Materi Kuliah SociolinguisticsNovember 26, 2010 at 3:22 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
Koesnandar, 0923385P1 – STKIP PGRI Sidoarjo
P. Trudgill (1974: 32) :
Sociolinguistics is that part of linguistics which is concerned with language as a social and cultural phenomenon. It investigates the field of language and society & has close connections with the social sciences, especially social psychology, anthropology, human geography and sociology.
Hudson (1996, p. 4) :
Sociolinguistics (micro-sociolinguistics) is the study of language in relation to society.
Sociology of language (macro-sociolinguistics)is the study of society in relation to language.
In sociolinguistics we study language and society in order to find out as much as we can about what kind of thing language is, and in the sociology of language we reverse the direction of our interest.
A variety of language as “a set of linguistic item with similar distribution,” a definition that allows us to say that all of teh following are varieties: Canadian English, London English, the English of football commentaries, and so on.
There are several possible relationships between language and society. One is that social structure may either influence or determine linguistic structure and/or behavior. A second possible relationship is directly opposed to the first: linguistic structure and/or behavior may either influence or determine social structure. A third possible relationship is that the influence is bi-directional: language and society may influence each other. A fourth possibility is to assume that there is no relationship at all between linguistic structure and social structure and that each is independent of the other.
Coulmas (1997, p. 2) :
Micro-sociolinguistics investigates how social structure influences the way people talk and how language varieties and patterns of the correlate with social attributes such as class, sex, and age.
Macro-sociolinguistics, studies what society do with their language, that is, attitudes and attachments that count for the functional distribution of speech forms in society, language shift, maintenance, nd the replacement, the delimitation and interaction of speech communities.
A. Language Variation: Focus on Users
There are four language variation that are based on its users. The first is idiolect, the second is dialect, the next is social dialect and the last is temporal dialect. The description of those language variation can be seen as follow:
Idiolect is the language variation that is individual in nature (Chaer & Agustina, 1995:82). Everyone has his own language variation or his own idiolect. This idiolect variation is concerning with the colours of voice, choice of words, language style, sentence order, etc. The colours of voice is the most dominant aspect in language variation, because we can recognize someone just by listening to voice without seeing the person.
According to Spolsky (1998:33) dialect is something that concerns variations which are located regionally or socially. Dialect also means the language variation that comes from a group of users that are relative in numbers, living in one particular place, region or area (Chaer & Agustina, 1995:83). Since dialect is based on the place, region or area where the users live, it is usually called as area dialect, regional dialect or geography dialect. The users of a dialect have certain features that mark them as people who have the same dialect although they have their own idiolect. People who use Javanese with dialect of Semarang have their own particular features that are different from others who have the dialect of Surabaya. But they can communicate well with each other because those dialects are included in the same language, Javanese. The definition mentioned by (Chaer & Agustina, 1995) above is in line with what Spolsky (1998) concludes about regional dialects. He concludes that regional dialects tend to show less differences from their close neighbours and greater differences from distant neighbours (Spolsky, 1998:29).
Regional variation or regional dialect can also be found in the internatonal world. The variation can be distinguished from the pronunciation, vocabulary and even from the grammatical differences (Holmes, 2001:124). Pronunciation and vocabulary differences probably are the easiest differences that people aware of between different dialects of English. The examples of the pronunciation differences mentioned by Holmes (2001:124) in her book is the word dad pronounced by a New Zealander that to British ears sounds like dead that pronounced by an English person and the word god pronounced by an American that sounds like guard that pronounced by an English and the word latter that sounds like ladder to many non-American English speakers. The examples of the vocabulary differences can be found in the term used by Australians, people live in England and New-Zealanders. Australians use the term sole parents, while people live in England use single parents and New-Zealanders call them solo parents. South Africans use the term robot while British call exactly the same thing as traffic light. Furthermore, Holmes (2001:125) gives the example of the American vs British influence on vocabulary used in one’s region. It can be examined by using the ten questions using both American and British items. Those ten questions are:
a. When you go window-shopping do you walk on the pavement or the sidewalk?
b. Do you put your shopping in the car’s trunk or in the boot?
c. When the car’s engine needs oil do you open the bonnet or the hood?
d. Do you fill up the car with gas or with petrol?
e. When it is cold do you put on a jersey or a sweater?
f. When the baby is wet does it need a dry diaper or nappy?
g. Do you get to the top of the building in an elevator or a lift?
h. When the children are hungry do you open a can or a tin of beans?
i. When you go on holiday do you take luggage or baggage?
j. When you’ve made an error do you remove it with an eraser or a rubber?
There are eight sentences created by Holmes (2001:125) to distingushed the preferred American from the traditional British usages. Those eight sentences are:
a. Do you have a match?
b. Have you got a cigarrete?
c. She has gotten used to the noise.
d. She’s got used to the noise.
e. He dove in, head first.
f. He dived in head first.
g. Did you eat yet?
h. Have you eaten yet?
The explanation made by Holmes (2001:125) of those eight sentences are that Americans prefer to use do you have while the traditional British English use have you got, Americans use gotten while most people in England use got, many Americans use dove while most British English speakers prefer dived and Americans ask did you eat? while the English ask have you eaten?
