Presentation on theme: "Sociolinguistics 7 Acts of identity. The story so far We classify people in terms of general person-types –E.g. Man, Brit, Londoner, Educated We apply."— Presentation transcript:
The story so far We classify people in terms of general person-types –E.g. Man, Brit, Londoner, Educated We apply the same classification to ourselves as we search for a social identity. Our identity varies according to: –Who we are interacting with –The situation (e.g. formal/casual)
Variable isa Membership of a category is usually a matter of degree, –E.g. a chair is a better item of furniture than an ash-tray. Similarly for our social self-classification, –E.g. my daughters are better Londoners than I am. Degrees of membership can be shown as percentages.
Language We signal our social identity in various ways, e.g. clothing, behaviour. Perhaps the most important signal is language because: –Its learned socially. –It allows many distinctions (e.g. one per phoneme). –Each token (instance) can be chosen independently, which allows fine-tuning.
Acts of identity Every word is an act of identity in a multi- dimensional social space (Le Page). This is different from (simple) accommodation because were following –Abstract social prototypes (person-types) –Not the people in front of us. Acts of identity fine-tune our face (= public self-image)
New York How do you study the language of a complex city such as New York? William Labovs answer (PhD, 1962-66): study sociolinguistic variables. E.g. (r): [r] ~ Ø (e.g. car = [k ɑ:r] ~ [kɑ:]) He tested this idea with a brilliant pilot study.
Background Labov (a New Yorker) observed that (r) was variable. The old standard in NYC was (r):Ø. The new educated standard seemed to be (r):[r] For example,
Hypotheses Use of (r) varies with social class and age. Maybe sex matters too. And style (attention to language). And phonological context (before C or word-final).
Method: speaker selection Select an easy measure of education: – wealth. Select places which cater for people of differing wealth: –department stores. Three stores qualified: –Saks: for the very rich –Macys: for the comfortably off –Klein: for the poor
Klein By 1986, when a student replicated the experiment, Klein had gone out of business.
Method: choice of words Select some words containing (r), e.g. fourth, floor. Get assistants in those places to say those words: –Ask where to find some item known to be on the fourth floor. –Then pretend not to have heard the answer. Record their answers out of sight.
Results In this way he collected data from 264 subjects in just over six hours. He counted (r):[r] as % of all (r). He distinguished: –Saks, Macys, Klein –First and second utterance –Fourth and floor
So … Use of (r) does indeed vary with: Education/wealth/social class –Evidence: differences among stores Style/attention to language –Evidence: first versus second utterance –But less so in Saks Phonological context –Evidence: fourth versus floor
Other data-collection methods Interview (e.g. Trudgill in Norwich) –Speakers selected for class, age, etc. –Interviews arranged in advance. –Structured interviews (including reading and danger-of-death or funny-incident question) Spontaneous casual speech Many projects in many countries.
Analysis method Decide: –Which sociolinguistic variables to study –What kinds of speaker to study Find relevant speakers Record them speaking Listen for all tokens of each variable –Use a coding sheet. –Listen for one variable at a time.
Analysis (2) For each variable: –Count all the variants for each speaker. –Record them in a table. –Show each variant as a percentage of the total for each speaker. If possible, calculate statistical significance for any differences between speakers. –See the course web site, lecture 6, on how to write the quantitative analysis for your final assessment.
Main findings Different sociolinguistic variables are sensitive to different social variables. Variable scores show variable allegiance to alternative person-types. Education is always important: –education/social class is always relevant (in America as much as in UK). –Women are always more standard than men (provided they have access to education). –Formal speech (e.g. reading lists) is always more standard (as defined by education) than casual.
Coming shortly 8. Inequality – and why education is important.