Language and Social Culture
Chapter 7
Language Varieties
• Variety is a generic term for a particular coherent form
of language in which specific extralinguistic criteria can
be used to define it as a variety.
• For example, a geographically defined variety is known
as a dialect, a variety with a social basis as a sociolect, a
functional variety as a jargon or a sublanguage, a
situative variety as a register.
• David (1992: 76) defines variety as a system of linguistic
expression whose use is governed by situational
variables, such as regional, occupational or social class.
Language Varieties
• A language is typically composed of a number
of dialects.
• The language differences associated with
dialect may occur on any level of language,
thus including pronunciation, grammatical,
semantic, and language use differences.
Language Varieties
• A regional dialect refers to the language variety used in a
geographical region. When people are separated from
each other geographically, dialectal diversity develops.
• When enough differences give the language spoken in a
particular region, for example, the city of Chicago or New
York its own "flavor”.
• A regional dialect differs from language in that the former
is considered a distinct entity, yet not distinct enough to
be regarded as a different language.
Language Varieties
• The term social dialect is used to describe differences in speech associated
with various social groups or classes.
• Whereas regional dialects are geographically based, social dialects
originate among social groups and are related to a variety of factors such
as gender, age, ethnic group, religion, and class.
• In India, for example, caste, one of the clearest of all social differentiators,
quite often determines which variety of a language a speaker uses.
• Register refers the functional variety of language that is
defined according to the use of language in context.
• People participating in recurrent communication situations
tend to use similar vocabularies and ways of saying.
• For example, a physician may use technical terms when he is
talking with his fellow physicians, but he may use ordinary
vocabulary when he is talking to his patients. When talking
about salt, a chemist may use "NaCl" in writing, but he may
use the word "salt" before a preschool child.
Ethnic Varieties
• Speech variation may come about due to
different ethnic backgrounds. Ethnic varieties
are used by ethnic groups and regarded as
social dialects. They often cut across regional
• It has a few distinctive phonological,
morphological and syntactic features.
• Consonant deletion rule is used. The
simplification approach deletes the past-tense
morpheme, so "past" and "passed" are both
pronounced as "pass". "Meant" and "mend"
are both pronounced as "men.”
• In AAVE, the frequent absence of various forms of
"be" is one of its prominent syntactic features.
• Another syntactic feature is the systematic use of
the expression "it is" where Standard English uses
"there is" in the sense of "there exists", for
• a. Is it a Mr. Harris in this office?
• b. Diana's been a wonderful lady and it's nothin'
too good for her.
• Another syntactical feature is the use of double
negation constructions. For example, each
sentence below containing more than one
• a. Cronin don't know nothing. (Cronin doesn't
know anything.)
• b. I ain't afraid of no devils. (I'm not afraid of any
Language and Culture
• The language used by a speech community is
closely related to the culture of that
• Culture consists of what it is one has to know
or believe in order to operate in a manner
acceptable to its members, and to do so in any
role that they accept for any one of
Language and Culture
• The close relationship between language and
culture has long been the focus of linguistic
• Many linguists have come to realize that
language and culture are inextricably related.
• Language and culture is in a dialectical
relationship. Every language is part of a culture,
and it serves and reflects cultural needs.
Language and Culture
• The relationship between language and culture was
distinctive in the work of Sapir.
• Even though he believes that language and culture are
not intrinsically associated, he believed that language
and our thought-grooves are too much involved as to
be impossible to untie each other, and are, in a sense,
one and the same.
• The association of a specific culture with a specific
language was not given by nature but was a historical
Language and Culture
• In fact, there were and still are areas in the world where societies share a
very similar cultural orientation and yet speak different languages.
• Estonians and Lapps speak related languages, but their cultures are quite
Language Change
• Language is in a state of constant change.
• The development of English is usually divided
into three major periods.
• Old English period is considered to have lasted
from 449 to 1100.
• Middle English period is from 1100 to 1500,
and the
• Modern English from 1500 to the present.
• The world is changing and the causes of language
change are many. The following may be some of
the main causes of language change.
● historical cause
● social cause
● pragmatic and psychological cause
● scientific and technological development
● the increase of international contact
• historical cause
• Historically, English has been changing
throughout its history.
• social cause
• Language change may result from the change
from one social group to another or the
interaction of one social group with other
• pragmatic and psychological cause
• The avoidance of particular words for social
reasons seems to occur in all languages and
euphemisms arise in their place.
• scientific and technological development
• Scientific and technological development can
be one of the causes of language change. New
technical terms keep coming into people's
daily life.
• the increase of international contact
• Communication with speakers of other
languages could lead to language change.
• During the sixteenth century, English
borrowed many words from French and Italian
because Englishmen were in contact with
speakers of these languages.
Lexical Change
• New words may be added. Some words may
become obsolete. And a new dimension in
meaning may be attached to an existing word.
• Words may become archaic or extinct. When a
new word comes into use, its unusual
presence draws attention; but a word may be
lost through inattention.
• Borrowing
• In the area of foods and cooking, English has
borrowed a large number of words from
• During the Middle English period such words
entered the language: dinner, supper, broil,
baste, appetite, salmon, sardine, pork, beef,
veal, mutton, poultry, grape, orange.
• Creation of New Words
• Apart from borrowing, new words have made
their entry into English via word formation
rules such as compound, derivation, acronym
formation, blending, abbreviation, clipping,
back-formation, and coinage, etc..
• Some new words are created from the brandname or trade-mark of a product. For example,
the invention of Kodak.
• Shifts in Meaning
• By amelioration, a word is assigned to a more
favorable class of objects than previously. The
word nimble comes originally from the Old English
word niman, meaning "to take." It now means
• The opposite of amelioration is pejoration. A
word becomes attached to a less favorable class
of objects than previously. The word spinster
originally means the girl who spins, but now it
means an older unmarried woman.
• When a word relates to a larger class of objects
than previously, it has gone through
generalization. A place was originally the same
thing as a plaza, and a butcher was a person who
slaughtered goats.
• In the opposite direction, a word can go through
specialization and refer to a smaller class of
objects. A wife was originally any woman, and
disease was lack of ease for any reason.
Sound Change
• Words such as table and face, which had
the time of borrowing, underwent a sound
change in English during the fifteenth century.
The vowel was raised and fronted to [ei].
Syntactical change
• A syntactic rule that has been lost from
English is the rule of adjective agreement. The
rule stipulated that the endings of adjectives
must agree with the head noun in case,
number, and gender.
Language Planning
• The term language planning refers to a deliberate
attempt to affect language use in order to prevent or
to solve some problems of communication.
Standard Language
• The standard language can be said to be a superposed,
socially prestigious dialect of language.
• Because it functions as the public means of
communication, it is subject to extensive
normalization especially in grammar, pronunciation,
and spelling.
• Command of the standard language is the goal of
formal language instruction.
National Language and Official
• A national language is considered as a
national identity.
• An official language is the language that
is used in official situations in a nation or
an institution.
• End of Lecture

Language and Social Culture