AN INTRODUCTION TO SOCIOLINGUISTICS (JANET HOLMES)
Chapter One: What do sociolinguists study?
- Sociolinguistics: a term that refers to the study of the relationship between language and society, and how language is used in multilingual speech communities.
Q what aspects of language are Sociolinguists interested in?
Sociolinguists are interested in explaining why people speak differently in different social contexts. And the effect of social factors such as (social distance, social status, age, gender, class) on language varieties (dialects, registers, genres, etc), and they are concerned with identifying the social functions of language and the way they are used to convey social meanings.
Q what do sociolinguists mean by the term variety?
A variety is a set of linguistic forms used under specific social circumstances, with a distinctive social distribution.
* Formality increases between participants (speaker and hearer) when the social distance is greater. Informality (Solidarity) increases when the social distance is little between participants (speaker and hearer).
* Social status depends on a number of factors such as social rank, wealth, age, gender and so on; therefore the person with the higher social status has the choice of using formality or informality (solidarity) when addressing other persons of lower social status. But the person with the lower social status uses only formality when addressing a person of higher social status.
Chapter Two: Multilingual speech communities
- Domains: domains of language use, a term popularised by an American sociolinguist, Joshua Fishman. A domain of language involves typical interactions between typical participants in typical settings about a typical topic. Examples of these domains are family, friendship, religion, education and employment.
- Setting: the physical situation or the typical place where speech interactions occur (code choice), settings such as home, church, mosque, school, office, etc.
- Diglossia: communities rather in which two languages or language varieties are used with one being a high variety for formal situations and prestige, and a low variety for informal situations (everyday conversation). Diglossia has three crucial features; two distinct varieties of the same language are used in the community, with one regarded as high (H) variety and the other as low (L) variety. Each variety is used for quite distinct functions; H & L complement each other. No one uses the H variety in everyday conversation.
Example: the standard classical Arabic language is the high variety in Arab countries, and it is used for writing and for formal functions, but vernacular (colloquial) Arabic is the low variety used for informal speech situations.
- Polyglossia: basically polyglossia situations involve two contrasting varieties (high and low) but in general it refers to communities that regularly use more than two languages.
- Code-switching: it is to move from one code (language, dialect, or style) to another during speech for a number of reasons such, to signal solidarity, to reflect one's ethnic identity, to show off, to hide some information from a third party, to achieve better explanation of a certain concept, to converge or reduce social distance with the hearer, to diverge or increase social distance or to impress and persuade the audience (metaphorical code-switching)
- Lexical borrowing: it results from the lack of vocabulary and it involves borrowing single words – mainly nouns. When speaking a second language, people will often use a term from their first language because they don't know the appropriate word in their second language. They also my borrow words from another language to express a concept or describe an object for which there is no obvious word available in the language they are using.
* Code switching involves a choice between the words of two languages or varieties, but Lexical borrowing is resulted from the lack of vocabulary.
Chapter Three: Language maintenance and shift
- Language shift: it happens when the language of the wider society (majority) displaces the minority mother tongue language over time in migrant communities or in communities under military occupation. Therefore when language shift occurs, it shifts most of the time towards the language of the dominant group, and the result could be the eradication of the local language
Q What factors lead to language shift?
Economic, social and political factor
1-The dominant language is associated with social status and prestige
2-Obtaining work is the obvious economic reason for learning another language
3-The pressure of institutional domains such as schools and the media
1-Language shift is faster in urban areas than rural
2-The size of the group is some times a critical factor
3-Intermarriage between groups can accelerate language shift
Attitudes and values
1-Language shift is slower among communities where the minority language is highly valued, therefore when the language is seen as an important symbol of ethnic identity its generally maintained longer, and visa versa.
Language death and Language loss:
When all the people who speak a language die, the language dies with them.
With the spread of a majority group language into more and more domains, the number of contexts in which individuals use the ethnic language diminishes. The language usually retreats till it is used only in the home, and finally it is restricted to such personal activities as counting, praying and dreaming.
Q How can a minority language be maintained?
1- A language can be maintained and preserved, when it's highly valued as an important symbol of ethnic identity for the minority group.
2- If families from a minority group live near each other and see each other frequently, their interactions will help to maintain the language.
