Lecture: Sociolinguistics
Professor Dr. Neal R. Norrick
Universität des Saarlandes
Dept. 4.3: English Linguistics
WS 2008/09
• Website: script, bibliography, PowerPoint presentation
• attendance, quiz, certificates/credits
1. Introduction
1.1 What is Sociolinguistics?
Sociolinguistics is the study of language in relation to
Sociolinguistics studies:
• the social importance of language to groups of people,
from small sociocultural groups to entire nations and
• language as part of the character of a nation, a culture, a
• the development of national standard languages and
their relation to regional and local dialects
• attitudes toward variants and choice of which to use
• how individual ways of speaking reveal membership in
social groups: working class versus middle class, urban
versus rural, old versus young, female versus male
• how certain varieties and forms enjoy prestige, while
others are stigmatized
• ongoing change in the forms and varieties of language,
interrelationships between varieties
• See Trudgill's "two Englishmen on a train" story
Sociolinguistics also studies:
• language structures in relation to interaction
• how speakers construct identities through discourse in
interaction with one another
• how speakers and listeners use language to define their
relationship and establish the character and direction of
their talk
• how talk conveys attitudes about the context, the
participants and their relationship in terms of
membership, power and solidarity
• Compare:
Could I ask you to bring me the paint, please?
Get me the paint, wouldja?
• how listeners interpret talk and draw inferences from it
about the ongoing interaction
• Sociolinguists describe how language works in society to
better understand society, but also to investigate the
social aspect of language to better understand its use,
structure and development
1.2 The Sociolinguistics of Society versus the
Sociolinguistics of Language
• The Sociolinguistics of Society concerns the role of
languages in societies:
– societal multilingualism
– attitudes toward national languages and dialects
– language planning, language choice, language shift, language
death, language education
• The Sociolinguistics of Language concerns language
function and variation in the social context of the speech
– forms of address
– speech acts and speech events
– language and gender, language and power, politeness,
language, thought and reality
– language varieties and change
My treatment of Sociolinguistics of Society will focus on England, USA
and Commonwealth nations
• Main focus on the Sociolinguistics of Language: particularly forms,
functions and varieties of English
• Labov and Trudgill as premiere sociolinguists
 hence: variation in New York City, Black English, language and
social stratification in Norwich
• Really we'll be doing the Sociolinguistics of English
1.3 Sociolinguistics within Linguistics
• Sociolinguistics as "hyphenated linguistics"
– psycholinguistics, neurolinguistics, cognitive linguistics,
computational linguistics
• Sociolinguistics as interdisciplinary:
roots in dialect geography
anthropology and sociology
philosophy of language
linguistic pragmatics and discourse analysis
• Since language is the basic vehicle of social cohesion
and interaction, any linguistics should be sociolinguistics
• As Labov puts it:
sociolinguistics is "a somewhat misleading use of an
oddly redundant term“
language always exists in varieties
language is always changing
any adequate linguistic theory should be sociolinguistic
describing variation by speaker, class, region and time
failure to account for variation and change should render
a linguistic description useless
• but Sociolinguistics outside "mainstream linguistics" till
1.4 Saussure's dichotomies and non-socio-linguistics
• The Neo-Grammarians (Junggrammatiker) insisted:
– speakers are unaware of change
– and change can not be observed in progress
• Saussure inaugurated "modern linguistics" around 1900,
distinguishing synchronic and diachronic linguistics
• This useful distinction in the 1900’s became a program
for ignoring the fundamentally dynamic nature of
• Like binary distinctions generally, this dichotomy
privileged one half of the pair, namely synchronic
• Saussure also distinguished langue and parole
• This dichotomy privileged langue, the language as a
system, and marginalized parole, language in use
• this distinction became a program for ignoring the
fundamentally social and behavioral nature of language
• Linguistics as the synchronic study of langue:
– language as an abstraction without variation by speaker, region
or time
– language as a non-cultural, non-social, static, depersonalized
fact independent of context and discourse
"Saussurian Paradox"
If we all share knowledge of the communal langue,
one can obtain all the data necessary for linguistic
description from a single person--perhaps oneself;
but one can obtain data on individualistic parole
only by studying linguistic behavior in the
The social aspect of language is studied by
observing a single speaker, but the individual
aspect only by observing language in its social
Labov (1972: 185-87)
• "categorial" versus "variationist" views with regard to
language history and description:
room with long u as in pool
with short u as in book
with velar nasal ng (-ing)
with alveolar nasal n (-in)
1.5 Development of Sociolinguistics in USA
• Structuralist linguistic theory in US (like Saussure)
– stressed synchronic study of langue
– focused on the system of language
• American structuralism also followed Logical Positivism
• Bloomfield insisted on “scientific” linguistics
linguistic description as mathematical
formal rules
