#11 - Chapters 18, 19 & 20
Summary of the BOOK: Yule, G (2016). The Study of Language. Chapters 18, 19 & 20 . U.K.: CUP.
This chapter is focused on language and its variations depending on where the language is used.
The standard language
This is an idealized variety of a language because it has not a specific region where it is spoken such as the Standard American English in the United States or the Standard British English in Britain. It is the variety that is taught to those who want to learn the language as a foreign or second one. Moreover it is taught in most schools, it is used in the mass media, and it is found in printed English such as newspapers and books. Apart from this, it is associated with administrative, commercial and educational centres.
Accent and dialect
Whatever the language you speak, you will have an accent and dialect. But what is the difference between them? On one hand, listening to a speaker’s accent can help you to determine where the person belongs to, regionally or socially. Mainly, it is connected with the speaker's pronunciation. On the other hand dialect is connected with features of language such as grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. This is to say that whenever we speak of different ways of pronouncing words, we are talking about different accents, but if this also involves different vocabulary as well as grammar features of the language we are not talking just about a different accent, but also a different dialect.
This term involves the study of dialects bearing in mind that there is not one dialect that is better than another one. On the contrary they are just different. They are different dialects of the same language. What about if we consider dialects from a social point of view? In this case, there are some dialects which are more prestigious than others. This is because of political and economic power.
Isoglosses and dialect boundaries
The existence of regional dialects can help to understand what these terms mean. In a certain region of United States, people use the word paper sack, but in another region people use the word paper bag. They are different words which refer to the same object. As a result of this, we can draw a line which separates both regions. This line is called an isogloss. It represents a boundary between the areas with regard to that one particular linguistic item. When linguistics find a number of isoglosses, a dialect boundary can be established between the two regions and we can say that each region has its own dialect for the same language.
The dialect continuum
This term has to do with the fact that there are many areas where a dialect variety merges into another. Speakers who handle both variations of the language are called bidialectal. Considering this aspect from a social point of view, we can establish that most people are bidialectal since they can handle the necessary dialect in a space such as the school or the street, for instance.
Bilingualism and diglossia
We can talk about bilingualism at two different levels. On one hand, we can refer to bilingualism taking into account a country which has two official languages. In this case, there is a minority group that speaks one language, but learns another language in order to take part in the larger dominant linguistic community. On the other hand, we can refer to bilingualism bearing in mind a person who acquires two languages at the same time as he grows up. Yet one language will be the dominant one.
As regarding the term diglossia, we can say that it exists in some countries where there is a low variety of the language, acquired locally and used for everyday affairs and a high variety or special one that is learned in school and used for important matters.
In a country where there is more than one language widely spoken, government, legal and educational organizations have to plan which variety or varieties of the languages spoken in the country are going to be selected as the language of education. Language planning is required to be done. The process of language planning may be seen in a better light when the full series of stages is implemented over a number of years.
Pidgins and creoles
At times people speak a variety of the language that has no native speakers in the country and was developed for some practical purpose, such as for people who do not know each other’s languages. This is called pidgin. When the pidgin becomes the first language of a social community, it is described as a creole. In addition, there is a range of varieties evolving after the creole that is called the post creole continuum. The differences are tied to social values and social identity.
Not everyone in a single geographical area speaks in the same way in every situation. Certain uses of language are more likely to be found in the speech of some individuals in society and not others. People who live in the same region, but who differ in terms of education and economic status, often speak in quite different ways. Indeed, these differences may be used, implicitly or explicitly, as indications of membership in different social groups or speech communities. A speech community is a group of people who share a set of norms and expectations regarding the use of language.
Sociolinguistics: The study of the relationship between language and society.
- Social dialects
Its study has been mainly concerned with speakers in towns and cities.
It is social class that is mainly used to define groups of speakers as having something in common.
The two main groups are:
1. The middle class: Those who have more years of education and perform non-manual work.
2. The working class: Those who have fewer years of education and perform manual work of some kind.
So, when we refer to “working-class speech” we are talking about a social dialect. Only certain features of language use are treated as relevant in the analysis of social dialects. These features are pronunciations, 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
Although each person has an individual way of speaking, a personal dialect or idiolect, we generally tend to sound like others with whom we share similar educational backgrounds or occupations.