3- For emigrate individuals from a minority group, the degree and frequency of contact with the homeland can contribute to language maintenance.
4- Intermarriage within the same minority group is helpful to maintain the native language.
5- Ensuring that the minority group language is used at formal settings such as schools or worship places will increases language maintenance.
6- An extended normal family in which parents, children and grandchildren live together and use the same minority language can help to maintain it.
7- Institutional support from domains such as education, law, administration, religion and the media can make a difference between the success and failure of maintaining a minority group language.
- Language revival: sometimes a community becomes aware that its language is in danger of disappearing and takes steps to revitalises it.
In 1840, two thirds of the Welsh people spoke Welsh, but by 1980, only 20% of the population spoke Welsh, therefore the Welsh people began a revival process of Welsh language by using a Welsh-language TV channel and bilingual education programs that used Welsh as medium of instruction at schools.
Chapter Four: Linguistic varieties and multilingual nations
- Vernacular language: It generally refers to a language which has not been standardised or codified and which does not have official status (uncodified or standardised variety). It generally refers to the most colloquial variety in a person's linguistic repertoire.
- Standard Language: a standard variety is generally one which is written, and which has undergone some degree of regulation or codification (in a grammar and a dictionary).
* The development of Standard English illustrates the three essential criteria which characterise a standard: It emerged in the 15th as a delicate of the London area and it was influential or prestigious variety (it was used by the merchants of London, it was codified and stabilised (the introduction of the first printing press by Caxton accelerated its codification), and it served H functions in that it was used for communication at Court, for literature and for administration.
- World Englishes: world English languages are classified into, inner circle Englishes as in the UK, USA (English as a native or first language); Outer circle Englishes as in India, Malaysia, Tanzania (English as a second language with an official status), and Expanding circle Englishes as China, Japan, Russia (English as a foreign language).
- Lingua franca: a language used for communication between different language users, for people whose first languages differ, such as pidgin between European colonizers and African slaves (Swahili).
- Pidgin: it is a language which has no native speakers. Pidgins develop as a means of communication between people who don't have a common language.
- Creole: when a pidgin becomes the language of newly-born generations as a mother-tongue or first language, and acquires additional vocabulary and grammatical structures to serve their various necessary communicative needs (referential and social functions) it becomes a Creole.
Chapter Five: National languages and language planning
- National language: it is the main language of political, social and cultural practices, where people use it as a symbol of their national unity / Official language is the language used by governments for formal functions / In a monolingual community, a national language is usually also the official language, but in bilingual or multilingual communities, it may or may not be the official language. For example: English and French are both official languages in Canada.
Planning for a national official language:
1- Selection: selecting the variety or code to by developed.
2- Codification: standardising its structural or linguistic features.
3- Elaboration: extending its functions for use in new domains.
4- Securing its acceptance: acceptance by people in terms of attitude & prestige.
* Linguists have played an important role at the micro level of language planning activates. Many of them work as members of communities with a lot of influence on language planning, and especially on the standardization or codification of a particular variety. Example: Samuel Johnson's 40,000-word dictionary was a landmark in the codification of English.
- Acquisition planning: sociolinguists can make a contribution to organized efforts to spread a language by increasing the number of its users, by using it in the education system (language-in- Education planning) or in the media domains such as news papers, radio, etc.
Chapter Six: Regional and social dialects
- Accent: accents are distinguished from each other by pronunciation.
- Dialects: linguistic varieties which are distinguishable by their vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation.
* Examples of different regional dialects:
Example one: in British English: pavement, boot, bonnet, petrol, baggage. But in American English: sidewalk, trunk, hood, gas, luggage.
Example two: the word tog in English refers to clothes one wears in formal dinner, but in New Zealand, it refers to clothes one wears to swim in.
- Social dialects: a variety of language that reflects social variation in language use, according to certain factors related to the social group of the speaker such as education, occupation, income level (upper-class English, middle-class English and lower-class English. For example: Standard English can be classified as a type of social English spoken by the well-educated English speakers throughout the world.
* Received Pronunciation (the Queens English) or BBC English (the accent of the beast educated and most prestigious members of English society) is classified as a social accent.