discrete input and output
no variables or "free variation"
• But in descriptions of native Amerindian languages,
social factors appeared as part of the anthropological
• from late 1950's, Chomsky's generative transformational
grammar further marginalized sociolinguistics
• grammar as creative aspect of language and the center
of linguistic attention
• restatement of Saussure's dichotomy of langue and
parole as a distinction between competence and
– Competence: language user's innate knowledge of grammar,
and the only proper object of linguistic research
– Performance: disorganized, error-ridden talk not amenable to
systematic description
• the speaker was "an ideal speaker-listener, in a
completely homogeneous speech community, who
knows its language perfectly" (Chomsky 1965: 3)
• These idealizations:
– banished variation from linguistics
– removed talk from society and local context
– made language an abstraction
• But Ethnography of Speaking recognized:
– language functions and speech events
– linguistic behavior, social function, context
• Communicative competence versus Chomsky's
grammatical competence
• Dialect geographers (or dialectologists, areal linguists)
continued to describe systematic variation by region
• Sociological research on language and society:
– Fishman on language contact, societal multilingualism
– Goffman, Sacks on language in social interaction
• From mid 1960's: Sociolinguistics of language:
Weinreich, Labov
Urban dialectology, Black English Vernacular
Linguistic Pragmatics, conversation analysis
Interactional Sociolinguistics
1.6 Development of Sociolinguistics in UK
• Linguistic theory in UK never really followed Saussure;
philological tradition and applied linguistics in language
teaching and anthropology
• Dichotomies of synchronic and diachronic, langue
and parole not systematically observed
• Malinowski:
– phatic communion as social meaning
– context of situation basis of meaning
• Firth:
– context of situation central to meaning
– meaning central to language description
– conversation as key to understanding language
• Halliday:
– interpersonal meaning alongside ideational
– Language as a social semiotic
• Trudgill: social stratification and variation
• Sinclair, Crystal, Quirk et al.:
– conversational organization
– transactional analysis
2. Linguistic Variation
• Variation through time: stages or periods of a language
– Old English 449-1150
– Middle English 1150-1500
• Variation in space: regional dialects
– English as spoken in Norwich, Norfolk,
– New England, New York City
• Variation by group: sociolects (social dialects)
– English as spoken by upper working class women in Norwich,
– by saleswomen in New York department stores
• Variation by situation: register
– English as spoken in television sports reporting
– as written in business letters
– in personal e-mail
• variation even occurs in the speech of a particular
person from a particular place in a particular group and
• so varieties often differ by high versus low probability for
specific items (this indicates necessity of counting!)
• variety = set of linguistic items with characteristic social
• Varieties may differ in any kind of linguistic item:
pronunciation, word choice, word form and syntax
– Working class men in Norwich tend to pronounce thin and thing
the same way in conversation
– BE speakers say tube, while AE speakers say subway
– White rural speakers in the Midwest U.S. say She come home
yesterday instead of the standard She came home yesterday
– Black vernacular speakers say I aks her did she know him,
while standard speakers say I asked her if she knew him
• Sociolinguistic Variables are particular items known to
reflect particular social contrasts
– Presence or absence of 3rd person singular -s in constructions
like: she goes versus she go
– Presence or absence of [r] in pronunciations of words and
phrases like: theater
theater is
the idea of
• Again we find patterns of variation
– from group to group
– from one speaker to the next
– from one style to the next in the group
(again indicates necessity for quantification)
2.1 Class and style
• In sociolinguistic studies, class is determined by rating
status characteristics like occupation, education,
residence, and income on numerical scales
• Styles reflect different degrees of formality and
awareness of speakers about how they're speaking
versus what they're saying
• Most formal is word list style, next reading style, then
careful style as in an interview, and finally casual style
• A particular sociolinguistic variable will display class
stratification across social classes and styles, as shown
in diagrams like the one below
Labov (1972: 239) ing
In every style, class members differ predictably
In every class, style shifting occurs predictably
the same variable distinguishes classes and styles
a single signal has no fixed value
a single variable may mark
– a casual middle-class speaker
– a careful lower-class speaker
• Syntactic, morphological and phonological factors:
monosyllabic verb sing
indefinite something
present participle suffix –ing
at the end of a phrase
preceding a vowel
preceding a consonant
She tried to find something
She tried to find something in town
She tried to find something she liked
2.2 Variation and change
• Some variation leads to permanent change
• one variant gains acceptance and others disappear
• The "embedding problem"
– describe the matrix of social and linguistic behavior (changes
and constants) in which language change takes place
Linguistic factors
• Universal constraints on change (based on past
– front vowels tend to rise
– stop consonants tend to lose voicing
• Local changes may affect the whole system, e.g.