3. Social dialect
Social dialect means the language variation that is concerning with the social status and class (Chaer & Agustina, 1995:84). This language variation is usually the most spoken language variation and most time consuming to talk about since this variation is concerning with all personal problems of the users, such as age, gender, occupation, level of royalty, economic, social status, social class, etc. According to Holmes (2001:134) social dialects are the language that reflects the groupings of people that based on similar social and economic factors. Holmes (2001:134) also states that a person’s dialect reflects his social background which can be found the complications of social dialects in Java and the ways used by Javanese speakers to show their social background. In Javanese , a particular social dialect can be defined as a particular combination of styles or levels that has its distinctive patterns of vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation. In Javanese, every time a Javanese person talks to a different person, he has to choose the right words and pronunciations because almost every word is different and they fit together in patterns or levels. A well-educated Javanese who comes from a rich family usually use five different levels of language. According to Marjohan (1988:34), the social relationship that related to status and familiarity between the Javanese speaker and the listener has to be marked. The status depends on wealth, nobility, education, occupation, age, kinship, etc. For example, in Javanese the word for house has three forms that bear status meanings, they are omah, griya and dalem.
The term social class that is related to the social dialect refers to the differences between people which are associated with differences in social prestige, wealth and education (Holmes, 2001:135). People from different social class do not speak in the same way. For example, bank managers do not talk like office cleaners, lawyers do not talk in the same way as the criminals they defend in court.
In accordance with this social dialect, there are some other language variation that people usually call as acrolect, bacilect, vulgar, slang, colloquial, jargon, argot and cant (Chaer & Agustina, 1995:87). The description of these particular language variation are in the following:
a. Acrolect. This is the social language variation that is considered to be higher or more prestigious than other social language variation (Chaer & Agustina, 1995:87). For example, the French with the dialect of the city of Paris is considered to be in the higher level than other French dialects.
b. Bacilect. It refers to the social language variation that is considered to be lower or less prestigious than other social language variation (Chaer & Agustina, 1995:87). For example, the English used by cowboys and miners can be classified into bacilect.
c. Vulgar. This means the social language variation that contains features that are used by people that are less educated or even uneducated (Chaer & Agustina, 1995:87). Languages in Europe that existed from the Romans age up to the Middle age can be classified into vulgar language since the intellectual group of people of those ages used Latin in conducting all of their activities.
d. Slang. It refers to the non-standard words that are known and used by a certain group of people, for example a group of teenagers, a group of college students, a group of jazz players, etc (Widarso, 1989:63). Since every group has its own slang words there are many kinds of slang that can be found. Slang is usually created arbitrarily, for example the word money has some slang words, such as cabbage and dough. Sometime slang words are more alive, more expressive than the standard words. For example, the slang word of cemetery is boneyard, the slang word for clerk is pencil pusher and the slang words for women who like men only because of their money are money mad and gold digger.
Slang is also related to peer group and gang speech in order to obtain some degree of secrecy (Spolsky, 1998:35). In one of the Australian aboriginal languages, exists a men’s society with a secret language in which every word means its opposite. Another example is pig Latin which is a children’s secret language using a meaningless vowel that is inserted after every syllable, like Canay uyay unayderaystanday thisay? Other social norms are also transgressed by slang, it makes free use of taboo expressions such as the words like fuck and shit in public media that has become a mark of liberation or a sign of revolt (Spolsky, 1998:36).
e. Colloquial. It means the social language variation used in daily conversation, it means the language used in speaking and not in writing (Chaer & Agustina, 1995:88). The term colloquial is derived from the word colloquium meaning conversation. The examples of colloquial in spoken English are don’t for the words do not, I’d for the words I would or I had, we’ll for we will, pretty for very, funny for peculiar and stock in for believe. Here are other examples of colloquial expression in English with their formal meanings:
1. join up => enlist
2. put up with => tolerate
3. know-how => technical skill
4. the law => a policeman
5. outside of => except
6. a natural => one who is naturally expert
f. Jargon. According to Spolsky (1998:33) it is in-group variety which serves not only to label new and needed concepts but also to create bonds among the members of a certain group and enforce boundaries for people outside the group. Hacking and surfing the net are phrases that do not have obvious meaning to people who are not following the computer revolution and sticky wicket and hit for a six are understood by people who play cricket.
Jargon also refers to the words that are known and used by a certain group of people which usually concerns with a certain field of occupation (Widarso, 1989:63). We can also say that jargon is the technical language of a particular profession. Usually it is quite easy to find the meaning of a jargon without using a special dictionary. We can see an example of jargon in the production of a motion picture. When the director wants to stop an cat of an actor, he will say Cut! and not Stop!. Other example of jargon are the terms used by sailors who use the terms starboard side to refer to the right side of a boat or ship, and port side to refer to the left side of a boat or ship.
g. Argot. This means the social variation that are limited to certain proffession only and secretly in nature by using special vocabulary (Chaer & Agustina, 2004:28). In the crime world of thieves and pick-pocketers, people in it use the terms like glasses for police, leaves for money, etc.
h. Cant. According to Chaer & Agustina (2004:28) it means the certain social variaton that is used to show poverty that is usually used by beggars, just like the expression the cant of beggars which means the language of beggars.
Spolsky (1998) has another opinion about the definition of cant. According to him, cant is the jargon used by thieves and the underworld which are used to make it hard for the outsiders to understand their conversations (Spolsky, 1998:34). However, cant is not limited to the underworld only because it can also be found in other area of occupation such as the Jewish horse traders in Alsace who have used a great number of Hebrew terms for numbers and parts of a horse to keep their language secret.
