Sociolinguistics Exam 1:)

What is sociolinguistics?
Pretty much anything related to language can be sociolinguistics, since we speak in a social

What is Society?
Any group of people based on some common
purpose or characteristic.

What is Language?
– Spoken (or signed or written) means of
communication shared by a group of people.
– Characterized by “grammar” = knowledge of language

Sociolinguistics looks at differences in speech
production, and also…
how these differences are perceived

People usually make perceptual assessments
based on a very short amount of speech
– Perception gives information about the speaker’s identity, or at least what you expect the identity to be based on particular speech characteristics
– Perception also connects to attitudes a person has to the speech characteristics of others

Types of information we can perceive from
– Nationality: British, French, Indian, …
– Where from (in US): New York, South, Midwest…
– Age: teenager, middle age, senior…
– Gender: male, female, gay…
– Education: minimal, average, advanced…
– SES: working class, middle class, wealthy…
– Profession: use of jargon or special terms

Linguistic Theory / Sociolinguistics
– competence vs. performance
– descriptive vs. prescriptive (no) study of language

I-Language vs. E-Language
– I-Language = internal language (competence)
– E-Language = external language (performance and all the variability that is present in the context)
– As linguists, we approach both from the descriptive perspective.

Competence in Sociolinguistics
“Knowing” a language in the Sociolinguistic Sense
– (plain) competence = grammar
– communicative competence = how to USE
language appropriately in a social context
William Labov
– most influential scholar in modern sociolinguistics
– “[T]he linguistic behavior of individuals cannot be understood without knowledge of the communities that they belong to.”

Language > Code
– Code = specific system used by 2 or more people to communicate.
– A language (e.g., English) could be considered a code, but sociolinguistics is interested in more specific language use.
– Sociolinguistics is interested in “subsets” of a language.
– Code refers to a particular usage of a Language.

– Usually used for bilinguals
– Bilinguals have two codes at language level, so two codes in the general sense
– Switching between languages / codes = code
– Code-switching – requires mutual intelligibility of the speakers in the group
+ obvious case – when two different languages are languages involved (e.g., Spanish / English in US; French / English in Canada)

Code-Switching in Sociolinguistics
– Changing from one language / code to another within a group of speakers who all share the same set of
– All of the speakers understand the communication regardless of which language is used.
– The speakers identify themselves with a group that exhibits this type of linguistic behavior.
– Since linguistic behavior associated with a particular identity = Code the Code-Switching behavior can be a code of its own.

– speech of an individual
+ Individual answers in homework assignment
– Is this a code?
– NO: a code needs 2 or more people

Idiolect –> Dialect
– Each person does speak a little differently, but sociolinguistics is interested in commonalities among idiolects of people in a group –> dialect (code).
– Dialects in homework: “heat” maps showing
prevalence of each speech property throughout the US.
+ When there are many speakers with the same speech properties, the set of these properties may be considered a dialect.

How do we know where major dialect regions in the US are?
Dialect Surveys
• specific properties
• methods
Dialect Atlas
• distribution of individual properties
• distribution of groups of properties

Dialect Atlas
– Isogloss: line at the border between different usages of an individual property
– Bundle of Isoglosses: overlapping lines at the border between different usages of multiple property
=> Dialects

Variation in Sociolinguistics
Moving from Bigger to Smaller
– E.g., regional dialects à more subtle usage patterns
– Variation in sociolinguistics
+ differences in the way a person speaks
+ differences between the speech of different people
– Focus is on social factors that determine differences
+ who you are speaking to
+ type of communication
+ geography
+ personal traits: gender, age, education, SES, etc.
+ other aspects of the situation

Challenge for Sociolinguistics
– How much and which variation are we
concerned with?
+ Contrast with more theoretical aspects of linguistics, where variation is mostly passed over, looking for broad generalizations about language structures.
– As text discusses, there have been different
approaches / answers to the question.
+ Answer depends largely on the goals you are interested in.

Consideration for research
Methodological Concerns (p.16)
“Data collected for the sake of collecting data are of little interest
– … without some kind of non-trivial motive for collection – they can tell us little or nothing.
– A set of random observations about a few people we happen to observe… cannot lead us to any useful generalizations about behavior, either social or linguistic.
– We cannot be content with ‘stamp collecting,’ no matter how beautiful the specimens are.
– We must collect data for a purpose and that purpose should be to find an answer… to an interesting question.”