– change in diphthong /ay/ leads to parallel change in /aw/
• Social factors:
– group member with high prestige provides model
– pressure from outside group encourages solidary behavior
2.3 Prestige and stigmatization
• Change begins as irregular fluctuation below level of
conscious awareness
• no stylistic stratification
• When variation comes to conscious awareness, due to
association with certain groups or speakers, one variant
gains prestige, another is stigmatized
• Pronouncing "aitches" versus "dropping aitches" in
words like hotel and house
• General axiom of sociolinguistic structure:
– uniform agreement in subjective reactions to a variable correlate
with regular stratification
– one finds stylistic stratification
– speakers use more prestige variants in careful styles than in
casual styles
• speakers insert prestige variants where they don't
belong (where prestige speakers don't use them)
pronouncing "aitches" in words like honor, hour and if
2.4 The actuation of change
"The actuation problem"
What sets change in motion?
Social factors account for change in a general way, e.g.
A. Pressure from new group produces greater solidarity in
original group, and members signal this through
distinctive behavior, including speech patterns
B. Commuters accommodate speech patterns to focal
point, usually a major city, and introduce patterns at
C. "Linguistic missionaries" return from living in focal point
city with high status and new speech patterns
• Linguistic factors may favor certain changes
– regularizing a pattern
– like /ay/ causing parallel change in /aw/
• but even taken together they can't predict that change
will occur or in which direction
• even knowing the linguistic and social matrix doesn't
explain why one specific feature changes and another
• pronunciation of vowel in words like craft
– changed from [æ] in OE to [a] in ME
– back to [æ] in EModE
– back to [a] in the 18th Century (in southern England, but not in
America or northern England)
• speakers in southwest England drop -r in posh
pronunciation, careful speakers in NYC are reintroducing
the sound
• historically stigmatized constructions like the
comparative and superlative forms funner and funnest
become standard in the course of a single generation (in
2.5 Variable rules
• Language as a system of rules
– Constitutive rules versus regulative rules
• Assume full forms are stored in memory and reduced in
speech, e.g. by rules for contraction:
She + is  she's
we + have + been  we've been
and by rules for deletion:
we've been  we been
last + time  las' time
• Phonological rule for final consonant cluster
simplification, as in las' time:
C  Φ / C ___ ## C
Read: delete a consonant following a consonant at the end
of a word, if the next word begins with a consonant.
• Some dialects allow consonant cluster simplification
even if the next word begins with a vowel, as in las' of
all, so we could write:
C  Φ / C ___ ##
• This rule fails to say that deletion is far more likely before
a consonant than a vowel - in every dialect; so we need
variable rules, relating differences in application to
differences in the environment, as in:
C  <Φ> / C ___ ## <C>
Read: delete a consonant following a consonant at the
end of a word, more often before a consonant than a
• In addition, the rule is far less likely if the consonant to
be deleted represents the past tense suffix -t,d, as in:
liked [laykt]
seemed [simd])
• This suggests a revision of the rule as:
C  <Φ> / C <~#> ___ ## <C>
Read: delete a consonant following a consonant at the
end of a word, more often if there's no morpheme
boundary between the consonants, and more often
before a consonant than a vowel.
• Further, deletion is more likely for speakers of Black
Vernacular than for white speakers, and more likely for
younger speakers than for older speakers.
• Labov itemizes such constraints on variable rules in
tables includes both internal linguistic factors and
external social factors
Labov 1972: 222
Thus variable rules can describe the behavior of a sociolinguistic
variable for a whole speech community.
3. The social motivation of language
change (Labov 1972b)
• Till Labov, no one had tried to explain language change
• When linguists described change, they cited internal
(systematic linguistic), not external (social) factors
• Linguists claimed language change was imperceptible,
its origins obscure to speakers and linguistics alike
(Saussure: language as mutable and immutable)
• Linguists claimed language change proceeded from
above, from higher classes to lower classes
• But according to popular belief, vernacular speakers
cause language change, or language deterioration,
through lack of education, laziness, unclear thinking
– Double negation: She never saw nobody try it
– ain’t for am not, aren’t, isn’t, hasn’t, haven’t
– I ain’t going, she ain’t seen them, it ain’t me
• so-called language experts see change as corruption
• any deviation from standard is undesirable
• standard language is pure, better, more logical than
Labov's questions:
What causes language change?