Q Is there a relationship between one's language and one's social identity?
The language one uses often reflects one's social identity and education, for example: dropping the initial h in words like house can indicate a lower socioeconomic background. On the other hand, pronouncing the letter r in the city of New York is considered as a prestigious feature, but the opposite is true in London.
- Isogloss: a term that refers to the boundary lines that mark the areas in which certain dialect words are used.
- Sharp Stratification: it refers to the pattern that certain pronunciation features such as h-dropping and grammatical features such as mutable negation divide speaking communities sharply between the middle class and the lower classes.
Chapter Seven: Gender and age
* It is claimed that women are linguistically more polite than men
Q How are the language forms used by men and women different in western societies, give examples? (just read)
In western societies, women and men whose social roles are similar do not use forms that are completely different, but they use different quantities or frequencies of the same form. For example: women use more standard forms than men, and men use more vernacular forms than women / women use more ing-forms than men and fewer ing-forms in words like coming or running. But in western communities, such differences are also found in the speech of different social classes, therefore the language of women in the lower and higher classes is more similar to that of men in the same group.
Q Explain women's linguistic behavior (using forms that are more standard):
1- Social status: women generally have a lower social status in society; therefore they try to acquire social status by using Standard English.
2- Women's role as guardian of society's values: women use more standard forms than men, because society tends to expect 'better' behavior from women than from men (women serve as modals for their children's speech).
3- Subordinate groups must be polite: women use more standard forms than men, because children and women are subordinate groups and they must avoid offending men, therefore they must speak carefully and politely.
4- Vernacular forms express machismo: men prefer vernacular forms because they carry macho connotations of masculinity and toughness. Therefore women might not want to use such form, and use standard forms that associated with female values or femininity
5- women's categories: Not all women marry men from the same social class, however it is perfectly possible for a women to be more educated then the man she marry, or even to have a more prestigious job than him.
6- The influence of the interviewer and the context: women tend to become more cooperative conversationalists than men.
Chapter Eight: Ethnicity and social networks
* It is often possible for individuals to signal their ethnicity by the language they choose to use. Even when a complete conversation in an ethnic language is not possible, people may use short phrases, verbal filers or linguistic tags, which signal ethnicity. For Example: In New Zealand many Maori people routinely use Maori greetings such as kia and ora, while speaking in English, to signal their ethnicity.
- African American Vernacular English: a distinct variety or dialect that was developed by African Americans as a symbolic way of differentiating themselves from the majority group.
Some of AAVE linguistic features (pp186-187)
- Complete absence of the copula verb be in some social & linguistic contexts
- The use of invariant be to signal recurring or repeated actions
- Mutable negation
- Constant cluster simplifications
British Black English
1-Patois: a Jamaican Creole in origin, which is used by Jamaican immigrants in London and by young British Blacks in group talks as a sign of ethnic identity.
Some of Patois linguistic features (p190)
- Lexical items such as lick meaning 'hit' and kenge meaning 'week, puny'
- Different pronunciation like then and thin are pronounced 'den' and 'tin'.
- Plural forms don't have s on the end.
- Tenses aren't marked by suffixes on verbs, so forms like walk and jump are used rather than walked, walks, jumped, and jumps.
- The form mi is used for I, me and my (mi niem / my name).
- The form dem is used for they, them and their (dem car / their car).
2- Midland Black English: a variety of Standard English with a west midland accent which is an informal variety with some Patois features.
3- Multi-cultural London English: a variety used by adolescents (teenagers) from a range of ethnic backgrounds, including Jamaican & Asian backgrounds. Its features include using monophthongs instead of diphthongs and a distinctive vocabulary, for example: blood / mate and nang / good and yard / house.
- Social networks: who we talk and listen to regularly is an important influence on the way we speak (regular patterns of informal social relationships among people.
- Density: it refers to whether members of a person's network are in touch with each other.
- Plexity: is a measure of the range of different types of transaction people are involved in with different individuals.
- Uniplex relationship: is one where the link with the other person is in only one area.
- Multiplex relationship: it involves interactions with others along several dimensions.
- Community practice: the activities that group members share, and their shared objectives and attitudes (one belongs to many communities of practice such as family, workgroup, sports team, etc).