4. Temporal dialect
Temporal dialect means the language variation that is used by a certain social group in particular time (Chaer & Agustina, 1995:84). For example, the language variation can be seen in the development of English. According to Widarso (1989:22-28) the development of English had began from the Old English in the year of 600 to 1100, the Middle English in the year of 1100 to 1450, the Early Modern English in the year of 1450 to 1700 until the Modern English in the year of 1700 up to now.
B. Language Variation: Focus on Uses
In terms of language variation that are based on its uses, the discussion is focused on the ways in which speech reflects the contexts in which language is used and not the characteristics of the speakers (Holmes, 2001:223). The language variation that is concerning with the uses or functions can be called as style or register.
For the term style, there are many definitions which are basically the same. The first to be mentioned here is the definition given by Marjohan (1988:34) that style refers to a variation in speech or writing from more formal to more casual. Some markers for the formal style would be the use of may instead of might and can and also constructions such as For whom did you get it? Instead of Who’d you get that for? in more casual speech.
Bell’s (ed. Jaworski, 1997) statement about style is in line with the statement made by Holmes (2001:223) above that style is related more with the situations than with the speakers themselves. This can be seen in his statement that when we want to talk about style, it means that we talk about the same speakers who talk in different ways on different situations and not the different speakers who talk in different ways from each other (Bell, ed. Jaworski, 1997:240).
According to Holmes (2001:246) the term style refers to language variation which reflects changes in situational factors. She also mentions that styles are often analysed according to the levels of formality (Holmes, 2001:246). This is in accordance with Martin Joos (1967) in his book The Five Clocks as quoted by Nababan (1986:22) who divides the style of formality into five levels, frozen, formal, consultative, casual and intimate styles. The description of these styles can be seen in the following:
a. Frozen style. It is the most formal style used in formal situations and ceremonies (Nababan, 1986:22). It is called frozen because the pattern has been set up firmly and can never be changed by anyone. In written form, we can see this style in historical documents, ratification, and other formal documents.
b. Formal style. It is the style used in formal speech, formal meeting, office correspendence, lesson books for school, etc (Chaer & Agustina, 1995:93). Formal style is basically similar to the frozen style that is only used in formal situations and not in informal situations. The example of formal style as quoted by Marjohan (1988:35) from Nababan (1987) is the first paragraph of the opening of the 1945 constitution of the Republic of Indonesia that was written in a formal or even in a frozen style,
Bahwa sesungguhnya kemerdekaan itu ialah hak segala bangsa dan oleh sebab itu maka penjajahan di atas dunia harus dihapuskan karena tidak sesuai dengan peri kemanusiaan dan peri keadilan.
c. Consultative style. This is the style used in ordinary conversation held at school, in meeting or conversation that leads to result and production (Nababan, 1986:22). It can be said that this style is the most operational one.
d. Casual style. It is the style used to speak with friends, family or relatives, during the leisure time, while exercising, etc (Chaer & Agustina, 1995:93). The casual style markers in English mentioned in Marjohan’s book (1988:35) are:
1. The absence of an article at the beginning of a sentence, for example:
e. Friend of mine saw it.
f. Coffee’s cold.
2. The absence of the subject at the beginning of a sentence, for example:
a. Bought it yesterday?
b. Makes no difference.
3. The absence of an auxiliary, for example:
b. Seen John lately?
e. Intimate style. This is the style used with people who have close relationships with the speaker (Nababan, 1986:22). By using this style those people do not need to use complete sentences with clear articulation, they just simply use short words. It happens mainly because there is an understanding among those people.
A number of kinds of style can also be found in the study conducted by Labov in 1966 as mentioned by Bell (ed. Jaworski, 1997:241) in his writing. In gathering some useful informations from his informants, Labov used a series of language tasks and recorded his interviews with them. From this recordings, he found the casual speech or the condition of paying the least attention to someone’s speech. This casual speech was used when a speaker was speaking to someone else who was not the interviewer, or discussing topics which got the speaker and that someone involved with each other. He also found another style, the careful style or the condition of paying a bit more attention to someone’s speech. This style especially revealed in the recordings when a speaker was answering questions in a typical interview way and when a speaker paid more attention to his pronunciation whenever he was asked to read aloud a brief passage of a story. Labov also found that there was the maximum amount of attention that was paid to a one’s speech whenever a speaker was asked to read out a list of isolated words and a set of minimal pairs.
Peter Trudgill (ed. Jaworski, 1997:179) used four different styles that are related to five social groups in his work on the standard ing pronunciation and the non-standard in pronunciation in Norwich English. The four styles are Word List Style (WLS), Reading Passage Style (RPS), Formal Speech (FS) and Casual Speech (CS) while the five social groups are lower working-class (LWC), middle working-class (MWC), upper working-class (UWC), lower middle-class (LMC) and middle middle-class (MMC). According to Bell (ed. Jaworski, 1997:241) from the style graph there are two things that can be revealed. The first is that when we go from the middle-class groups to the working-class groups the use of the non-standardin pronunciation increases and the use of the standarding pronunciation decreases. The second is that when each group style have to do the tasks demanding increasing attention, each group style moves from using less in to using more ing. Therefore in casual speech the five groups use most in, in careful speech and reading passage they use less in and in the word lists they use the least in.