Internal versus external factors in change?
Who propagates language change?
Does it really proceed from above?
How can language change be imperceptible if people
talk about undesirable features and changes in
• Is language change dysfunctional or does it have
positive influence?
• Why do some groups maintain stigmatized features after
centuries of condemnation?
3.1 Social motivation versus free variation:
A case study of Martha's Vineyard, Massachussetts
• In structuralist and generative phonology, sounds
(phonemes) written in / / to show variation is irrelevant
• Audible differences count as "free variation"
• Labov writes sounds in ( ) to show variation has social
• Apparent "free variation" increasingly tied to groups and
attitudes as analysis progresses
Case study: Martha's Vineyard
Island off Massachussetts coast, separate from mainland
Clear social structure: natives versus summer residents
Variables: (r) as elsewhere in New England
Diphthongs (ay aw) with clear local pattern
• Note quick rise, esp. in (aw) variable, for younger
• table comparing four 15-year-old students
• Interviews include questions to determine attitudes about
Martha's Vineyard and staying on the island.
centralized diphthong marks identification as native
islander rather than as "Yankee" (of English descent)
Labov describes the stages of language change as:
• Apparently, pressure from outside causes language
change as a mechanism of group identity.
• Immediate group status plays primary role, not status
within culture as a whole, i.e. not from above as such
• Internal factors may play a role in spreading change:
change in (ay) stimulates parallel change in (aw)
• Members of language community aren't explicitly aware
which features are in flux (though they may identify
someone's speech as "fishermen's talk" or "dockworkers'
• But linguists can see change in progress; it's especially
clear in diagrams calibrated for age differences
3.2 Social stratification in New York
• Hypothesis: any two subgroups of NYC speakers ranked
on a scale of social stratification will be ranked in the
same order by their differential use of (r)
• Retroflex pronunciation of (r) is a change from above,
reflecting pattern of national standard
• stigmatizing the traditional r-lessness of NYC speech
• Note: loss of r in New York City was also change from
above, borrowing r-less pattern from London speech in
early 1800s
• Rapid and anonymous speech events as data
• Employees of three large department stores as test
– Sacks
– Macy's
– S. Klein
• Department stores ranked by pricing, advertising, wages,
working conditions, physical appearance of store
• Method:
Ask question to elicit answer fourth floor
Say excuse me to elicit emphatic response
• This gives four variants:
– Preceding final consonant and word final
– Casual and emphatic
Less differentiation shows greater security as a speaker
Greater differentiation shows less security as a speaker
Compare just white, native born saleswomen:
• Advantages of rapid and anonymous interviews
– Easy access, breadth of data
• Disadvantages of rapid and anonymous interviews
– Not much differentiation between styles
 Reading aloud and word list needed
In follow-up interviews Labov found for the (r) variable:
• for a white female Sacks employee
% retroflex r
STYLE A = casual, STYLE B = interview,
STYLE C = reading, STYLE D = word list
• for a Jewish male taxi driver
• for a Black middle class female
% retroflex r
% retroflex r
• Cross-over pattern in diagram of multiple styles and social classes:
• Second highest class typically displays cross-over pattern,
hypercorrection and hypersensitivity
3.3 Social variation, language structure and change
• Based on research on Martha's Vineyard and in NYC,
Labov summarizes "Mechanism of language change"
1. Change from below originates in subgroup due to
external pressure.
2. Change begins as generalization of feature to all
members of the subgroup. The variable acts as
indicator of membership, and it shows no stylistic
3. Succeeding generations carry variable beyond the model
set by parents (=hypercorrection from below).
4. The variable becomes a marker showing stylistic
5. Movement of variable in system leads to readjustments
in system, and hence to new change.
6. Other subgroups interpret first change as part of
community system and new change as stage 1.
This recycling stage is primary source for continual
origination of new changes.
7. If the change did not originate in the highest-status
group, this group will stigmatize the change through
control of institutions and communication network.
8. The highest-status group provides prestige model for all
speakers. The variable now shows social stratification as
well as stylistic variation.
9. Speakers shift, especially in careful styles, to imitate the
prestige model (=hypercorrection from above).
10. Extreme stigmatization can lead to stereotype, and the
stigmatized form may disappear.
11. Change originating in highest-class group (change from
above) usually represents borrowing or influence from
outside community.
