor (语旨): refer to the role of relationship between the communicators Mode (语式): refer to the means of communication (oral or written (read or spoken)) e.g. a lecture on biology in a technical college Field: scientific (biological) Tenor: teacher – students (formal, polite) Mode: oral (academic lecturing)

11 Degree of formality Martin Joos’s five degrees of formality Frozen: Visitors would make their way at once to the upper floor by way of the staircase. Formal: Visitors should to up the stairs at once Consultative: Would you mind going upstairs right away, please? Casual: Time you al went upstairs now. Intimate: Up you go, chap!

12 Different styles can be characterized through differences at three levels: syntactic, lexical and phonological. In syntax (see p. 121) In lexicon More formal Less formal Offspring children decease die peruse read reply answer participate in take part in encounter come across tolerate put up with In address forms (Sir, Mr. Smith, Professor Smith, Smith, Frederick, Fred, Mate, Uncle, Fred, Dad)

13 Standard dialect The standard variety is a superimposed, socially prestigious dialect of a language. It is based on a selected variety, the local speech of an area considered the nation’s political and cultural center. It is superimposed from the upper level of the society over the range of regional dialects. It is officially standardized.

14 Pidgin and Creole A pidgin is a special language variety that mixes or blends languages and it is used by people who speak different languages for restricted purposes such as trading. Formed by combining a European language and local one Limited vocabulary and very reduce grammatical structure Pidgin may be extended to Creole

15 Bilingualism and diglossia
Two languages are used side by side with each having a different role to play Robin’s five variables concerning the usage: Location of the interaction Formality-informality of the interaction Degree of intimacy of the speakers Degree of seriousness of the discourse Sex of the participants Bilingualism occurs in areas where there are immigrants or children of immigrants Diglossia (双变体): two varieties of a language exist side by side throughout the community with each having a definite role to play. Each variety is the appropriate language for certain situations with very slight overlapping.

16 Task Do the following as written exercise: 2. Explain with an example that the evaluation of language is social rather than linguistic. References Dai, W. D & He, Z. X. (2002). A new concise course on linguistics for students of English. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press. Spolsky, B. (2000). Sociolinguistics. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary: Wikipedia:


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