#11- "The Study of Language" Chapters 18, 19 & 20

Chapter 18: "Language and regional variation"

Every language has a lot of variation, especially in the way it is spoken. For instance, English, we find widespread variation in the way it is spoken in different countries such as Australia, Britain and the USA. From the linguistic point of view, none of the varieties of a language is better than any other. However, some of them are considered more prestigious according to the use. The variation based on WHERE the language is used is called linguistic geography.
      Some aspects of linguistic geography are:
  •  The standard language which is an idealized variety, because it has no specific region. It is the one associated with administrative, commercial and educational centres, regardless of region.
  • Accents: The term accent is restricted to the description of aspects of pronunciation that identify where an individual speaker is from, regionally or socially.
  • Dialect: It is used to describe features of grammar and vocabulary as well as aspects of pronunciation.
  • Regional dialects: Some regions have different dialects with a clear stereotyped pronunciation.
  • Isogloss and dialect boundaries:  An isogloss represents a boundary between the areas with regard to one particular linguistic item. When a number of isoglosses come together, the line or boundary becomes more solid, and a dialect boundary is drawn. At most dialect boundary areas, one dialect or language variety merges into another. For example, a type of dialect continuum can occur with related languages existing on either side of a political border.
  • Bilingualism and disglossia: A person who knows two distinct languages is called bilingual. Bilingualism, at the level of the individual tends to be a feature of the minority groups. In this form, a person grows up mainly speaking one language, but learns another in order to take part in the larger dominant linguistic community. However, there is a special situation called disglossia. It implies that one of the varieties of language becomes the “low" variety or “vernacular", acquired locally and used for everyday affairs. And the other language, a "high" or special variety, learned in school and used for important matters.
  • Pidgin and creoles: A pidgin is a variety of language that developed for some practical purpose, such as trading, among groups of people who had a lot of contact, but who did not know each other´s languages. As such, it would have no native speakers. When a pidgin develops beyond its role as a trade or contact language and becomes the first language of a social community, it is described as a Creole. A Creole initially develops as the first language of children growing up in a pidgin-using community and becomes more complex as it serves more communicative purposes. Creoles have large numbers of native speakers and are not restricted at all in their uses. 
Chapter 19: "Language and social variation"

People who live in the same region, but who differ in terms of education and economic status, often speaks in quite different ways. Indeed, these may be used as indications of membership in different social groups or speech communities. A speech community is a group of people who shares a set of norms and experiences regarding the use of language.
       Sociolinguistics is the term used for the study of the relationship between language and society. It studies some variables that affect language, such as:
  •  Social dialects:  It is a variety of language used by groups defined according to social class, education, age, sex, and other social parameters. The term upper and lower used to further subdivide the groups, on economic basis, making "upper-middle-class speech" another type of social. There are certain features of language as pronunciation, words or structures that are regularly used in one form by working-class speakers and in another form by middle-class speakers.
  • ·        Education and occupation: Among those who leave the educational system at an early age, there is a general pattern of using certain forms that are relatively infrequent in the speech of those who go on to complete college. Those who spend more time in the educational system tend to have more features in their spoken language that derive from a lot of time spent with the written language. The outcome of our time in the education is usually reflected in our occupation and social-status.
  • ·         Social markers: Having a feature in speech that marks you as a member of a particular social group whether you realize it or not. For instance: “(h)-dropping”, this feature is associated with lower class and less education.
  • ·        Speech style and style-shifting: The most basic distinction in speech style is between formal uses and informal uses. Formal style is when we pay more careful attention. The change from one style to other is called style shifting.
  • ·        Speech accommodation: It is defined as our ability to modify our speech style toward or away from perceived style of the person(s) we are talking to. We can adopt a speech style that attempts to reduce social distance, described as convergence, and use forms that are similar to those used by the person we are talking to. In contrast, when a speech style is used to emphasize social distance between speakers, the process is called divergence.
  • ·        Register and jargon: A register is a conventional way of using language that is appropriate in a specific context, which may be identified as situational, occupational or topical. One of the defining features of register is the use of jargon. It is a special technical vocabulary associated with a specific area of work or interest. Socially: helps to create and maintain connections among those who see themselves as "insiders" in some way and to exclude "outsiders."
  • Slang: More typically used among those who are outside established higher-status groups. Slang or "Colloquial speech" describes words or phrases that are used instead of more everyday terms among younger speakers and other groups with special interests. It is a marker of group identity. The difference in slang use between groups divided into older and younger speakers shows that age is another important factor involved in social variation. However, the use of slang varies within the younger social group, as illustrated by the use of obscenities or taboo terms.
  •   Vernacular language: General expression for a kind of social dialect, typically spoken by a lower status group, treated as non-standard.

Chapter 20: “Language and culture”

  •          The term culture refers to all the ideas and assumptions about the nature of things and people that we learn when we become members of social groups. We initially acquire all of that knowledge without conscious awareness. We develop awareness of our knowledge, and of our culture, only after having developed language. The process of culture transmission provides us with a ready-made system of categorizing the world around us and our experience of it.  With the words we acquire, we learn to recognize the types of category distinctions that are relevant in our social world. Some elements of culture variations are:
  • ·        Categories: A category is a group with certain features in common and we can think of the vocabulary we can learn as an inherit set of category labels. There are conceptual distinctions that are lexicalized in one language and not in another.
  • ·        Kinship terms: Some of the clearest examples of lexicalized categories are words used to refer to people who are members of the same family, or kinship terms. All languages have these but they don't all put family members into categories in the same way
  • ·        Linguistic relativity: The structure of our language must have influence on how we perceive the world and it seems to have a definite role in shaping our habitual thought.
  • ·        Linguistic determinism: Language determines thought, and then we will only be able to think in categories provided by our language. So, the category system inherit in the language determine the speaker interprets and articulates experience. For example: English speakers use one word for snow, whereas Eskimos have lots of different words for snow.
  • ·        The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis: Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf produced arguments that the language of Native Americans, such as the Hopi, led them view the world differently from those who spoke European languages. In grammar of Hopi, there is a distinction between “animate” and “inanimate”. But English does not mark it in its grammar, so English speakers do not see the world in the same way as the Hopi.
  • ·        Non-lexicalized: It means "Not expressed as a single word" English speakers can create expressions by manipulating their language; they can indicate a special reference using non-lexicalized distinctions. fresh snow, powdery snow.
  • ·        Cognitive categories: Language structures tell us something about the way of thinking and the culture of a particular group. Grammatical markers called “classifiers” indicate the type or class of concepts involved.
  • ·        Social categories: These are categories of social organization that we can use to say how we are connected or related to others.
  •      Address terms: These are words or phrases for the person being talked or written to. For instance, an interaction based on an unequal relationship will feature address terms using title or title plus last name. There is a choice between pronouns used for addresses that are socially close versus distant.
  •     Gender: There are different varieties of gender. Biological gender is the distinction in sex. Grammatical gender is the distinction between masculine and feminine which is used to classify nouns in languages. And social gender which is the distinction we make when we use words like man and woman to classify individuals in terms of their social roles. Becoming a social gender also involves becoming familiar with gendered language use. There are Gendered words (there can be differences between the words used by men and women in a variety of languages), Gendered speech (Certain features in the speech of men and women) and Gendered interaction (there are differences in the way each gender approaches interaction with the other. For instance the back-channels). 


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