12. When change originates in highest-class group, it
becomes prestige model for all speakers. The change is
then adopted by other groups in proportion to their
contact with the users of the prestige model.
3.4 Change and Gender
• Women as traditional caregivers have special influence
over propagation of change
• Women usually lead in change from above, while men
usually lead change from below.
• Women show greater stylistic shifting, esp. to imitate the
prestige model (=hypercorrection from above).
• Within a single class, women use more prestige forms,
fewer stigmatized forms.
3.5 Attitudes toward variation and change
• Evaluation of variants are uniform across classes and
groups; they assign character traits to speakers and
groups, e.g.
– New York dialect sounds impolite and tough
– Bostonian sounds refined and snooty
– Southern drawl sounds lazy and ignorant
• Those who use highest degree of stigmatized form also
condemn it most
• Pre-adolescents are aware of prestige and stigmatized
forms, they monitor their speech accordingly; they
usually settle back into established class patterns
• lower class group know prestige forms, but choose not to
use them; they continue to use forms they know to be
• covert norms opposed to those of the middle class;
attribute positive values to use of the vernacular
3.6 Language change as positive influence
• Language change as deterioration and leveling of
distinctions is only half the story; change also introduces
new distinctions and features
• Language change must have value for the group,
because it requires extra learning and monitoring of
forms; change from below strengthens position of
• Language change appears dysfunctional only if we view
language as a purely ideational system; for language to
serve as a social marker, it must have variation and
undergo change
4. Black English Vernacular
(Labov 1972a)
• Black English Vernacular (BEV) versus Nonstandard
Negro English (cf. Ebonics)
• Labov began from failure of Blacks in school, esp. in
• BEV as fully elaborated system but also symbol of
• Participant-observer in Black street gangs
• BEV as regional southern dialect becoming class/ethnic
marker in northern cities
• BEV versus Standard American English (SAE)
Phonological differences:
1. r-lessness (like New England, New York, the South)
no post-vocalic r, e.g. in sore, fort
so that sore = saw fort = fought
but BEV may not pronounce r even between vowels, as in:
Carol, terrace which sound just like Cal, test
and BEV may not pronounce r after th, as in:
throw through throat
2. l-lessness (no post-vocalic l)
so that toll = toe all = awe
fault = fought
3. Simplification of consonant clusters
e.g. -st -ft -nt -nd -ld -zd -md
in passed past soft bent bend hold raised aimed
so that past = pass meant = men hold = hole
Note: Consonant cluster simplification can combine with
l-lessness to yield: told = toll = toe
4. Other consonant variables
Some single consonants are glottalized or lost
seat = seed = see poor = poke = pope
Final th realized as /f/ or /v/:
death = deaf Ruth = roof
Grammatical correlates of phonological variables
1. Missing possessives (through cluster simplification, loss
of final r)
Mick book they book you book
2. Missing future markers (through loss of final l)
you'll = you they'll = they he'll = he
but gonna I'm'na I'ma
3. Missing copula, except with I
you're = you they're = they he's = he
but I'm
4. Missing past tense markers (through loss of final t d
following consonants)
passed = past = pass fined = find = fine
but irregular forms remain: told/tol' kept/kep'
4.1 BEV as a separate system
• BEV negative inversion:
Ain't nobody gone let you walk
Don't nobody break up a fight
• Embedded questions retain inversion in BEV (without
complementizers if and whether):
I asked Alvin could he go
She asked us did we know how
• BEV loss of r even before vowels, as in: our own
and word-internally, as in: borrow (= bow)
• unlike any white New York dialect, BEV consonant
cluster simplification yields a distinct tense paradigm:
• Also special BEV tense and aspect forms:
– Habitual be in:
she always be messing around
If you be beating on him, he cry
– Intensive done in:
she done left him
– Extended time been in:
I been know you a long time
• Contraction and deletion of copula:
• Where SAE can contract is/are, BEV can delete them,
and where SAE can't contract is/are, BEV can't delete
she's the first one
she's wild, though
you're out of the game
*here he's/they're
she the first one
she wild, though
you out the game
*here he/they
Labov (1972: 64) concludes:
• "The gears and axles of English grammatical machinery
are available to speakers of all dialects."