For the term register, according to Holmes (2001:246) it refers to the language of groups of people with common interests or jobs, or the language used in situations associated with such groups. The examples of different registers can be seen in the language used by journalist, legalist, auctioneers, race-callers, sports commentator, airline pilots, criminals, financiers, politicians, disc jockeys and also the language used in the courtroom and the classroom. One example mentioned by Holmes (2001:247) in her book the language used by people who describe a sporting event which can be distinguished easily from language used in other contexts especially in the vocabulary. In cricket, people describe positions by using terms like silly mid on, square leg, the covers and gully and describe deliveries by using terms like off-break, googly and leg break.
A variety of language marked by choices of vocabulary and used in a specific situation involving particular roles and statuses can also be considered as a register as well (Spolsky, 1998;34). The examples include a toast at a wedding, sports broadcast, or talking to a baby. As mentioned by Brown (2000:261) besides maintaining solidarity, registers are also used to identify different occupational or socioeconomic groups, that can be done in many ways, for example by looking at certain phonological variants, vocabulary, idioms or other expressions. Truckers, airline pilots, salespersons and farmers can be good examples of people who use words and phrases which are unique to their own group.
Another definition of register mentioned by Chaer & Agustina (1995:92) is that register concerns with in what activity, purpose or field a language is used for. For example the language variation used in the field of journalism, military services, scientific activities, etc. Language variation in the field of journalism has specific characteristics, it is simple, communicative and brief. The language is simple because it has to be understood easily, communicative because it has to deliver news appropriately, and brief because of the limited space (in printed media) and limited time (in electronic media).
Language variation in the field of military services has been known with its characteristics, which are brief and strict in line with the military duty and life that is full of discipline and instructions. While the scientific language has been known with its characteristics of being straight-forward, clear and free from ambiguities, metaphors and idioms because the language of science must give scientific information clearly, without any doubts, and free from possibilities of being interpreted in different meanings.
C. Application in Language Teaching
There is an interesting theory made by Bernstein in the filed of teaching that concerns with the language variation. It is called the deficit hypothesis which is based on the different language variation of the lower class and the middle class (Nababan, 1986:63). This theory states that at home children from the middle class use the language variation in a complete form (elaborated code) while children from the lower class are growing in the language variation in an incomplete form (restricted code). Since the formal language variation -which is close to the complete form of language variation used by children from the middle class, is used at schools, children from the lower class who use the incomplete form must learn the new language variation besides other subjects. It makes them tend to be less successful than children from the middle class.
There is an interesting question concerning language variation in its relation with language teaching raised by Chaer & Agustina (2004:221). The question is, should all language variation be taught? Since what should be taught is the language fact used in all interaction activities, therefore the answer to this question is supposed to be yes. Instead, there are three reasons why the non-formal styles do not need to be taught explicitly. The first reason is that in the national language policy (in the National Language Policy Seminar in 1975), it is stated that the formal style is the style which should be nurtured and developed without mentioning other non-formal styles. The second reason is that in reality the non-formal styles usually can be learned directly in daily conversations as the non-formal styles are used widely in the community. The third reason is concerning with the limited time, energy and ability of the teachers. Since time, energy and ability possessed by teachers are very limited, they should be used well to teach the formal style only. Although the non-formal styles do not need to be taught explicitly, they still need to be explained to students in order to make them understand which style is formal and which style is non-formal so that in the future they can use them in a much better and wiser way.
Pidgin and Creole Languages
Originally thought of as incomplete, broken, corrupt, not worthy of serious attention. Pidgins still are marginal: in origin (makeshift, reduced in structure), in attitudes toward them (low prestige); in our knowledge of them.
Some quick definitions:
1. Pidgin language (origin in Engl. word `business’?) is nobody’s native language; may arise when two speakers of different languages with no common language try to have a makeshift conversation. Lexicon usually comes from one language, structure often from the other. Because of colonialism, slavery etc. the prestige of Pidgin languages is very low. Many pidgins are `contact vernaculars’, may only exist for one speech event.
2. Creole (orig. person of European descent born and raised in a tropical colony) is a language that was originally a pidgin but has become nativized, i.e. a community of speakers claims it as their first language. Next used to designate the language(s) of people of Caribbean and African descent in colonial and ex-colonial countries (Jamaica, Haiti, Mauritius, Réunion, Hawaii, Pitcairn, etc.)
3. Relexification The process of substituting new vocabulary for old. Pidgins may get relexified with new English vocabulary to replace the previous Portuguese vocabulary, etc.
A creole language, or simply a creole, is some kind of sloppy French. It’s a stable language that has originated from a pidgin language that has been nativized (that is, acquired by children). The vocabulary of a creole language consists of cognates from the parent languages, though there are often clear phonetic and semantic shifts. On the other hand, the grammar often has original features but may differ substantially from those of the parent languages. Most often, the vocabulary comes from the dominant group and the grammar from the subordinate group, where such stratification exits. For example, Jamaican Creole features largely English words superimposed on West African grammar.
A creole is believed to arise when a pidgin, which was developed by adults for use as a second language, becomes the native and primary language of their children — a process known as nativization.
In linguistics, diglossia (pronounced /daI’ɡlɒsiə/, from Greek: διγλωσσία < δύο+γλώσσα, two languages) refers to a situation in which two dialects or languages are used by a single language community. In addition to the community's everyday or vernacular language variety (labeled "L" or "low" variety), a second, highly codified variety (labeled "H" or "high") is used in certain situations such as literature, formal education, or other specific settings, but not used for ordinary conversation.
