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Classification: social groups, languages and dialects

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1 Classification: social groups, languages and dialects
Sociolinguistics 3 Classification: social groups, languages and dialects

2 The story so far General knowledge includes knowledge of language (‘I-language’) as well as of society (‘I-society’). (I = internal) General knowledge is an inheritance network so we store general ‘prototypes’ for people and for language. E.g. American, Student, Woman English, London English, Casual English

3 Language and knowledge
Our knowledge is influenced by: ‘external’ reality, including ‘E-language’ and ‘E-society’ Our language. Language can distort reality, e.g. it is ‘digital’, so doesn’t always fit the ‘analog’ world. E.g: Shingle or pebbles? Drizzle or rain? Classical music or jazz or pop?

4 What about languages and dialects?
We all think about language (mass) in terms of languages (count) and dialects. How accurate are these concepts? Are they based on fact or on the terms language and dialect? Can we use them in sociolinguistics for saying who uses what kind of language?

5 Some terminology for language varieties
A variety is a distinct language system, with grammar, vocabulary, etc. A language is a variety which is incomprehensible to speakers of other languages. A language may include sub-varieties.

6 Sub-varieties of a language
A dialect is a sub-variety based on social groups, e.g. geography, social class. An accent is a way of pronouncing a dialect e.g. RP. A register is a sub-variety based on social situations, e.g. chat, essay, prayer A standard dialect/register is a sub-variety with high social status.

7 Varieties of language variety

8 What are varieties good for?
Crude explicit comment about the social distribution of language items. Language variety X is used by social type Y. English is spoken by Brits, Americans, … Londoners speak Cockney. The language of Egypt is Arabic, not Egyptian. Better than nothing …

9 The social distribution of languages.

10 What language is this?

11 …and this …

12 … and this …

13 So what? (1) We organise our knowledge about language (mass) in terms of languages. But is that how the world organises them?

14 Now what language is this?

15 Transcription And so couldn’t gather their own supper and another of the fairies said er ??? supper ???

16 …and this … Holide Karent Affairs: Thursday January 15, 2004
= Holiday current affairs

17 continued long despela program....I luk olsem Papua New Guinea bai mari mari long ol "illegal immigrants" -- pipal bilong narapela kantri husat i bin burukim loa na go stap long PNG = About this programme …It shows that PNG will ?? because of … people of another country who have broken the law to live in PNG …

18 …and this? Wæs dis ealond geo gewurƿad mid ƿam æƿelestrum ceastrum, twega wana ƿrittigum, ƿa ƿe wæron Was this island once made-splendid with the noblest castles, two less-than thirty, that there were.

19 So what? (2) Intelligibility is a matter of degree.
Intelligibility depends on prior experience. Varieties can vary continuously in Space Time New varieties such as pidgins and creoles are especially hard to classify. So languages are fictions, not fact.

20 Are dialects any more real?
We think and talk about divisions within a language in terms of dialects and registers. E.g. London dialect Standard English Academic English But are dialect boundaries fact or fiction?

21 Which dialect is this …

22 …and this?

23 So what? (3) All native speakers of a language recognise some dialects. But these are learned from experience, so we recognise different dialects. The more experience we have, the more distinctions we make. So how do these mental distinctions compare with reality?

24 Dialect geography Dialectologists traditionally recorded the words and pronunciations of elderly speakers in remote villages. They showed their findings on maps, with a different map for each feature. They drew lines separating different areas of use: isoglosses.

25 ARM = [ɑ:m] or [ɑ:rm]?

26 SUN = [sʊn] or [sʌn]?

27 LAST = [last], [la:st] or [lɑ:st]?

28 HOUSE = [haus] or [aus]?

29 So what? (4) Every isogloss follows a different path.
Every variable linguistic feature has a different social distribution. Dialect boundaries can’t be defined by bundles of isoglosses. Dialects are fictions, not facts. But they have some value in thinking and talking about language variation.

30 And standard dialect? This is at least as real as any other variety.
Standard English is defined by publishers. It’s the language of education – especially at university level. In some countries the standard variety is a register, used only in public. Called ‘diglossia’, e.g. German Switzerland

31 And registers? Folk sociolinguistics recognises some registers by name: Slang Baby-talk Chatting, lecturing, preaching, etc. But individual linguistic features are related to individual situation features.

32 So what? Folk sociolinguistics recognises global categories as related to each other: varieties of language social categories (people, situations) But these are fictions rather than facts. The facts show much more complex relations between linguistic items and social characteristics.

33 Coming shortly Week 4: How we look after each other’s faces.
Week 5: Power and solidarity.

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