• He explicitly rejects BEV as "dialect mixing" performance
• General Principle of Accountability:
any variable form must be reported with the proportion of
cases where the form occurred in the relevant
environment compared with the number where it might
have occurred
• Labov accepts categorial challenge of describing a
homogeneous speech community
• this makes it necessary to account for community
variation in explicit rules
• Labov may be seen as overreacting to formalism of
generative grammar and to claim that BEV is a separate,
creolized language (and hence inferior to Standard
4.2 Variability and variable rules
• To describe BEV, Labov invented variable rules
• The rule for contracting the copula (am/is/are) favored
– a preceding pronoun versus a full noun
– a preceding vowel or glide versus a consonant
– a following verb, esp. gonna
• thus contraction is most likely in: she's gonna/they're
• far less likely in: Ruth's tough/life's tough
• and we could assign values to the probability of
contraction for each environment and for different styles
• The BEV rule deleting contracted forms ('s/'re but not
'm) is favored by:
– a preceding consonant versus a vowel
– a preceding pronoun
– a following verb, esp. gonna
• thus deletion is most likely in: it gonna
• and somewhat less likely in: they gonna
• again we could assign values to the probability of
deletion for each environment and for different styles
• As formulated in Labov's variable rules, BEV is a dialect
of SAE with its own characteristic constraints on general
• Variable rules are integrated into the community
grammar, they operate within general grammatical
categories, so that they must represent competence
(rather than performance).
• Thus, the grammar of the speech community as a whole
is more regular than the grammar of any dialect or
• Variation is part of competence: knowing a language
means knowing what varies, how and when.
4.3 Members versus lames, system versus ideolect
• Lames are relative outsiders who act as informants for
linguists and sociologists to avoid the Observer's
Observer's Paradox:
• How can we observe the way people act/speak when
they're not being observed?
• When members leave group, they generally orient
toward SAE and away from BEV; they lose insider's
knowledge of the group and its folklore, their intuitions
are no longer trustworthy
Labov found for lames versus members of Black street
• For ing versus in:
Lames use 25% ing
members use 4% ing
• For contraction and deletion of is/are:
Contraction about the same: lames 65% members 73%
But deletion: lames 12% members 52%
• For 3rd person does versus do, doesn't versus don't
doesn't: lames 36% members 3%
lames 13% members 0
In each case the lames were closer to or even the same as
white SAE speakers.
• Linguists themselves tend to be lames vis-a-vis their own
speech community, they are bad informants on their own
• even if some intuitions are correct, we can check them
only by researching the real community
• This leads back to the participant-observer within group
to overcome Observer's Paradox (as ethnomethodology
• Only members are embedded in community, practice its
language skills and folklore
• Labov turns to members and their folklore
– to defend BEV as systematic and valuable
– to find clear examples of BEV unaffected by SAE
• Hence: investigation of soundings/dozens and fight
4.4 Analyzing narratives
• Labov became interested in narrative as community
folklore and as a source of natural BEV speech
unaffected by observer
• Narrative as method of recapitulating past experience by
matching a verbal sequence of clauses to the sequence
of events reported.
• narrative as a sequence of past tense clauses
• sequentially ordered with respect to each other,
• minimal narrative as at least two such clauses
So he get all upset.
Then I fought him.
• Reversing the order destroys the sequence as a
narrative proper--or changes it into a different story:
Then I fought him.
So he get all upset.
• Beyond skeleton of temporally ordered narrative clauses,
other “free” clauses are typically found in stories,
assigned to specific function elements:
• Abstract: answers the question “What was this about?”
• Orientation: answers the questions “Who, what, when,
• Complicating action
• Evaluation: answers the question “So what?”
• Resolution: answers the question “What finally
• Coda: puts off any further questions about what
happened or why it mattered.
A "fight story" illustrates the central elements
A When I was in fourth grade--no--it was third grade-There was this boy, he stole my glove.
B He took my glove,
C and say that his father found it downtown on the ground.
D I told him that he--it's impossible for him to find
downtown, 'cause all those people were walking by, and
just his father is the only one that find it?
E So he get all upset.
F Then I fought him.
G I knocked him out all in the street.
H So he say he give.
I And I kept on hitting him.
J Then he start crying
K And run home to his father.
L And his father told him, he ain't find no glove.
Labov identifies the “primary sequence” with the most
explicit statement of the “a-then-b” relation, as:
I told him that he . . .
So he get all upset.
Then I fought him.
I knocked him out all in the street.
So he say he give.
And I kept on hitting him.
Then he start crying
And run home to his father.
• Evaluation particularly important
– establishes the point of interest
– emphasizes its unusual character
– demonstrates the teller's involvement with event reported elicits
interest and belief from listeners
• Semantic: Explains teller's attitude, suspends action
D I told him that he--it's impossible for him to find
downtown, 'cause all those people were walking by, and
just his father is the only one that find it?
