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Varieties of English Sociolinguistics.

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1 Varieties of English Sociolinguistics

2 Sociolinguistics Study of accent and dialect is part of sociolinguistics Mostly so far we have looked purely descriptively at accents/dialects Clearly just below the surface is the fact that varieties of language are connected in some way to sociological issues We will look at these issues for the next few sessions

3 Language and dialect We prefer to think
Languages have various dialects. There are actually a range of varieties that people consider to be standard. What is considered standard is associated with prestige, a non-linguistic factor. From a linguistic standpoint, what is considered standard has NOTHING to do with correctness or superiority. From a linguistic standpoint, ALL DIALECTS are equally correct, equally expressive, equally complex, equally logical and so forth. That is, the term non-standard dialect means just that, not the standard dialect. It DOES NOT MEAN inferior or sub-standard. Non-standard dialects are not simply offshoots from the standard. In fact, often the opposite is true

4 Language and dialect Some common misconceptions
A language is composed of a "standard" dialect from which all of the other non-standard dialects emerge. The standard dialect is the "correct" way to speak the language. The other dialects represent erroneous or inferior ways of speaking the language. The standard language is more complex, more logical, more expressive than the non-standard dialects. Non-standard dialects are a product of "lazy" speech.

5 Factors in classifying dialects
Geography Dialectology Effects still surprisingly strong despite global communications and mobility Ethnicity Often closely tied to geography Various features associated with certain ethnic groups cut across geographical boundaries Self identity often an important effect here Social class Socio-economic factors Class consciousness, identity and aspirations

6 History of Sociolinguistics
Usually said to start with Labov (1966), but actually dates back to 1900s Saussure’s langue~parole distinction reflects difference between abstract and “language in use” Dialect geographers of the 1930s commented on social aspects of dialect differences At the same time, anthropological linguists couldn’t help but note socially conditioned aspects of “exotic” languages Also, researches interested in bilingualism (1930s) noted a sociological aspect

7 History of Sociolinguistics
1960s/1970s saw much work in Language and social context (Hymes, Fishman) Language and class (Labov, Bernstein) Language and gender (Lakoff) Issue of dialect vs language (status) Pidgins and creoles Bilingualism, code shifting

8 History of Sociolinguistics
Focus in late 1970s/1980s reflects contemporary social issues Studies of Black English (Ebonics, and other names) emphasize linguistic integrity of nonstandard forms link between language and identity similarities across regions, plus certain features suggest it may be a creole rather than a (number of) dialect(s) Language and gender How language reveals, embodies and sustains attitudes to gender. How language users speak or write in (different and distinctive) ways that reflect their sex Latterly, including gay and lesbian issues Language and politics All of the above, plus: How language reveals, embodies and sustains attitudes to political positions (eg marxist, colonialist, …)

9 Fundamental concepts Speech community Prestige
Internal vs external language Class Age Gender

10 Speech community Group of people who share some identifiable aspect of their linguistic communication More importantly: there should be some self identification as a community … and there may be some degree of deliberate exclusion of outsiders Speech communities can be defined by geography, ethnicity, socio-economic class, but also occupation, gender, religion, etc. It follows that individuals can identify with multiple speech communities … … and can adjust their language according to the circumstances, so as to identify in the most appropriate way

11 Prestige Dialects are often classified according to the prestige associated with them Within vs outside the speech community Conforming to the speech habits of one’s peer group may accord prestige and acceptance Some speech habits are viewed as prestigious by outsiders, who then aspire to those speech habits Prestige may be measured on a scale rather than fixed points (more~less rather than high~low)

12 Internal vs external language
Chomskyan distinction I-language: abstraction of language as mentally represented knowledge in a native speaker E-language: language in social contexts Related to competence~performance distinction Assumption that all native speakers are quite homogeneous in how they process and perceive language; E-language explains why this is assumption appears to be contradicted by actual use Many sociolinguists reject this as a false distinction

13 Class Socio-economic class now more prevalent than geography in dialect studies (since 1960s) Undisputable (but still controversial) link between lower classes and less standard language – think about why this is, though! Labov (1966) first showed that social aspirations influence speech patterns Highly controversial theory (Bernstein 1971) that elaborated vs restricted codes reflect fundamentally different mental organization of language We’ll look at these studies in more detail

14 Age Language change often traceable by studying differences in language use according to age of speaker Speech communities (cf above), as defined by age, are a factor (issues of identity, exclusion) Slang comes and goes … But more significantly, changes are often more prevalent in speech of younger people Phonetic changes: Vowel shifts, intonation patterns Changes in meanings of words Grammatical changes

15 Gender It has long been acknowledged that there may be differences in language usage between men and women: quite extreme in languages other than English Lakoff (1975) identified extensive differences not just in grammar and lexis, but in aspects of style, register, and (especially in dialogues) dynamic roles Studies have adapted to the broader social agenda: early theories relating to power relationships between sexes (Lakoff) now giving way to view that there is a cultural difference (Tannen) We’ll look at this issue in more detail later

16 Coming up in the next few sessions
We’ll look in more detail at the work of Labov Bernstein Language change Language and gender etc

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