Are these “interesting questions”? If not, how might you make them interesting?
How do they say “water” in Delaware?
+ We know that there is a particular pronunciation of “water” in Philadelphia, so we want to determine if the region in which this pronunciation is used, extends to DE.
+ Given that there are many differences in the speech of Northern and Southern Delaware, we want to determine if “water” is a word that shows this dialectal split.

Does my grandmother say “car” with or without [r] at the end?
– I observe that my grandmother says “car” without [r] at the end, so I
want to determine …
+ if this is typical of other people of her generation.
+ if females and males of her generation show the same absence of [r]
+ if people / females of my generation show the absence of [r] as my grandmother

Challenge: accent or dialect?
– What is the difference between an accent and a dialect?
– What is a dialect?
+ variety of a language – also a communication system (code)
– What is an accent?
+ variety of a language – that primarily differs from another at the phonological / phonetic level
+ can an accent also be a code?

What is “Standard American English” – to be
used to determine if something is an accent or dialect?
– Usually something like Midwestern variety
– BUT all of the varieties have their own characteristics
– American English does not have a legal body or organization that sets out the practices that constitute “Standard American English”.

In “American Voices”, what were some examples of accents and dialects?
– Some accents: southern accents, Boston accents, African American accent (not same as dialect)
– Dialects: Tangier Island, PA Dutch, New Orleans/ Cajun

If you are a school teacher or a SLP practitioner and someone comes in who speaks differently…
– how do you know if the person has a speech problem or a different dialect / accent?
– if it’s a different dialect / accent, do you work to change it to be more similar to “Standard English”?

Challenge: language or dialect?
What is a language
– communication system (code)
What is a dialect
– variety of a language – also a communication system (code)
How do we know when we have a variety of a
language (Dialect) or a distinct language?
Some considerations
– mutual intelligibility
– number of speakers
– ethnicity of speakers
– geographical location
– politics
– religion
“A language is a dialect with an army and a navy”

Standard vs. Non-standard Language
What is meant by “standard language”?
– agreement on characteristics
– codification of characteristics
– can be taught explicitly
– usually associated with such social considerations as: prestige, “correctness”, education, power…
What is a non-standard variety?
– Any variety that is not the standard variety.
– Sometimes non-standard varieties are called dialects.
– Is non-standard the same as sub-standard?

If non-standard language varieties are “dialects”…
Can the standard language also be considered a dialect?
– Yes
§ Dialect is a code
§ Standard is code spoken by people who identify themselves with a group who speak in that particular way
§ As a dialect, Standard does not necessarily coincide with any particular regional location.
§ BUT, sometimes the variety of a particular region comes to be considered Standard.

Question: will all Americans eventually speak the same way given that there are more and more national TV shows, programs, etc.?
– Identity is the key again
– Who wants to sound like a newscaster?
– People intentionally reinforce group speech patterns to solidify the group itself.

Dialect, Standard…How Does Vernacular Fit In?
– “Home” language as opposed to “higher” standard language.
– Linguists would call this a dialect, but “vernacular” also carries additional information about its usage:
+ where, when the speech variety is used
Latin vs. Romance Languages
– Romance languages originated as dialects of latin.
– In Catholic Church, masses were held in Latin.
+ Recent change to use “vernacular” = Italian, Spanish, English?

Language and Politics
– Serbo-Croatian > Serbian, Croatian
+ Grammatically the same language
+ Some different vocabulary items
Croatian: Latin alphabet, Catholic
Serbian: Cyrillic alphabet, Orthodox

Power and Mutual Intelligibility
Spanish can understand Italian, but not vice versa (or less so)
Swedish, Danish, Norwegian
– N, S similar pronunciation; larger vocabulary differences.
– N, D different pronuciation; more similar vocabulary
– Best intelligibility: N, S
– Danes claim to understand Norwegians; not vice versa
– Worst intelligibility: D, S
– Denmark dominated Norway
– Today, Sweden is most powerful; Denmark least powerful

Speech Community
– Is a Speech Community the same as a Dialect?
– Community is a group of people with something in common
+ church
+ work
+ team
– Do all groups have an associated Speech
+ NOT necessarily; not all aspects of identity result in distinctive speech patterns

What is meant by speech Register?
– language of a group brought together by special interest (or work)

What are some examples?
– professions, trades, fashion, mechanics, air traffic controllers, doctors, linguists, SLP practitioners, etc.