Post-1959 research on diglossia has concentrated on a number of variables and important questions: function, prestige, literary heritage, acquisition, standardization, stability, grammar, lexicon, phonology, the difference between diglossia and standard-with-dialects, extent of distribution in space, time, and in various language families, and finally what engenders diglossia and what conditions favor its development.
1. Function. The functional differentiation of discrepant varieties in a diglossia is fundamental, thus distinguishing it from bilingualism. H and L are used for different purposes, and native speakers of the community would find it odd (even ludicrous, outrageous) if anyone used H in an L domain, or L in an H domain.
2. Prestige: in most diglossias examined, H was more highly valued (had greater prestige) than was L. The H variety is that of `great' literature, canonical religious texts, ancient poetry, of public speaking, of pomp and circumstance. The L-variety is felt to be less worthy, corrupt, `broken', vulgar, undignified, etc.
3. Literary Heritage: In most diglossic languages, the literature is all in H-variety; no written uses of L exist, except for `dialect' poetry, advertising, or `low' restricted genres. In most diglossic languages, the H-variety is thought to be the language; the L-variety is sometimes denied to exist, or is claimed to be only spoken by lesser mortals (servants, women, children). In some traditions (e.g. Shakespeare's plays), L-variety would be used to show certain characters as rustic, comical, uneducated, etc.
4. Acquisition: L-variety is the variety learned first; it is the mother tongue, the language of the home. H-variety is acquired through schooling. Where linguists would therefore insist that the L-variety is primary, native scholars see only the H-variety as the language.
5. Standardization: H is strictly standardized; grammars, dictionaries, canonical texts, etc. exist for it, written by native grammarians. L is rarely standardized in the traditional sense, or if grammars exist, are written by outsiders.
6. Stability: Diglossias are generally stable, persisting for centuries or even millennia. Occasionally L-varieties gain domains and displace the H-variety, but H only displaces L if H is the mother tongue of an elite, usually in a neighboring polity.
7. Grammar: The grammars of H are more complex than the grammars of L-variety. They have more complex tense systems, gender systems, agreement, syntax than L-variety.
8. Lexicon: Lexicon is often somewhat shared, but generally there is differentiation; H has vocabulary that L lacks, and vice-versa.
9. Phonology: Two kinds of systems are discerned. One is where H and L share the same phonological elements, but H may have more complicated morphophonemics. Or, H is a special subset of the L-variety inventory. (But speakers often fail to keep the two systems separate.)
A second type is one where H has contrasts that L lacks, systematically substituting some other phoneme for the lacking contrast; but L may `borrow' elements as tatsamas, using the H-variety contrast in that particular item.
10. Difference between Diglossia and Standard-with-dialects. In diglossia, no-one speaks the H-variety as a mother tongue, only the L-variety. In the Standard-with-dialects situation, some speakers speak H as a mother tongue, while others speak L-varieties as a mother tongue and acquire H as a second system.
11. Distribution of diglossia in language-families, space, and time. Diglossia is not limited to any geographical area or language family, and diglossias have existed for centuries or millennia (Arabic, South Asia). Most diglossias involve literacy, but oral diglossias are conceivable.
12. What engenders diglossia and under what conditions.
(a) Existence of an ancient or prestigious literature, composed in the H-variety, which the linguistic culture wishes to preserve as such.
(b) Literacy is usually a condition, but is usually restricted to a small elite. When conditions require universal literacy in H, pedagogical problems ensue.
(c) Diglossias do not spring up overnight; they take time to develop
These three factors, perhaps linked with religion, make diglossia extremely stable in Arabic and other linguistic cultures such as South Asia.
Bilingualism and Multilingualism
A bilingual individual, generally, is someone who speaks two languages. An ideal or balanced bilingual speaks each language as proficiently as an educated native speaker. This is often referred to as an ideal type since few people are regarded as being able to reach this standard. Otherwise, a bilingual may be anywhere on a continuum of skills.
A multilingual person, in a broad definition, is one who can communicate in more than one language, be it actively (through speaking, writing, or signing) or passively (through listening, reading, or perceiving). More specifically, the terms bilingual and trilingual are used to describe comparable situations in which two or three languages are involved. A generic term for multilingual persons is polyglot. Poly (Greek: πολύς) means “many”, glot (Greek: γλώττα) means “language”.
Multilingual speakers have acquired and maintained at least one language during childhood, the so-called first language (L1). The first language (sometimes also referred to as the mother tongue) is acquired without formal education, by mechanisms heavily disputed. Children acquiring two languages in this way are called simultaneous bilinguals. Even in the case of simultaneous bilinguals one language usually dominates over the other. This kind of bilingualism is most likely to occur when a child is raised by bilingual parents in a predominantly monolingual environment. It can also occur when the parents are monolingual but have raised their child or children in two different countries.
In linguistics, Code-switching is the concurrent use of more than one language, or language variety, in conversation. Multilinguals – people who speak more than one language – sometimes use elements of multiple languages in conversing with each other. Thus, code-switching is the syntactically and phonologically appropriate use of more than one linguistic variety.
Code-switching is distinct from other language contact phenomena, such as borrowing, pidgins and creoles, loan translation (calques), and language transfer (language interference). Speakers form and establish a pidgin language when two or more speakers who do not speak a common language form an intermediate, third language. On the other hand, speakers practice code-switching when they are each fluent in both languages. Code mixing is a thematically related term, but the usage of the terms code-switching and code-mixing varies. Some scholars use either term to denote the same practice, while others apply code-mixing to denote the formal linguistic properties of said language-contact phenomena, and code-switching to denote the actual, spoken usages by multilingual persons.