Chapter Nine: Language change
* Variation and Change: the cause behind language change is the variation of use in the areas of pronunciation and vocabulary.
Post-vocal |r| its spread and its status: In many parts of England and Wales, Standard English has lost the pronunciation post-vocal r. The loss of r began in the 17th century in the south-east of England and is still spreading to other areas. Accents with post-vocal |r| are called rhotict, and these accents are regarded as rural and uneducated. On the other hand in cities like New York, pronouncing the letter r is regarded as prestigious.
The spread of vernacular forms: some times a vernacular feature in some communities as a reflection of ethnic or social identity such as what happened in Martha's Vineyard Island. Labov's 1960 study showed: when the island was invaded by summer tourists, the island community of fishermen changed their pronunciation of some word vowels to older forms from the past as a reaction to the language of tourists.
Q How do language changes spread?
1- from group to group: changes spread like waves in different directions, and social factors such as age, gender, status and social group affect the rates and directions of change.
2- from style to style: from more formal to more casual, from one individual to another, from one social group to another, and from one word to another.
- Lexical diffusion: the change from one word's vowel to another, the sound change begins in one word and later on in another, etc.
Q How do we study language change?
A- Apparent-time studies of language change: it is the study of comparing the speech of people from different age groups, to find out any differences that could indicate change (whether increase or decrease).
B- Studying language change in real time: in this study, the researcher studies the language in a community and then comes back to it after a number of years to study it again, and find out any changes.
Reasons for language change:
1- Social status and language change: members of the group with most social status, for example, tend to introduce changes into a speech community from neighboring communities which have greater status and prestige in their eyes.
2- Gender and change: differences in women's and men's speech are a source of variation which can result in linguistic change.
3- Interaction and language change: interaction and contact between people is crucial in providing the channels for linguistic change (social networks).
4- The influence of the media: some researcher belief that media has a great influence on people's speech patterns and new forms.
Chapter Ten: Style, context and register
* Language varies according to use and users and according to where it is used and to whom, as well as according to who is using it. The addresses and the context affect our choice of code or variety, whether language, dialect or style.
1- Addressee's influence on style: many factors influence the addressee's style such as social distance / solidarity / age / gender / social background.
2-Formal contexts and social roles: the formal setting where the social roles of participants override their personal relationship in determining the appropriate linguistic form (style).
3- Topic or function: style is sometimes determined by the function which language is used for.
- Audience design: the influence of the audience (listeners) on a speaker's style, for example: the same news is read differently by newsreaders on different radio stations during the same day, therefore producing different styles for each audience.
- Speech converges: each person's speech converges towards the speech of the person they are talking to. It tends to happen when the speakers like one another, or where one speaker has a vested interest in pleasing the other or putting them at ease.
- Speech diverges: deliberately choosing a different language style not used by one's addressee, it tends to happen when a person wants to show his cultural distinctiveness, social status, ethnic identity, etc.
- Hypercorrection: it is the exaggeration of some lower class speakers in imitating middle class standard speech. For example: the use of 'I' rather than 'me' in constructions such as 'between you and I'.
- Register: occupational style using specialized or technical jargon, it describes the language of groups of people with common interests or jobs, or the language used in situations associated with such groups, such as the language of doctors, engineers, journals, legalese, etc.
Q in sports announcer talk; what is the difference between ply-by-play commentary and color commentary?
- Play-by-play commentary: it focuses on actions by using telegraphic grammar.
- Colour commentary: it focuses on people, with heavy and long modifications or descriptions of nouns.
Chapter Eleven: Speech functions, politeness & cross-cultural communication
Functions of Speech
1- Referential function: to convey information and this is done through different forms of speech, such as declarative or interrogative statements.
- Declarative statements (After this semester, I'm going to visit London)
- Interrogative statements using Wh-questions (what is your name?)
- Interrogative statements using yes/no questions (do like London?)
- Alternative questions with answer choices (do like tea or coffee?)
2- Directive function: giving orders or making requests by using imperative statements. An imperative statements may express a strict demand such as saying (open the door) or it can seem less demanding by using the politeness strategy such as saying (open the door, please) or through using question tags in the case of informality between mother and son (Max the TV is still on!)