Do you think all of these groups speak a
different Register?
– most differences in terms of terminology
– what about other aspects of grammar, manner of speaking?

Can someone go into a speech community that is not their own and study the language?
– Observer’s Paradox
– When an outsider is present in a group, the behavior of the group will be altered by that presence.
– So, the description provided by the observer will have some degree of inaccuracy

Another way to view social interactions and language

Social (and Linguistic) Networks
– Networks: groups of social interactions
– Some relatively simple examples (p. 130)

Dense vs. Loose Network
– dense: many connections / interactions among the members
– loose: most members in your network don’t interact with each other

Multiplex Network
– networks overlap; members tied together in multiple ways
+ e.g., students in a school / same church / same summer camp
– is this dense or loose?

Focus on Language
Do all networks have distinctive linguistic properties?
– some might, but others might not
– back to issue of personal identification
– speech properties used to join a group; also to stay distinct from other groups
– many smaller groups may not choose to distinguish themselves from some larger group (e.g., N / S DE)
+ students in each school may not speak differently from students in every other school

What happens if a person is in different networks that DO used different speech properties (codes)?
– alternate codes depending on who s/he is talking to
– How does the concept of register fit in here?
+ each of the codes a person uses for communication with different groups = that person’s registers

Summary of Main Interaction / Linguistic Concepts
Code – general term (communication of a group)

– Standard / Non-Standard (vs. sub-standard- value judgement implied)
– Vernacular

– vs.: Dialect / Accent / Register / Idiolect
– mutual intelligibility
– role of power
– role of politics

Code-switching vs. Using Different Languages

– in bilingual community
– code-switching behavior may be its own code

NOT same as personally alternating / shifting
from one dialect, register, even language to
another under specific circumstances

What is the difference between Pidgins and Creoles?
Pidgin – contact language; nobody’s first language
– reduced language usually used for a specific purpose (e.g., trade)
– lacks many properties found in natural human languages
– just enough to accomplish what needs to be accomplished

Creole – Pidgin that has become first language of a
new generation
– has all the properties found in natural human languages
– created by innovations that are due to basic human cognition / universal human linguistic competence
– often grammatical structure from 1 language, vocabulary
from the other

Examples of Creoles (often incorrectly called Pidgins)
– Tok Pisin: (Pisin < Pidgin) Papua New Guinea - Nigerian Pidgin English - Haitian Creole (French based) - Jamaican Creole (English based)

Lingua Franca
existing language used by people who don’t speak it as their native language
– English
– Hausa (West Africa)
– Swahili (East Africa)
– Latin (former Roman Empire)

English as a Creole
– Grammatically, English is Germanic
– But the vocabulary has subtanial “Latinate” component (possibly up to 60%)
– How did this happen?
+ Norman invasion of England (1066)
+ Warriors brought their French language
+ Many remained in England and their vocabulary had heavy influence on the local speech
+ Many cases of “doublets”: similar word in Germanic and French forms (French usually “fancier” meaning)
§ beef (Fr. boeuf) vs. cow’s meat
§ mansion (Fr. maison) vs. house

Two types of data that can help shape research questions in the sciences and social sciences:
Quantitative / Qualitative

Quantitative data focuses on the numerical measurement and analysis between variables.
– Variables are properties that can vary
– YOU as research can vary them (e.g., select age, gender, SES, geograpical or social setting, etc.)
– SUBJECT data can vary (e.g., behavior: how often do subjects interrupt, drop final r, use creaky voice, etc; OR attitude: how positively / negatively do they respond to a type of speech (determined by specific questions) etc.

Qualitative data examines the social processes that give rise to the relationships, interactions, and constraints of the inquiry.
– Can often be quantified

– E.g., behavior of speaker of higher SES interaction with same vs. lower SES (compare a specific property
+ e.g., how often interruptions take place)

– We will NOT investigate issues we cannot quantify, e.g., Danes understand Norwegians but not vice
versa due to historical relations between the nations.

Types of data we might use for our projects
Recordings of specific types of speech, interactions
– BUT not just random recordings – you need to be looking for clear properties to address your question
– different social groups (e.g. ages, genders, education, interactions)

BOTH of speakers and responders if attitudes / interactions.
– specific linguistic properties (e.g., use of double negatives, contrast between cot / caught) – why these?
– specific behaviors (e.g., interruptions, class participation) – again, why these?