• Symbolic action: Hitting someone after he says he
gives indicates the teller's anger was great
H So he say he give.
I And I kept on hitting him.
• External: Statement by third person
L And his father told him, he ain't find no glove.
5. Developmental linguistics
• By contrast with Labov, view of variation as one property
of a language system
• Developmental linguistics is a comprehensive
linguistic theory
– it includes variation and change as central facts of language
– relates them to language acquisition, language death,
pidginization and creolization
• C.-J. Bailey (1973, 1982 etc) sees
sociocommunicational factors like ethnicity, gender,
style etc balancing neurobiological factors in language
• Sociocommunicational factors depend on local speech
• Neurobiological factors are universal and appear in
language acquisition and loss, pidginization and
creolization, e.g.Marking (or Markedness), as in:
Unmarked /t, d, n/ initial
Marked /k, g, ng/ initial
/k, g, ng/ final in syllable
/t, d, n/ final in syllable
• Unmarked terms acquired first, lost last; found in more
languages; more robust in language contact
• Usually, marked term predicts presence of unmarked
term, e.g. syllable initial /k/  syllable initial /t/
• In Developmental Linguistics:
– Rules form a panlectal grammar predictive for language
acquisition and change
– Categories are gradient,
not just + or variation is built into rules
• gradient morpheme boundary in the rule for consonant
cluster simplification cited above:
C  <Φ> / C <~#> ___ ## <C>
• says deletion becomes more likely as the morpheme
boundary becomes less clear
from laughed to leftPst Tns to leftAdv to draft
• rules reflect neurobiological influences, they describe
connatural change, versus abnatural change due to
sociocommunicational influence
6. Community of Practice (CoP)
Communities of Practice (Wenger 1998)
• fishermen on Martha’s Vineyard
• members of a Black street gang
• We all participate in various CoPs:
in the family at home
at work
at school
in casual groups and organizations
• CoP ways of speaking are the most closely coordinated
• CoP is the primary place for “doing gender”; for
constructing social identity generally
• Newer research on variation focuses on the CoP and the
social meaning of speech styles (based on linguistic
• By contrast, Labov’s “correlational sociolinguistics”
– uses survey and quantitative methods
– examines correlations between linguistic variability and major
demographic categories (class, age, sex class, ethnicity)
– develops the "big picture" of the social spread of sound change
across groups and regions.
Later variation studies
• describe the relation between variation and local,
participant-designed categories.
• give local meaning to the demographic categories,
• still focus on some kind of speech community,
• examine linguistic variables in their role as local/regional
dialect features
Newest research oriented to CoP
• views practices and styles, rather than variables, as
directly associated with identity categories
• explores the contributions of variables to styles
• takes social meaning as primary
• examines any linguistic material with a social/stylistic
purpose (not just changes in progress)
• often explores the style in relation to gender
• Eckert (1998) shows how adolescents use language
practices to construct their social (gendered) identity
• if CoP (rather than class) defines speech style, it’s no
surprise that women and men “in the same class” display
different styles.
• re-interpret Labov’s findings on Martha’s Vineyard:
– Fishermen as members of a CoP
– use vowel quality to express social meaning
– other islanders orient toward the shift to position themselves
• female identities and alignment among members of CoP
• Notice: repetition, overlap, markers of agreement, tags,
details, dialogue
Annie: and I always thought
that her and Vance just were great [together.]
Jean: [yeah.]
used to [get s-]
Helen: [they were both] good.
Annie: yeah.
they were really good.
Jean: you could go over there
around the holidays
and get smashed before you left [the place.]
Helen: [oh yeah.]
Jean: we used to have the last appointment, right? remember, the
two of us would go?
Annie: yeah, yeah.
"want some wine girls?"
"sure we'll have a glass of wine."
you walk out of there you're half tipsy.
you were under the dryers.
well sure.
and he'd be pouring the wine
and we were tipsy
by the time we walked out of that place.
then he moved all the way out at Rand Road.
near the town show, remember?
[we went there.]
[we used to go there.]
and then we went on to Union Road,
when he was there.
we followed him around.
