miércoles, 1 de noviembre de 2017

Entry # 11 The study of Language Ch. 18, 19 & 20

The study of Language: Chapter 18 Language and regional variation

Every language has a lot of variation, especially in the way it is spoken. Linguistic geography investigate language variation based on where that language is used.
  • The standard language is an idealized variety, because it has no specific region. It is the variety associated with administrative, commercial and educational centers. It is the version found in printed English in newspapers and books, in mass media and is taught in most schools. It is the variety we teach to those that want to learn English as a second or foreign language.
  • Accent and dialect every language-users speaks with an accent. The term accent describes aspects of pronunciation that identify where an individual speaker is from, regionally or socially. The term dialect describes features of grammar and vocabulary as well as aspects of pronunciation. People belonging to a group use the same dialect.
  • Dialectology is the scientific study of linguistic dialect. Despite occasional difficulties, there is a general impression of mutual intelligibility among many speakers of different dialects of English. Dialectology distinguish between two different dialects of the same language (whose speakers can usually understand each other) and two different languages (whose speakers can´t usually understand each other)
  • Regional dialects are characterised by the consistent features of speech found in one geographical area compared to another.
  • Isoglosses and dialect boundaries. An isogloss is an imaginary line that represents a boundary between the areas with significant differences on a linguistic item. If a very similar distribution is found for another two items another isogloss can be drawn, when a number of isoglosses come together in this way, a more solid line can be drawn to indicate dialect boundary.
  • The dialect continuum on dialect boundary areas one dialect or language variety merges into another as existing along a dialect continuum rather than as having sharp breaks from one region to the next
  • Bilingualism and diglossia. Bilingualism of a minority group, a member of a minority group grows up in one linguistic community, mainly speaking one language, but learns another language in order to take part in the larger dominant linguistic community. Individual bilingualism can be the result of having two parents who speak different languages, however one language tends eventually to become the dominant one, with the other in a subordinate role. Diglossia is a special situation involving two distinct varieties of a language, there is a "low" variety, acquired locally and used for everyday affairs, and a "high" variety, learned in schools and used for important matters.
  • Language planning in countries where there are many languages spoken, government, legal and educational organizations have to plan which variety or varieties of the languages spoken in the country are to be used for official business. 
  • Pidgins and creoles. A pidgin is a variety of a 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 become the first language of a social community, it is described as a creole, and the development from a pidgin to a creole is known as creolization. Unlike pidgins, creoles have large numbers of native speakers and are not restricted at all in their uses.
  • The post-creole continuum the retreat from the use of the creole by those who have greater contact with a standard variety of the language associated with a higher variety is known as decreolization. This decreolization leads at one extreme to a variety that is closer to the external standard model and leaves, at the other extreme, a basic variety with more local creole features. Between these two extremes may be a range of slightly different varieties, some with many and some with fewer creole features. This range of varieties, evolving after the creole is called the post-creole continuum.
Chapter 19: Language and social variation

  • Social dialects: the study of social dialects is 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: middle class those who have more years of education and perform non-manual work, and working class those who have fewer years of education and perform manual work, so working class speech refers to a social dialect. The terms upper and lower are used to further subdivide the groups, mainly on an economic basis, making upper-middle class speech another type of social dialect. The features relevant in the analysis of social dialects 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: we generally tend to sound like others with whom we share similar educational backgrounds and/or occupations, we have a personal dialect or idiolect.
  • Social markers: if a feature of pronunciation occur frequently in your speech (or not) that is a  social marker which marks you as a member of a particular social group, wether you realize it or not.
  • Speech style and style-shifting: Speech style is another social feature of language use. The most basic distinction in speech is between formal uses and informal uses. Formal style is when we pay more careful attention to how we´re speaking and informal style is when we pay less attention. A change from one to the other by an individual is called style-shifting. When that shift is in the direction of a form that is more frequent in the speech of those perceived to have a higher social status, we are dealing with overt prestige that is generally recognized as better. However, when speakers do not change their speech style from casual to careful because they value the features that mark them as members of their social group we are dealing with covert prestige.
  • Speech accommodation: is our ability to modify our speech style toward or away from the perceived style of person we´re 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´re talking to. In contrast, when speech style is used to emphasize social distance between speakers, the process is called divergence, using forms that are  distinctly different.
  • Register and Jargon: another influence on speech style that is tied to social identity derives from register. 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). 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 to exclude outsiders.
  • 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 related to dirty words or taboo terms.
  • Vernacular language: vernacular is a general expression for a kind of social-dialect, typically spoken by a lower-status group, which is treated as non-standard because of marked differences from the standard language. Vernaculars tend to reduce final consonants clusters, so that words ending in two consonants are often pronounced as if there is only one. Initial dental consonants (think) are frequently pronounced as alveolar stops (tink). Possessive ´s and third person singular -s are not typically used and the plural -s marker is usually not included. Vernaculars are most stigmatized as being illogical or sloppy. Some of the criticized elements are the double negative construction and the frequent absence of forms of the verb to be.