3- Expressive function: to express personal feelings, thoughts, ideas and opinions, with different choice words, intonation, etc. These expressions are submissive to social factors and to the nature of the expression as negative (I'm very gloomy tonight) or positive (I'm feeling very good today).
4- Phatic or Social function: it is one of the most common speech acts in everyday interactions; it consists of greetings, complements, gossip, etc. for greeting a friend, a speaker can say (hi/hello). As for greeting a stranger, the speaker can use (hello), but the more formal greetings between strangers are (good morning/afternoon/evening).
5- Metalinguistic Function: it is used to describe parts of language such as grammar, or words that describe language itself (I is a personal pronoun)
6- Poetic Function: using poetic features such as rhyming words, alliteration or paronomasia and antithesis (An apple a day keeps the doctor a way).
7- Heuristic Function: Halliday identified this function of language which concerned with learning, the main concentration of researching this function of speech is to identify the spoken language of learning children.
8- Commissives: it involves using threats and promises (I will clean my room, I promise).
Politeness: it is the consideration of social factors (social distance in terms of solidarity or formality), social status, type of situation or context, intonation, etc when communicating with others.
* One may ask somebody to sit down by using different utterances:
Sit down / please sit down / I want you to sit down / won't you sit down / you sit down / why don't you make yourself more comfortable?
- Positive politeness: a type of politeness based on solidarity between speakers and hearers who share values and attitudes, and in which formal expressions in addressing are avoided.
- Negative politeness: a type of politeness based on formality between speakers and hearers in which formal expressions in addressing are used in order to protect hearers' face and avoid intruding on them.
Chapter Twelve: Gender, politeness and stereotypes
Women's language and confidence
- Lakoff's linguistic features of women's speech:
1- Lexical hedges or fillers (you know, sort of, well, you see)
2- Tag questions (she's very nice, isn’t she?)
3- Rising intonation on declaratives (it's really good)
4- 'Empty' adjectives (divine, charming, cute)
5- Precise colour terms (magenta, aquamarine)
6- Intensifiers such as just and so (I like him so much)
7- 'Hypercorrect' grammar (consistent use of standard verb forms)
8- 'Super-polite' forms (indirect requests, euphemism)
9- Avoidance of strong swear words (fudge, my goodness)
10- Emphatic stress (it was a BRILLIANT performance)
Q What are tag questions for Lakoff and what are their functions?
According to Lakoff, Tag questions are syntactic devices that are used more by men to express uncertainty (she's very nice, isn't she) and they are used more by women to express positive politeness (you will study for the exam, won't you?).
Q Who interrupts more, men or women? Why?
Studies showed that men, and even boys interrupt more, due to women's gender rather than to their role or occupation.
Q who gives more feedback during conversation, men or women?
Studies show that women are more cooperative and give more feedback.
Q What is gossip? What functions does gossip have for women? What is men's equivalent activity to women's gossip?
Gossip is a social not a referential function to affirm solidarity, and relieve feelings. The equivalent activity for gossip to men is mock-insults and abuse, with the function of expressing solidarity & maintaining social relationships.
Chapter Thirteen: Language, cognition and culture
Language and perception
Q What is verbal hygiene?
It is a thought–provoking term, used by Deborah Cameron describe how People respond to the 'urge to meddle in matters of language'. It covers a wide range of activities, from writing letters to Editors complaining about the 'deterioration' and 'abuse' of language, through prescriptions and proscriptions about what constitutes 'proper', 'correct' and 'acceptable' usage in a range of contexts, to using language as a political weapon.
- Euphemism: substituting unacceptable terms with nicer words or terms, such as disabled instead of crippled, cosmetically different instead of ugly.
- Dysphemism: using derogatory terms of language to reflect society's perceptions of particular groups, such as referring to a coloured person as a nigger or a homosexual male as gay or queer.
Benjamin Lee Whorf
In his analysis of Native American languages, Whorf noticed that the particular words selected to describe or label objects often influenced people's perceptions and behavior.
Q What is linguistic determinism?
The medium is the message, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (linguistic determinism) is that people from different cultures think differently because of differences in their languages.
