Language variation Reading: LF 1.3.3; 10.1, .2, .3, .4, .7, .8, .10 all
Language variation • We think of a language as a constant fact, but in fact every language show evidence of variation • A language changes differently in different places and circumstances • The result is language variation
Language variation We can discuss language variation in terms of: • Regional variation • Social variation
Regional variation • bucket / pail / blickey • stroller / baby buggy / baby carriage / pram • earthworm / angle worm / night crawler / fishing worm • faucet / tap • purse / pocket book / handbag • soda / pop / coke • peanut / ground nut / goober [< nguba ‘peanut’ Kimbundu in w. Africa; South Midland Dial.] • cell phone / cell • rig / bus / ambulance The vocabulary here varies according to region
Regional variation Probably the world’s most well known case of language variation: Shibboleth [šibboleθ] / [sibboleθ] • Kings XV
Regional variation • As people migrate they take their language with them
Regional variation • Migration patterns are defined geographically by rivers, mountains, and seas — This often results in isolated speech communities
Regional variation • In each speech community different changes can occur at different times
Regional variation • Isoglosses — lines on a map that mark a border between areas of contrasting speech features e.g., p. 340
Regional variation • Speech features — Include any aspect of language vocabulary pronunciation morphological syntactic
Regional variation • Some variations in pronunciation Standard American English vs. Appalachian English SAE AE roof : ruf ~ rυf root : rut ~ rυt creek : crik ~ crIk
Regional variation cents : sεnts ~ sε [but nasal ε]
Regional variation • SAE AE De ‘troit ‘De troit ci ‘gar ‘ci gar di ‘rectly ‘di rectly No ‘vember ‘No vember (note contrasting stress pattern)
Regional variation • Variation in morphological forms SAE AE climbed clumb heated het raked ruk dragged drug themselves theirselves himself hisself
Regional variation • (Belfast, Ireland sample) “So I said to our Trish and our Sandra: ‘ yous wash the dishes.’ I might as well have said, ‘you wash the dishes’, for our Trish just got up and put her coat on and went out.” • Identify a feature that varies between the English of Belfast, Ireland, and your own
Regional variation you (pl.) (W. Pa.) yuns (Tx, South) y’all (Brooklyn, S. Boston) yous
Regional variation • Features of syntax also may vary: • Identify the features that vary from your English Do they appear systematic? He makes money a-building houses. (AE) Everyone knowed he was late. (AE) (cf. throwed?) I been know your name. (Phila.) He be staying on 3rd Street. (urban BVE) She nice today.
Regional variation • From Indian English — Your friend went home yesterday, isn’t it? We have a party tonight—why don’t you come and enjoy? I am understanding the lesson now. All these pens don’t work.
Regional variation • From Shakespeare Talk’st thou to me of if’s? Dost thou call me fool, boy? [Note: contrasting question formation]
Regional variation • Geographical variation leads to social distinction
Regional variation • Prestige involves social attitudes • Regional speech features are associated with levels of prestige
Language variation • Prestige in language: forms of speech favored by higher classes, the social and power structure, reflected in institutions of education and high culture • This leads to social variation as well
Regional variation • Features associated with areas of high prestige become associated with prescriptive attitudes
Social variation • It is possible to quantify difference in language features Labov and others have undertaken studies since the 1970s to do that
Social variation • New York social variation measures occurrence of +/- [r] floor : flor ~ floə Saks -- Macy’s -- S. Klein Test phrase: Fourth Floor
Social variation Saks Upper class 63% used /r/ Macy’s Middle class 44% used /r/ S. Klein Working class 8% used /r/
Social variation • Do these data show evidence that there exist social evaluations based on speech variety?
Social variation • Social Class distinctions What are the factors that define social class?
Social variation • Basically we would agree that social class is a combination of income education employment status historical family status moral status region
Social variation • Study of blacks in Detroit: (omit /r/) E.g., She goes to the store… UM 1% LM 10% UW 57% LW 71%
Gender variation • Gender differences in language use • Gender variation may also be measured quantitatively
Gender variation • Double or multiple negation was studied in Detroit (% of double negation observed) M F UM 10 6 LM 22 2 UW 68 41 LW 81 74
Social variation • In Norwich, England use of [-iŋ] vs. [-ən] M F UM 95 100 LM 55 95 UW 20 33 MW 8 20 LW 0 3
Social variation Can we form any conclusions from this? Who appear more sensitive to these features, men or women? Of which classes?
Social variation • Linguistic insecurity compulsion to follow prescriptive rules and emulate prestige conventions in order to maintain status and favor
Hypercorrection • Consider the following samples: The easiest way to answer the question of who should be invited to the national title game is to tell whom, unequivocally, should not. – Yahoo sports, Dec. 7, 2003
Hypercorrection And on that I am willing to bet on. — radio ad, LA market, Jan. 2004
Hypercorrection • Consider this: She made Jim and I a sandwich
Hypercorrection • Hypercorrection is the attempt to emulate prestige features which results in incorrecting the target features • e.g., whom where it does not belong • two prepositions where one is needed • I where it does not belong
Social variation • Prescriptive Tradition (Bishop Lowth) • Viewed Classical Latin as language in its pure and perfect form • Saw English as a degraded form • Applied Latin conventions to English in attempt to preserve it from degradation • Language norms associated with Latin seen as morally correct rules
Social variation • Prescriptive tradition dovetails with prestige varieties and social attitudes which prescribe vocabulary and grammatical forms that are acceptable in formal and high status contexts
Prescriptive tradition • Chaucer, The Wife of Bath He nevere yet no vilenye ne sayde In all his lyf unto no maner wight.
Prescriptive tradition Swift: His jordan stood in a manner fitting Between his legs, to spew or spit in — “fitting” and “spit in” rhymed for Swift
Prescriptive tradition • Henry Alford (1810-1871), Dean of Canterbury wrote, Phrases with ain’t. e.g., It ain’t certain and I ain’t going were “very frequently used, even by highly educated persons.”
Prescriptive tradition • These observations underscore the socialnature of current language prescriptions • They have nothing to do with the language and how it works, but everything to do with social attitudes associated with current prestige norms
Social variation • Contemporary education and language prescription — whose needs do prescriptive attitudes serve? what is the message to speakers of varieties with features associated with low prestige regions or lower SES strata?
Social variation • Descriptive tradition • seeks to recognize the fundamental organizing principles of any language variety
Social variation • If we are to talk about what language features are “correct”, or “standard”, we must define the context or variety
Social variation • Covert Prestige: conscious, intentional use of disfavored speech variety for purposes of identity, group solidarity, etc.
Covert Prestige • Reading, England: We f…g chins them with bottles We bunks it over here a lot We kills ‘em. I legs it up Blagdon Hill (Do we see a systematic difference in this English, compared to our own?)