Language Variation
Main types of variation
– geographical (earlier focus)
– social (more current focus)

Understanding variation may help explain language change
– geographical: migrations of populations
– social – changes in the direction of prestige or some other category

Over time, small changes may eventually lead to different languages (e.g. Romance lgs.)

Geographical Variation – some major concepts
– Dialect Atlas
– Isogloss / Bundle of Isoglosses
– Dialect Boundary (usually bundle of isoglosses)
– BUT – bundles may have inconsistencies, so always a bit fuzzy
– Dialect Boundary – often strengthened by geographical boundary

Observing Dialect Variation – linguistic variables
– applies to geographical and social dialects
– identify crucial property/properties (= variable/s)
– investigate alternation / distribution of specific variable/s
+ geographical location
+ usage by different segments of population
+ changes in distribution:
§ movement / expansion
§ reduction, loss
§ association with different segments of population
– investigate attitude to specific variables

Relic Area
small part of original dialect area that doesn’t change like the rest

Remnant Dialect
variety of speech in relic area; older form of dialect

Social Variables
– properties that correlate more with social identification that with geographical location
– BUT NOTE: these might be exactly the type of factors that could determine changes in geographical patterns
– most wide-spread variable of English (world-wide) alternation between [ŋ] and [n] e.g., going with [ŋ] or [n]

William Labov (father of modern sociolinguistics): 3 main types of socio linguistic variables
– indicator
– marker
– stereotype

– difference with little or no social relevance;
not usually recognized by the non-linguist
§ e.g. most people don’t recognize difference
between speakers with cot/caught same or different

strong carrier of social information; even if
somewhat present in someone’s speech, it’s felt by others to be the way the person speaks
§ e.g. even if somone uses both [ŋ] and [n], it’s the [n] form that stands out; this “marks” the speaker

popular view of how a group speaks
§ very conscious awareness
§ may not even be completely accurate
§ e.g., Boston: park the car [pɑk ðə kɑ]
§ e.g., Texas drawl: Howdy partner.
§ often stigmatized
§ BUT to some extent this depends on your view of
the group the variable is associated wit

Challenge: how do we get authentic, casual
– Problem: observer’s paradox
– Can you tell people to “be natural” – why, why not?
– Create situations where people are less likely to
monitor speech
– Labov used several creative ideas; still used
+ ask for repetition; several times might be useful
+ ask about particularly emotional topic (e.g., when speaker was in life-threatening situation)

Selecting Participants in your study
you can’t usually test everyone in a group, so how do select a representative sample sample?
– random sample
– judgement sample

random sample
– just take large number of people from a group to get good distribution of types of people, behaviors, etc.
– you need to be sure you have a good mix if you want to draw conclusions about the group of speakers
– e.g., if you want to talk about all UD students, would it be ok to have 20 SLP students? Why / why not?

judgement sample
– based on researcher’s assessment of some crucial characteristic/s
– researcher selects people based on specific criteria NOT just “I think they sound like…”
– the specific criteria depend on what you are looking for
§ gender differences (age might not matter)
§ age differences (gender might not matter)
§ etc.
– results are about the specific groups (e.g., 20 yr olds vs. 40 yr olds)

What are intuitions based on?
Usually based on judgement criteria
– These need to be explicit and clear
– e.g.
+ certain amount of /r/ dropping (you need to measure this)
+ specific characteristics that mark a southern accent (e.g., use of specific vowels)
+ use of particular intonation patterns (gay male)

Geographical Distance as a Linguistic Variable
– is this a useful variable?
– do people identify themselves by number of miles from a given location?
– does X miles have the same linguistic value at all

What to tell participants
– Don’t lie
– Just give general idea, for example:
+ how different people listen to recorded speech
+ how different people read sentences
– Be sure to tell everyone the same thing
– Be sure to tell everyone that there are no RIGHT or WRONG answers – it’s just to see how people do with listening / reading / etc.

Independent Variables
– ones that YOU as researcher independently specify be cause
you want to know their patterns, AND you suspect they will
have different patterns (otherwise there’s probably nothing to
+ e.g., males, females, UD students
+ e.g., 20 yr old, 40 yr old females at UD

Dependent Variables
– the properties you are looking for in the speech / behavior
– e.g., use of final /r/; use of “gay intonation”; # of interruptions

Production study
record people speaking to observe the use of the linguistic variable

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