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.
- Social markers
The use of particular speech sounds functions as a social marker. That is, having a feature occur frequently in your speech (or not) marks you as a member of a particular social group, whether you realize it or not.
Features that seem to indicate lower class and less education are: the final pronunciation of –ing and what is called the [h]-dropping, which makes the words at and hat sound the same.
- Speech style and style-shifting
The speech style is also a social feature of language use. The most basic distinction in speech style is between formal uses and informal uses. Formal style is when we pay more attention to how we´re speaking and informal is when we pay less attention. They are sometimes described as “careful style” and “casual style”. A change from one to the other by an individual is called style-shifting.
When certain individuals change their speech in a particular direction, we call that a “prestige” form. When that change is in the direction of a form that is more frequent in the speech of those perceived to have higher social status, we are dealing with overt prestige, or status that is generally recognized as “better” or more positively valued in the larger community.
- Speech accommodation
This is defined as our ability to modify our speech style toward or away from the perceived style of the person we are talking to.
A) 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're talking to.
B) When a speech style is used to emphasize social distance between speakers, the process is called divergence. We can make our speech style diverge from another´s by using forms that are distinctly different.
- 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 (in church), occupational (among lawyers) or topical (talking about language). We can recognize specific features that occur in the religious register, the legal register and the linguistics register.
One of the defining features of a register is the use of jargon, which is special technical vocabulary associated with a specific area of work or interest. In social terms, jargon helps to create and maintain connections among those who see themselves as “insiders” in some way and exclude “outsiders”.
This is 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.
Slang is an aspect of social life that is subject to fashion, especially among adolescents. It can be used by those inside if a group who share ideas and attitudes as a way of distinguishing themselves from others. As a marker of a group identity during a limited stage of life such as early adolescence, slang expressions can “grow old” rather quickly.
This term refers to all the ideas and assumptions about the nature of things and people that we learn as members of a social group. This knowledge is acquired without conscious awareness. Then we become conscious of this knowledge after having developed language. In addition, language provides us with a ready-made system of categorizing the world around us and our experience of it.
This term refers to a group of things with certain features in common. They are the words for referring to concepts that people in our social world have typically needed to talk about. For instance, when someone says the word cat, he is referring to any one of them as a member of the category. Yet we all have a certain prototype of the category in mind.
Since there are some conceptual distinctions that are lexicalized,meaning that they are expressed as a single word, in one language and not in another, we can establish that some lexicalized categories are kinship terms. They are words used to refer to people who are members of the same family. All languages have kinship terms, but they do not all put family members into categories in the same way.
This term refers to the aspect that the structure of our language, with its predetermined categories, must have an influence on how we perceive the world. We not only talk, but also we think about the world of experience, using the categories provided by our language. This perspective is part of a hypothesis known as The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. The last establishes that people view the world differently according to the language they speak. Finally, whenever we encounter a new object, we modify our language, we accommodate the need to refer to the new entity. The human manipulates the language.
When we need to analyze cognition, we can look at language structure for clues, not for causes. Every speaker will have different cultural interpretations according to the language and culture they belong to.
Words such as uncle or grandmother provide examples of social categories. These are examples of social organization that we can use to say how we are connected or related to others.
We can use these words as a means of social categorization, that is, marking individuals as members of a group defined by social connections.
- Address terms
An interaction based on an unequal relationship will feature address terms using a title (Doctor) or title plus name (Professor Smith) for the one with higher status, and first name only for the one with lower status, More equal relationships have address terms that indicate similar status of the participants, such as first names or nicknames.
In many languages, there is a choice between pronouns used for addressees who are socially close versus distant. Traditionally, these forms could be used to mark a power relationship. In English, people without special titles are addressed as Mr., Mrs., Miss or Ms. Only the women´s address terms include information about their social status.
Biological gender is the distinction in sex between the male and female of each species.
Grammatical gender is the distinction between masculine and feminine.
Social gender is the distinction we make when we use words like man or woman to classify individuals in terms of their social roles.