Types of switching
Scholars use different names for various types of code-switching.
• Intersentential switching occurs outside the sentence or the clause level (i.e. at sentence or clause boundaries).
• Intra-sentential switching occurs within a sentence or a clause.
• Tag-switching is the switching of either a tag phrase or a word, or both, from language-B to language-A, (common intra-sentential switches).
• Intra-word switching occurs within a word, itself, such as at a morpheme boundary.
Speech community is a group of people who share a set of norms and expectations regarding the use of language. Speech communities can be members of a profession with a specialized jargon, distinct social groups like high school students or hip hop fans (see also African American Vernacular English), or even tight-knit groups like families and friends. In addition, online and other mediated communities, such as many internet forums, often constitute speech communities. Members of speech communities will often develop slang or jargon to serve the group’s special purposes and priorities.
Exactly how to define speech community is debated in the literature. Definitions of speech community tend to involve varying degrees of emphasis on the following:
• Shared community membership
• Shared linguistic communication
However, the relative importance and exact definitions of these also vary. Some would argue that a speech community must be a ‘real’ community, i.e. a group of people living in the same location (such as a city or a neighborhood), while more recent thinking proposes that all people are indeed part of several communities (through home location, occupation, gender, class, religious belonging, and more), and that they are thus also part of simultaneous speech communities.
Similarly, what shared linguistic communication entails is also a variable concept. Some would argue that a shared first language, even dialect, is necessary, while for others the ability to communicate and interact (even across language barriers) is sufficient.
Variation Studies: Some Findings and Issues
An Early Study
One of the earliest studies of variation was Fischer’s study (1958) of the (ng) variable, i.e., pronunciations like singing [ŋ] versus singin’ [n]. There is a long history of both the [ŋ] and [n] variants in the language, that stigmatization of the [n] variant is a phenomenon of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and that even today in some circles in the United Kingdom, necessarily privileged ones, people still go huntin’, shootin’, and fishin’, not hunting, shooting, and fishing.
As part of a study of child-rearing in a New England community, Fischer conducted interviews with young children, twelve boys and twelve girls, age 3-10. He noted their use of [ŋ] and [n] in a very formal situation during the administration of the Thematic Apperception Test, in a less formal interview, and in an informal situation in which the children discussed recent activities. In table below shows that boys use more –in’ forms than girls in the most formal situation.
Preferences for –ing and –in’ endings, by sex
-ing > -in’ -ing < -in’
Boys 5 7
Girls 10 2
Fischer also compared the use of [ŋ] and [n] of a boy described by his teachers as a ‘model’ boy with that of a boy described as a ‘typical’ boy. The model boy worked well in school and was described as being popular, thoughtful, and considerate; the typical boy was described as being strong, mischievous, and apparently unafraid of being caught doing something he should not be doing. In the most formal situation these two boys produced the number of instances of -ing and –in’ reported in table below.
Preferences of two boys for –ing and –in’ endings
‘Model’ boy 38 1
‘Typical’ boys 10 12
However, Fischer further observed that the model boy also use –in’ more as the formality of the situation decreased, as we can see in table below.
Preferences for –ing and –in’ endings, by formality of situation
Most formal Formal interview Informal interview
-ing 38 33 24
-in’ 1 35 41
He observeb several other interesting facts. As children relaxed in the most formal situation they produced more instances of –in’ . Such usage was also associated with specific verbs so that verbs like hit, chew, swim, and punch, i.e., verbs describing everyday activities were much more likely to be given –in’ endings than more ‘formal’ verbs like criticize, correct, read and visit. Fischer’s conclusion is that ‘the choice between the –ing and the –in’ variants appears to be related to sex, class, personality (aggressive/cooperative), and mood (tense/relaxed) of the speaker, to the formality of the conversation and to the specific verb spoken’.
A Variety of Studies
The Detroit study (Shuy et al., 1968) and Wolfram’s follow-up to that study (1969) hav esome findings which are worthy of comment in the present context. For example, the Detroit study investigated the use of multiple negation as a linguistic variable in that city. The study showed that there is a very close relationship between the use of multiple negation and social class.
Wolfram’s general findings in Detroit were that social status was the single most important variable correlating with linguistic differences, with the clearest boundary being between the lower middle and upper working classes. In each class, however, females used more standard-language forms than males. Older subjects also used fewer stigmatized forms than did younger subjects. Finally, reading style showed the fewest deviations of all from standard-language forms.
I noted that linguistic variables may show correlations not only with social variables but also with other linguistic features, i.e., they may be linguistically constraint too, as with the deletion of l in Montreal. In their discussion of linguistic variation, Wolfram and Fasold (1974, pp. 101-5) present data from an earlier study by Fasold (1972) to show that it is possible to state how two or more factors, or constraint, interact to affect the distribution of a variable. In this case they are concerned with deletion of final stop in clusters, e.g., the d in the word like cold, in speech among blacks in Washington, DC. The data showed that the parenthesized stop were deleted as follows: san(d) castle, 83.3 percent deletion; fas(t) car , 68.8 percent deletion; wil(d) elephant, 34.9 percent deletion ; and lif(t) it, 25.2 percent deletion. If we look closely at the environments of these stops, we will find that sometimes the stop is preceded by a sonorant (a nasal or l) and sometimes by a non-sonorant ( a stop or a fricative), and it is followed sometimes by a vowel and sometimes by a consonant (or non-vowel).
