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CHAPTER 3 Language & Social Variation
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CHAPTER 3 Language & Social Variation

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  1. CHAPTER 3Language & Social Variation

  2. “Burridge (2004) quotation / ‘using the proper language of the time’ / the ‘slang’ of the time. • Not everyone in a single geographical area speaks in the same way in every situation. • Also education and economic status affect speech in different ways. • The differences can be used as indication of membership in different social groups and speech communities.

  3. Speech community: • A group of people who share a set of norms and expectations regarding the use of language.

  4. Sociolinguistics • Sociolinguistics: • The study of the relationship between language and society. • Developed through the interaction of linguistics with a number of academic fields. • It has connections with anthropology, sociology, and social psychology.

  5. Social dialects: • Mainly concerned with speakers in towns and cities. • Social class mainly used to define groups of speakers that have sth in common. • Two groups: • “middle class” • “working class” • “upper” & “lower” used to subdivide based on economic basis.

  6. Certain features of language are used in the analysis of social dialects: • Pronunciation • Words • Structure • E.g. “home” • [heim] [aint] lower-working-class speakers • [hom] middle-class speakers

  7. Social variable: ‘class’ • Linguistic variable: ‘pronunciation’ & ‘words’ • In studies of social dialect we count how often speakers in each class use each version of the linguistic variable.

  8. Education & Occupation • Idiolect: • A personal dialect. • We generally tend to sound like others with whom we share similar educational backgrounds and/or occupation.

  9. Education • 1/ Education: • people who spent less time in education tend to use certain patterns that are not frequent in the speech of more educated ppl. • Derived from a lot of time spent with the written language./ “talks like a book” • E.g. • “them boys throwedsomethin’” • “it wasn’t us what done it”

  10. Occupation • 2/ Occupation & Socio-economic status: • Sociolinguist William Labov study • New York department stores (3) • “Where are the women’s shoes?”- “on the fourth floor” • Focused on the linguistic variable: the /r/ sound • Results: there was a regular pattern: the higher the socio-economic status the more /r/ sounds were produced, and vice versa. • British study reverse results

  11. Social Markers • Social marker: • When a certain linguistic feature (variable) occurs frequently in your speech it marks you as a member of a particular social group. • Clip • E.g. • /r/ • /ing/ ‘sittin’ • /h/ dropping- ‘_ad’ • Charles Dickens's example (see book)

  12. Speech Style & Style Shifting • Speech style: • As a social feature of language use./ Labov. • Most basic distinction: • Formal / “careful” style / more attention to ‘how’ we speak • Informal / “casual” style / less attention • Style shifting: • A change from one style to another. • E.g. • 1/ Labov “Excuse me”/ to elicit a more “careful” style by repetition • The frequency of /r/ increased in all groups with paying more attention to speech - but more in the middle-class speakers (macys) • 2/ asking someone to read a text out loud/ more careful pron

  13. Prestige • Overt prestige: • When ppl change their speech in the direction of the form that is more frequent in the speech of ppl having a higher social status. • Covert prestige: • Some groups do not show style-shifting as other groups • E.g. ‘lower-working-class’ speakers • They value the features that mark them as members of their social group./ avoid changing/ value group solidarity. • Esp. younger speakers “I aintdoinnottin”

  14. Speech Accommodation • Speech accommodation: • Variation in speech style is not only influenced by social class and attention to speech but also by the speech style of the listener. • Our ability to modify our speech style toward or away from the perceived style of the person we’re talking to. • Convergence: • Adopting a speech style to reduce social distance. • E.g. teenage boy talking to friend’s mother • Divergence: • When a speech style is used to emphasize social distance. • E.g. Scottish teenager talking to his teacher.

  15. Register & Jargon • Register: • A conventional way of using language that is appropriate in a specific context. • E.g. • Situational/ Religious register “Ye shall be blessed” • Occupational/ Legal register “take the witness stand” • Topical/ Linguistic register “morphology is the linguistic study of…” • Jargon: • special technical vocabulary associated with a specific area of work or interest/ used by those inside established social groups/ often defined by professional status. • ‘insiders’ vs. ‘outsiders’ • Clip • E.g. • In medical register “arthritis” • Other e.g. (technical, religious, academic, culinary…)

  16. Slang • Slang: • Words or phrases that are used instead of more everyday terms among younger speakers and other groups with special interest. (not related to profession or occupation)/ “colloquial” speech • Typically used among those outside higher status groups. • E.g. • Bucks (dollars or money) • Mega- ‘a lot of’ (megabucks) • Benjamins ($ 100) • Slang is an aspect of social life that is subject to fashion. • Esp. adolescents/ to distinguish themselves from others/ share same ideas & attitudes/ a marker of group identity during a limited stage of life • Slang expressions ‘grow old’ rather quickly/ (groove, hip, super) Old, became (awesome, rad, wicked) New • Thus, the age factor is another important factor involved in social variation of language use.

  17. Taboo terms: • Words and phrases that people avoid for reasons related to religion, politeness, and prohibited behavior. • Often called ‘Swear’ words / ‘bleeped’ in broadcasting, or ‘starred’ in written context. • More commonly found among ‘lower-status’ group. • Differences in male & female usage

  18. African American English • African American English (AAE) : • Social variety according to historical origin of the speaker. • Black English/ Ebonics • A major variety used by many African Americans in USA./ carries many characteristic features that form together a distinct set of social markers. • Social barriers: Discrimination/ segregation, create differences between social dialects (just like geographical barriers) • In AAE, the differences have been called ‘bad’ language by the dominate groups who described them as being ‘abnormal’ • The social dialect of AAE speakers has ‘covert prestige’ especially among younger speakers/ e.g. ‘music’/ rap…etc.

  19. Vernacular Language • African American Vernacular English (AAVE): • The form of AAE that has been most studied. • Vernacular: • A term known from the ‘middle ages’ to describe any non-standard spoken version of a language used by lower status groups. • Is a general expression for a kind of social dialect typically spoken by a lower-status group / treated as “non-standard”. • E.g. “Chicano English” and “Asian American English” • AAVE shares a number of features with other non-standard varieties./ e.g. in pronunciation (sounds) & grammar.

  20. The sounds of a vernacular: • A wide-spread phonological feature in AAVE (and other vernaculars) is the tendency to reduce final consonant clusters. • ‘left’ & ‘hand’ = ‘lef’ & ‘han’ • “I pass the tess” • Initial consonants pronounced differently • ‘Think’ & ‘that’ = ‘tink’ & ‘dat’ • Possessive ‘s not used • ‘John’s friend’ = ‘john friend’ • Third person singular –s not used • ‘She loves her sister’ = ‘she love …’ • Plural –s usually not used • ‘Two Guys’ = ‘two guy’

  21. The grammar of a vernacular: • Criticized as ‘illogical’ or ‘sloppy’ 1/ Double negativeconstruction/ ‘illogical’: • “He don’t know nothin.” • “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts.” • However they are standard forms in other languages, such as, French. • Thus, it is not ‘illogical’/ It allows greater emphasis on the negative aspect of the msg 2/ Frequent absence of “verb to be”/ ‘sloppy’: • “you crazy” • “she workin now” • However, this feature exists in other languages, such as, Arabic & Russian / v to be not required. • Thus, it is not ‘sloppy’ 3/ Using ‘be’ & ‘bin’ instead of ‘is’ & ‘was’ to express habitualaction: • “She be workin downtown now” (habitual action in the present) • “ She bin workin there” (habitual action that happened in the past) • They are consistent features in the grammar of AAVE