Chapter 20: Language and culture

We use the term culture to refer to all the ideas and assumptions about the nature of things and people that we learn when we become members of social groups. It can be defined as socially acquired knowledge and we initially acquire it without conscious awareness.
  • Categories: a category is a group with certain features in common and we can think of the vocabulary we learn as an inherited set of category labels.
  • kinship terms: are words use to refer to people who are members of the same family. All languages have kinship terms (brother, mother, etc) but they don´t all put family members into categories in the same way. In some languages, the equivalent of the word father is used not only for male parent but also for male parent´s brother. In English we use the word uncle for this other type of individual.
  • Time concepts: a word such as week or weekend belong to a conceptual system that operates with amounts of time as common categories.
  • Linguistic relativity: the structure of our language, with its predetermined categories, have an influence on how we perceive the world. The category system inherent in the language determines how the speaker interprets and articulates experience.
  • Classifiers: indicate the type or class of noun involved. They are often used in connection with numbers to indicate the type of thing being counted. In English there is a distinction between things treated as countable and uncountable and it is ungrammatical to use a/an or the plural with uncountable nouns. To avoid these ungrammatical forms we use classifier-type expressions such as item of or piece of.
  • Social categories: are used to say how we are connected or related to others. Eg. uncle, grandmother.
  • Address term: is a word or phrase for the person being talked or written to. An interaction based on an unequal relationship will feature address terms using a title (Doctor, Professor). 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. This is known as T/V distinction, as in the French tu (close) and vous (distant) and Spanish (tu/usted). Traditionally, these forms could be used to mark a power reltionship. The higher status or more powerful speaker could use tu to a lower-status addressee, but not vice versa.
  • Gender: grammatical gender is the distinction between "masculine" and "feminine", which is used to classify nouns in languages such as Spanish. A third use is for 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. There are some words used only by men and some used only by women. Eg. in Portuguese, saying thank you is obrigado if you are a man and obrigada if you are a woman. There are other examples which seem to imply that the words for men are normal and the words for women are special additions. Pairs such as hero-heroine or actor-actress illustrate the derivation of terms for the woman´s role from the man´s.
  • Gendered speech: men typically speak in a lower pitch range than women. Among women there is also generally more use of pitch movement (more rising and falling intonation). Tag questions are used more often by women when expressing opinions. These features of women´s speech all seem to be ways of inviting agreement with an idea rather than asserting it. Men tend to use more assertive forms and strong language. Women´s speech facilitate the exchange of turns, allowing others to speak, with the effect that interaction becomes a shared activity. Interaction among men appears to be organized in a more hierarchical way, with the right to speak being treated as the goal. Men generally take longer turns at speaking, and in many social contexts (eg, religious events), may be the only ones allowed to talk. In same-gender discussions, there is little difference in the number of times speakers interrupt each other. However, in cross-gender interactions, men are much more likelty to interrupt women. In same-gender conversations, women produce more back-channels (yeah, really, hmm, oh) as indicators of listening and paying attention. Men not only produce fewer back-channels, but appear to treat them, when produced by others, as indicators of agreement. In cross-gender interaction, the absence of back-channels from men tends to make women think the men are not paying attention to them.

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