Linguists have traditionally studied variations in a language occurring at the same, time (synchronic study) or how language develops over time (diachronic or historical study). Both can be useful aids to understanding.
The study of language change is often narrowed to consideration of change in one aspect of language: lexis, semantics or syntax, say. But you should have a sense of the broad historical development of English. Later, you may wish to study more fully how the language developed at a particular period. For the 20th century, we are able to study some kinds of change over a very short time, as there is plenty of evidence. The further back we go, the longer may be the periods over which change can be observed. Before the 20th century, most of the evidence that survives is of written forms. We have some second-hand written evidence of spoken language forms, but no recorded speech earlier than that allowed by modern recording technology.
Studying standardization and change by language category
Although a chronological model gives us a sense of succession and of history as narrative, it can make it hard to see the theory or outline of a question or contemporary opinion. It can also lead us to see historical divisions (the end of a century) as having more importance than is really the case. In what follows aspects of change and standardization are considered in terms of language categories. Some of these will affect spoken or written English only (e.g. phonology or spelling, respectively) while others (lexis, semantics, syntax) are common to both or (like style) affect both but possibly in different ways.
Models or examples that we imitate may become real or de facto standards. Texts with a large audience may thus create patterns to which we conform. Prescriptive rules are compiled because the writer presumably wishes to “correct” some real language tendency – these invented rules (akin to matters of etiquette or table manners) are likely to fail, but may in the meantime promote social attitudes about “correct” or “incorrect” English that are confused with genuine rules.
Some “rules”, like those drawn up by Lowth in 1762, have acquired currency: for example, that one should not put a preposition at the end of a sentence, use double or multiple negatives, split the infinitive, or use they as a gender-neutral pronoun. Professor R.W. Zandvoort describes how English usage ignores these pseudo-rules, while Jean Aitchison in her lecture A Web of Worries gives historical and modern examples to show what Zandvoort describes.
Lexis and semantics
This is less problematic or, rather, the problems are readily grasped. Some lexical items with some meanings are certainly standard features of English at a given time – the OED is full of them. Equally, some other items are obviously not standard or have n/s meanings. And many items are in the process of becoming or ceasing to be standard. Thus, in spite of continual language change, we can create a standard lexicon at any time. We can take this further and show how a given lexical item with a given meaning may be standard in a given context or within a variety but be n/s as regards the mainstream.
For example Hoover began life as a brand name, a proper-noun equivalent to generic vacuum cleaner. Nowadays, in spoken UK English Hoover or arguably hoover is acceptable as a generic name or common noun. At the turn of the century supplements to the OED recorded various forms of Kodak (small portable camera) including kodaker (photographer) and kodakry photography. These are no longer standard although Polaroid is acceptable to denote the instant photographs produced in such cameras.
Both lexis and semantics (especially semantic change or drift) may be culturally determined. They may depend on some other thing (a process or object) which ceases to be familiar, and so the word disappears or the meaning shifts. This has happened to words like wireless, telegram or terms from imperial measurement and pre-decimal currency (foot, inch, gallon, bushel, halfpenny [do you know the standard pronunciation of this?], and shilling.
Discussion of spelling is bedevilled by strong social attitudes. Even teachers, who should know better, characterize n/s spelling by epithets such as “bad”, “poor”, “awful” or “appalling” – as if the writer wilfully ignored the standard form. The National Curriculum draws attention to many other features of written performance as well as spelling, but the social attitudes persist. Yet Chaucer, Shakespeare and Milton (necessarily) wrote without regard to a standard, so standard spelling can hardly be a measure of merit. The allegation that n/s spelling confuses the reader is often false (as with n/s omission or adding of a second consonant or n/s e before -ing in verbs). Non-standard spellings used in marketing (Kwik Fit, Kwik Save, Toys R Us) rarely appear unintentionally in children’s writing, as any teacher knows. On the other hand, the commonest “errors” such as alot for (standard) a lot, grammer for (standard) grammar or belive for standard believe all make clear what the writer intends.
Johnson’s dictionary establishes a standard because it is not prescriptive but descriptive. It records what is in Johnson’s (very wide) reading the most common form, making allowance for consistency of like elements, and showing etymology, for those who know other languages. Thus cede (verb=give, from Latin) and seed (noun) are differently spelt though homophones (having more or less the same sound value). Johnson also disarms critics by quoting usage, not merely laying down a preferred form.
The modern reader sees Noah Webster’s variants as distinctly American (ax, color, plow, theater, waggon) but often Webster has recorded an older English form than Dr. Johnson.
Punctuation, which may be more critical to communicating meaning than spelling, provokes much less strong social attitudes – perhaps because n/s forms are less obvious, perhaps because punctuation has no defining moment like the publication of Johnson’s dictionary, but has evolved gradually and has standard forms but is open to change.
From the 18th century onwards one sees most punctuation marks which are considered standard today. Some have changed their use – in general, late 20th century texts, especially non-literary texts, have less frequent use of marks which are deemed optional. In modern German, a comma to separate clauses is obligatory, but not in English. Businesses use so-called “open punctuation” of addresses (no comma after each element). In many cases ignorance or confusion about conventions may cause writers to avoid some marks: the semi-colon and colon are problematic, while the great difference of function between hyphen and dash may be confused by lack of difference in appearance: on a typewriter the same key served for both (some typists would repeat the stroke for a dash). Some modern computer software restores the difference, where the grammar checking can detect that the context calls for the (longer) dash. (HTML character sets seem not to distinguish between the hyphen and dash, so I can’t show you the difference in appearance here.)
