CHAPTER 3Language & Social Variation
“Burridge(2004) quotation / ‘using the proper language of the time’ / the ‘slang’ of the time.Noteveryone in a single geographical area speaks in the same way in everysituation.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.
Speechcommunity:A group of people who share a set of norms and expectations regarding the use of language.
Sociolinguistics:The study of the relationship betweenlanguageandsociety.Developed through theinteractionof linguistics with a number of academic fields.It has connections with anthropology, sociology, and social psychology.
Social dialects:Mainly concerned with speakers in towns and cities.Social class mainly used to define groups of speakers that havesthin common.Two groups:“middle class”“working class”“upper” & “lower” used to subdivide based on economic basis.
Certainfeaturesof language are used in the analysis of social dialects:PronunciationWordsStructureE.g. “home”[heim] [aint] lower-working-class speakers[hom] middle-class speakers
Social variable: ‘class’Linguistic variable: ‘pronunciation’ & ‘words’In studies of social dialect we counthow oftenspeakers in each class use each version of the linguistic variable.
Education & Occupation
Idiolect:A personal dialect.We generally tend to sound like others with whom wesharesimilareducationalbackgrounds and/oroccupation.
1/Education:people who spentlesstime in education tend to use certainpatternsthat are not frequent in the speech of more educatedppl.Derived from a lot of time spent with the written language./ “talks like a book”E.g.“them boysthrowedsomethin’”“it wasn’t uswhatdone it”
2/Occupation & Socio-economic status:Sociolinguist WilliamLabovstudyNew York department stores (3)“Where are the women’s shoes?”- “on thefourth floor”Focused on the linguistic variable: the /r/ soundResults: there was a regular pattern: the higher the socio-economic status the more /r/ sounds were produced, and vice versa.British studyreverse results
Social marker:When a certainlinguisticfeature (variable) occurs frequently in your speech it marks you as amemberof a particular social group.ClipE.g./r//ing/ ‘sittin’/h/ dropping- ‘_ad’Charles Dickens's example (see book)
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 speakInformal / “casual” style / less attentionStyle shifting:A change from one style to another.E.g.1/Labov“Excuse me”/ to elicit a more “careful” style by repetitionThe 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 carefulpron
Overt prestige:Whenpplchange their speech in the direction of the form that is more frequent in the speech ofpplhaving a higher social status.Covert prestige:Some groups do not show style-shifting as other groupsE.g. ‘lower-working-class’ speakersThey value the features that mark them as members of their social group./ avoid changing/ value group solidarity.Esp. younger speakers “Iaintdoinnottin”
Speechaccommodation:Variation in speech style is not onlyinfluencedby 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 toreduce social distance.E.g. teenage boy talking to friend’s motherDivergence:When a speech style is used to emphasize social distance.E.g.Scottish teenager talking to his teacher.
Register & Jargon
Register:A conventionalwayof using language that is appropriate in a specificcontext.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 technicalvocabularyassociated with a specific area of work or interest/ used by those inside established social groups/ often defined byprofessionalstatus.‘insiders’ vs. ‘outsiders’ClipE.g.In medicalregister “arthritis”Other e.g. (technical, religious, academic, culinary…)
Slang:Words or phrases that are used instead of more everyday terms amongyoungerspeakers and other groups with special interest. (notrelated to profession or occupation)/ “colloquial” speechTypically used among thoseoutsidehigher 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 tofashion.Esp. adolescents/ to distinguish themselves from others/ share same ideas & attitudes/a marker ofgroup identityduring a limited stage of lifeSlang expressions ‘grow old’ rather quickly/ (groove,hip,super)Old, became (awesome, rad, wicked)NewThus, theagefactor is another important factor involved in social variation of language use.
Taboo terms:Words and phrases that peopleavoidfor 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 inmale& female usage
African American English
African AmericanEnglish (AAE) :Social variety according tohistoricalorigin of the speaker.Black English/EbonicsA major variety used by manyAfrican 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 geographicalbarriers)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.
AfricanAmericanVernacular English (AAVE):The form ofAAE that has been moststudied.Vernacular:A term known from the ‘middle ages’ to describe any non-standard spoken version of a language used bylowerstatus groups.Is a general expression for a kind ofsocial dialecttypically spoken by alower-statusgroup / 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.
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 thetess”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’
The grammar of a vernacular:Criticized as ‘illogical’ or ‘sloppy’1/ Doublenegativeconstruction/ ‘illogical’:“He don’t knownothin.”“Iain’tafraid of no ghosts.”However they are standard forms in other languages, such as, French.Thus, itis not ‘illogical’/ It allows greater emphasis on the negative aspect of themsg2/ Frequent absence of “verbto be”/ ‘sloppy’:“you crazy”“sheworkinnow”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 expresshabitualaction:“She beworkindowntown now” (habitual action in the present)“ She binworkinthere” (habitual action that happened in the past)They are consistent features in the grammar ofAAVE