Chapter 8 Sociolinguistics Instructor: School of Foreign Languages, Southwest University

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Text of Chapter 8 Sociolinguistics Instructor: School of Foreign Languages, Southwest University

  • Chapter 8 SociolinguisticsInstructor:

    School of Foreign Languages, Southwest University

  • Warm-up Question 1. What do you think of the following sentences:AOCVDPapple.2. In the recent CPPCC (2010), some members of the 11th CPPCC National Committee in Beijing propose that we should have law passed against the invasion of English into the Chinese language. What do you think of it?3. Do you think that it is necessary to promote putonghua in every aspect of our social life?

  • 1. Introduction: What is sociolinguistics?When we study language in relation to society, it is called sociolinguistics.In sociolinguistics we are interested in how social factors influence the structure and use of language. It is the field that studies the relations between language and society, between the uses of language and the social structures in which the users of language live. It is also a field of study that assumes that human society is made up of many related patterns and behaviors, some of which are linguistic.

  • Discussion Questions:In what way does language interrelate with society?How can language inform you of any information about the social backgrounds of the user?

  • 2. Language varietiesLanguage varieties are related to region, social class, educational background, and the degree of formality of a situation in which language is used. Such varieties of language include standard language, dialects, register, pidgins, creoles, and so on.

  • 2.1 Standard languageStandard language, also termed as standard variety or standard dialect, is the variety of a language which has the highest status in a community or nation and which is usually based on the speech and writing of educated native speakers of the language.

  • For example:In China, the standard language is putonghua.The standard language of British English is Standard British English.And the standard language of American English is known as Standard American English (SAE) .

  • 2.2 DialectsA variety of a language used recognizably in a specific region or by a specific social class is called a dialect.A dialect is not necessarily less complete, less logical, less language than a language. It is a variation of language different enough to be classed as a separate entity, but not different enough to be classed as a separate language.

  • The study of dialects is called dialectology. Dialects can be categorized into the following types: Regional/geographical dialects Temporal dialects Social dialects or sociolects Idiolects

  • Regional/geographical dialects:varieties of a language spoken in a geographical area, such as Cockney dialect, and Yorkshire dialect in Britain. A regional dialect carries a lot of information about the speaker.In some Chinese films, Mao Zedong speaks Hunan dialect, which makes the story more authentic with a special flavour.

  • Temporal dialects varieties of a language used at particular stages in its historical development. There are two major temporal dialects in Chinese classical Chinese and modern Chinese.In English, there are marked differences between Old English and Middle English, and between Middle English and Modern English.

  • Social dialects or sociolects varieties of a language used by people belonging to particular social classes Sociolects may be categorized as high or low in status as illustrated by the following in English

  • For example:(1) He and I were going there. (higher sociolect)(2) Im n me was goin there. (lower sociolect)

  • Idiolects:varieties of a language used by individual speakers, with peculiarities of pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary Each individual in a speech community speaks in a characteristically individual way and makes special choice of words to express his thoughts.

  • Idiolects underscore the personal peculiarities. When we speak of Shakespeares language or Lu Xuns language we are referring to their idiolects respectively.

  • Discussion question:What is the possible relationship between dialects and social status of the language user?

  • 2.3 RegisterMost speakers of a language speak one way with friends, another on a job interview or presenting a report in class, another talking to small children, still another with their parents.These varieties classified according to use are called registers.

  • Registers can differ in vocabulary, phonology, grammar, and semantics. Registers vary along certain dimensions. For example, people generally speak (and write) in quite different ways in formal and informal situations.

  • Note that the use of an inappropriate register is one source of humour in English: (3) Scintillate, scintillate, globule lucific, Fain would I fathom thy nature specific.(4) Twinkle, twinkle, little star, How I wonder what you are.

  • In the above examples, (3) seems amusing because it is a formal style used to translate a rhyme (4) which is associated with an informal nursery setting.

  • Many linguists have tried to work out theories to describe the relationship between social variables and linguistic features. A well-known version of these theories is M. A. K. Hallidays register theory.

  • In Hallidays systemic functional grammar, the term register is regarded as specifically opposed to varieties of language defined according to the characteristics of the users (e.g. their regional dialect), and is determined by three factors: field of discourse,mode of discourse tenor of discourse.

  • The field of discourse refers to what is happening, including what is being talked about, e.g. the fields of linguistics, religion, and advertising. The mode of discourse refers to the medium of language activity which determines the role played by the language in a situation, e.g. speech vs. writing.

  • The tenor of discourse refers to the relations among the participants in a language activity, especially the level of formality they adopt, e.g. colloquial, or formal English. For example, a lecture on linguistics in a school of foreign languages can be analyzed as follows: Field: linguisticsMode: oral (academic lecturing)Tenor: participants (teacher-students)

  • 2.4 Pidgins and creolesA pidgin is a variety of a language that is not a native language of anyone, but is learned on contact situations such as trading. The process by which a pidgin develops is called pidginization. A pidgin is usually based on one language, though it soon takes on substances of other languages.

  • For example, Tok Pisin is based on English, and many of the words sound somewhat like English ones: (5) Mi go long taun. (I go/went to the town.)(6) Yu wokabaut long rot. (You walk/ walked along the road.)A pidgin usually has a limited vocabulary and very reduced grammatical structure which may expand when it is used over a long time or for many purposes.

  • When a pidgin develops beyond its role as a trade language and becomes the first language of a social community, it becomes a creole. The process of by which a pidgin becomes a creole is called creolization.

  • Creoles have large numbers of native speakers and are not restricted at all in their uses. For example:A French-based creole is spoken by the majority of the population in Haiti, and English-based creoles are used in Jamaica and Sierra Leone.

  • Once a creole is in existence, it may (i) continue almost without change, as appears to be the case for Haitian creole; (ii) become extinct; (iii) evolve further into a normal language; (iv) gradually merge with its base language (e.g. the Standard English) through decreolization.

  • 2.5 Language planningThe importance of language can never be overstated, becauseit is central to social life; it is a ladder to power and influence; and it is a symbol for social status and ethnic identity.

  • It is for this very reason that governments carefully examine all the languages and dialects in the country and decide which is the standard, official language or languages and specify their scope of use.They also make plans for the regional use and/or development of other languages and dialects.

  • This is now called language planning or language engineering. Language planning may involve two aspects: status planning corpus planning.

  • Status planning changes the function of a language or a variety of a language and the right of those who use it. Corpus planning seeks to develop a variety of language or a language, usually to standardize it, that is, to provide it with the means for serving most language functions in society.

  • Corpus planning may involve such matters as the development of a writing system, new sources of vocabulary, dictionaries, and a literature and the deliberate cultivation of new uses so that the language may extend its use into such areas as government, education, law and trade.Our central government has helped many minority languages in corpus planning.

  • Discussion questions:What is the relationship between standard language and nonstandard language?What examples of language planning do you know? What effect do they have?

  • 3. Choosing a code3.1 DiglossiaDiglossia refers to the situation in which with a handful of languages, two very different varieties of the same language are used, side by side, for two different sets of functions.

  • Usually, the more standard variety is called the High variety (H) or H-variety, the other is called the Low variety or L-variety.The High variety is learnt in school, tends to be used in sermons, political speeches, lectures, in the media, and in poetry and letters; and as a result it has greater social prestige. T