Some writers may have caused punctuation marks to lose impact by over-use. Teachers will be familiar with multiple exclamation marks, or with exclamation marks in contexts where only mild emphasis is intended.
Before the advent of modern recording and broadcasting technology debate about sounds was reliant on written transcripts, which could at best approximate to real phonology. Much is made of inference from, for example, rhyming words in poetry – did the poet use imperfect rhyme or have sounds changed in, for example, John Donne’s “And find/What wind/Serves to advance an honest mind”. Does US (rhymes with lurk) or UK (rhymes with dark) pronunciation of clerk preserve the older English form – or have two rival sounds fared differently in separate locations? And what of lieutenant? US loo-ten-unt (with stress on first or second syllable) is closer to the French original than UK lef-ten-unt (stress on second syllable).
The various phonetic alphabets give a symbolic representation of sounds that are described in terms of physical performance (for example the position of tongue relative to teeth). Modern recording technology can be used to give a far more precise and objective description of a sound produced, as a waveform or a measure of frequency and so on.
As sound recording is now more than a century old, we can observe change and standardizing tendencies in spoken English. Received Pronunciation (RP) is a notional standard form of pronunciation. RP is associated with prestige and formal public spoken discourse, such as the law, parliament, education or broadcasting. In some of these it may be in tension with regional variations. RP currently is a modified form of the accent heard in independent and grammar schools or spoken by newsreaders; the accent is largely neutral as regards region, but long/soft vowels are preferred to hard/short vowel sounds. Listening to a recording of a broadcast from an earlier period (a Pathé newsreel or Alvar Liddell [an early BBC radio broadcaster] reading the news for the BBC) will show how far RP has changed over time – the earlier RP survives in part in the accent of Queen Elizabeth II, who speaks with much less clearly differentiated (or less open) vowels than the modern RP speaker (the stiff upper lip is literal as well as a metaphor). Our notion of RP in earlier times may also derive from the accents heard in UK feature films (think of Celia Johnson in Brief Encounter). We have no easy way of knowing how far this corresponded to the prestige accent of the time.
You may understand this subject better by looking at some invented rules. These are not descriptions of general usage but inventions of Robert Lowth and others. Some of them have so influenced past generations that they are accepted as normative. Here are examples of some of the more commonly-encountered pseudo-rules.
They and them are not to be used as singular pronouns.
Example: If anyone calls, tell them I’m in a meeting.
Comment: Such use may be inelegant style but does not break any real rule of grammar. Professor R.W. Zandvoort (The Fundamentals of English Grammar – Arnold’s Card Guides; London, 1963) says, “Where sex is unknown he or they may be used of an adult, he or it of children”. Jean Aitchison (The Language Web, p. 8) quotes examples from the 18th century to the present day of writers who disregard this “rule”, including William Thackeray, Lewis Carroll, Virginia Woolf and George Bernard Shaw.
The infinitive should not be split (separated from to by a qualifier)
Example: The mission was to boldly go where no man had ever gone before.
Comment: There is no justification at all for this supposed rule.
Double negatives are really affirmatives.
Example: I don’t know nothing about that.
Comment: This derives from Robert Lowth (“Two negatives… are equivalent to an affirmative”) but is deeply entrenched in popular attitudes to language. It arises from confusing vernacular languages with logic or theory of number. Now the double negative is often used to signal an affirmative, but indirectly, as in that’s not unreasonable. Aitchison finds a multiple (fourfold) negative for emphatic negation in Chaucer’s General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales. Of the knight, we are told he never yet no vileynye ne sayde
In al his lyf unto no maner wight
(He never even no wicked thing not said in all his life to no kind of person).
Different should be immediately followed by “from” (not “than” or “to”)
Comment: Aitchison finds examples of different to and H.W. Fowler’s Modern English Usage labels the preference for different from a “superstition”. But different to and different than may have other distinct uses. Consider these examples:
• After the room was painted it looked different to me.
• After the room was painted it looked different from how it did before.
• A dog is different from a wolf. A slug is different from a wolf. But a slug is more different than a dog from a wolf.
Most prepositions function in ways that are not coherent or logical. Many languages do not have them. Since their use is a matter of convention, the idea of style or fitness (as with the double negative) may now argue against different to.
Prepositions should not come at the end of a sentence.
Example: This is the man who/that I spoke to.
(Preferred form given as This is the man to whom I spoke.)
Comment: The suggestion that the preposition should come before the verb phrase has no justification. The second example above may be more elegant, but rigid enforcing of the “rule” can have the opposite effect, as in the notorious: This is English, up with which I will not put.
Dates and events
If you want to learn important events and their dates, click on the link below for a short quiz. Why do this? You may want to be confident, before taking an exam, that you know what happened when.
• Take a quiz on important dates in the history of English
Learn about the lexicon
If you want to learn about the English lexicon, click on the link below for a short quiz. Why do this? You may want to be confident, before taking an exam, that you know examples of lexis which have entered English from different languages.
• Take a quiz on the etymology of English words.
Take a general language change quiz
Click on the link below for a general quiz on language change – some questions are not yet covered by this guide: you may need to look elsewhere to find out more. Many thanks to Terry of South Downs and the English Language List for sharing this quiz.
• Take a quiz on language change