* Testing Sapir-Whorf hypothesis: if Whorf is right then it is difficult to identify colours which your language does not have a name for. But although people form the Dani tribe in New Guinea, use only two colour terms (corresponding to black and white or dark and light), it was found that they could recognize and distinguish between subtle shades of colours that their language had no names for (pale blue vs. turquoise).
* Different discourse patterns can reflect different patterns of thinking or socio-cultural relationships, for example: a similar news report can be represented differently from one newspaper to another, in form and content.
Chapter Fourteen: Analysing discourse
Q What is discourse?
For sociolinguists, the term discourse is generally used to refer to stretches of spoken or written language which extend beyond an utterance or a sentence.
For philosophers, discourse is a broader term; it is regarded as a means of structuring knowledge and social practice, and language is just one symbolic form of discourse.
Q How is discourse viewed by pragmatics?
Pragmatics are concerned with the analysis of meaning in interaction, context is crucial in interpreting what is meant, and pragmatics extends the analysis of meaning beyond grammar and word meaning to the relationship between the participants and the background knowledge they bring to a situation, which is analysed in terms of conversation maxims and politeness.
Q What are conversation maxims?
Paul Grice formulated four maxims of cooperative talk:
1- Quantity: say as much as but no more than necessary
2- Quality: do not say what you believe to be false, or that for which you lack evidence
3- Relation: be relevant
4- Manner: be clear, unambiguous, brief and orderly
Q What are the politeness rules that Lakoff introduced?
1- Don't impose: use modals and hedges: I wonder if I might just open the window a little.
2- Give options: use interrogatives including tag questions: do you mind if I open the window? It would be nice to have the window open a little wouldn't it?
3- Be friendly: use informal expressions endearments: Be a honey and open the window darling.
Ethnography of speaking: or ethnography of communication, it is an approach developed by the sociolinguist Dell Hymes, for analysing language, which has been designed to heighten awareness of culture-bound assumptions.
* The frame work that Hymes developed for the analysis of communicative events involved the following components:
- Genre type of event: phone call, conversation, business meeting, etc.
- Topic of what people are talking about: holidays, sports, politics, etc.
- Purpose of function: the reason (s) for the talk.
- Setting: where the talk takes place.
- Key of emotional tongue: serious, jocular, sarcastic, etc.
- Participants: characteristics of those present and their relationship.
- Message form: code and/or channel (telephone, letter, email, etc).
- Message content: specific details of what the communication is about.
- Act sequence: ordering of speech acts.
- Rules for interaction: prescribed orders of speaking.
- Norms for interpretation: what is going on?
Interactional sociolinguistics: Interactional sociolinguists typically make use of the detailed tools of conversation analysis, by paying careful attention to turn-taking behavior, hesitations, pauses, and paralinguistic behavior (sights, laughter, in-breaths, etc) to interpret what the speaker intended.
Q What is Contextualisation cause?
In an interactional sociolinguistics perspective, features 'by which the speakers signal and listeners interpret what the activity is, how the semantic content is to be understood and how each sentence relates to what precedes or follows'.
Conversational analysis: CA researchers approach communication as a jointly organized activity like dancing, or cooperative musical. Discourse is conversation (talk) which has its own structure (openings, closings, overlaps, turn-taking, interruptions, etc.)
Critical Discourse Analysis: it is concerned with investigating how language is used to construct and maintain power relationships in society; the aim is to show up connections between language and power, and between language and ideology.
Chapter Fifteen: Attitudes and applications
Attitudes to language
* Language attitudes (positive or negative) towards a language or a variety have much impact on language and education
Q Explain overt prestige & covert prestige from a sociolinguistic perspective?
The meaning of overt prestige is reasonably self-evident; it is associated with the standard variety in a community 'the best way of speaking in a community'. In contrast the term covert prestige refers to positive attitudes towards vernacular or non-standard speech varieties.
Q What are the methods of collecting attitude data?
1- Direct observation
2- Direct questions
3- Indirect measures
Q Why do working-class children fail in schools more than middle-class children from a sociolinguistic perspective?
1- The criteria for success are middle-class criteria, including middle-class language and ways of interaction
2- Many of the children, recognizing that schools are essentially middle-class institutions, deliberately and understandably rebel against all that they represent.