7. Ethnography of communication
Ethnography of communication (or Ethnography of
• studies uses, patterns and functions of speaking as an
activity in concrete social settings in the speech
Defining speech community:
– shared rules for speaking and shared speech variety
– we all inhabit different, overlapping speech communities
• Methodology: participant-observer description
• Etic versus Emic (from phonetic versus phonemic)
• Communicative competence versus Chomsky's
grammatical competence
7.1 Language functions
• Bühler (1933) "Organon Modell": 3 factors, 3 functions
• Malinowski (1935): phatic communion, interaction, magic
language as instrument in "context of situation"
• Jakobson (1960): 6 factors, 6 functions
• Hymes (1962, 1964): extends Jakobson,
• expands Reference into: Topic & Setting
(hence: referential & contextual functions)
• splits Sender into Speaker and Addressor
7.2 Speech acts and speech events
• Speech situation: scene (cultural) and setting (physical)
• Speech event: within Speech situation, composed of
Speech acts
• Speech act: minimal unit of speech event
By contrast with turns, pairs, sentences etc
For example:
speech situation
market place
speech event
speech act
Components defining speech events:
• Participants: Addressor, Addressee, Audience
• Form: dialect, variety, register
• Ends: purpose of event, goals of participants
• Key: mock versus serious, perfunctory versus
• Form: dialect, register etc
• Dialect is "what you speak" based on "who you are," i.e.
where you were born/where you live, your age, group
memberships etc;
• Register is "what you are speaking" based on "what you
are doing," i.e. the particular activity and context
• Genre: poem, proverb, lecture, advertisement
• Norms: "no gap, no overlap" in conversation, "speak
only when you're spoken to" for children
The SPEAKING GRID: a schema of the components of speech
physical circumstances
psychological setting; subjective
definition of an occasion
speaker or sender / address or
hearer or receiver or audience / addressee
purpose of the event from cultural
point of view
purposes of individual participants
message form and content
tone and manner
verbal, non-verbal, physical
variety of language drawn from
community repertoire
of interaction
of interpretation
Textual categories
• Apply the Speaking Grid to various speech events
written invitation to child's birthday party
internet chat room interaction
talk at work
telephone sex
8. Interactional Sociolinguistics
• Interactional Sociolinguistics grows out of
• Ethnography of Speaking and Sociology of everyday life,
esp. the notion of the participant-observer
8.1 Sociology of everyday life
• Order at every level of interaction
• Garfinkle, Goffman
• Through “ways of speaking” we define ourselves and
our relationships with others
• we present a self for ratification in interaction, and we
take a line (or stance)
• Goffman defines “face” as the positive social value a
person claims by the line others assume he/she has
taken: we can save face or lose face in interaction
• Social interaction is then “face work”
– we have face wants and needs
– positive face: desire to be liked
– negative face: desire to be left alone
• interaction may threaten our face in various ways
• some acts are inherently “face threatening acts” (fta’s)
e.g. requests, invitations
• the requester risks loss of face, if addressee refuses, but
addressee also loses face in refusing
8.2 Involvement and Contextualization cues
• Involvement is successful ongoing interaction
• co-produced by interactants
• negotiating selves, relationship and interactional goals
• Gumperz defines contextualization cues:
ways of signaling our attitudes toward what we say
prosody (tempo, volume, intonation, hesitation)
shifts in style
• contextualization cues frame interaction
• in terms of our “contextual presuppositions”:
– serious/humorous
– important/trivial
– hurried/leisurely
• contextualization cues bracket individual acts or
stretches of interaction
• perception of contextualization cues allows us to draw
inferences about other participants and their interactional
• So: Interactional Sociolinguistics studies:
discourse markers
• and their effects on talk in interaction regarding:
– construction of identity
– power versus solidarity
– control
– alignment among participants
• concern with intercultural and inter-ethnic communication
• effects of sociolinguistic variables on communication:
• Consider an example from Gumperz: Following an informal graduate
seminar at a major (US American) university, a black student
approached the instructor, who was about to leave the room
accompanied by several other black and white students, and said:
“Could I talk to you for a minute? I’m gonna apply for a fellowship and I
was wondering if I could get a recommendation?”
The instructor replied:
“O.K. Come along to the office and tell me what you want to do.”
As the instructor and the rest of the group left the room, the black
student said, turning his head ever so slightly to the other students:
“Ahma git me a gig!”
• the student frames his two utterances in different ways
• his presuppositions about interaction with the instructor
differ from those about interaction with the other students
• code-switch from Standard American to Afro-American
Vernacular English
• appropriate contextualization cues (prosody, formulaicity,
lexis) align student first with the instructor, then with the
students, AAVE aligns him directly with other black
8.3 Conversational Style
• Tannen (1984) sees involvement as a scalar
factor, partially determined by social variables:
• gender, age, background, profession, class
– High-involvement: fast, no pause or overlap, joint
– Low-involvement (High-considerateness): slow, long
pauses, no interruption
• High versus low involvement style
– type of speaker
– passage of talk
– type of discourse
• New Yorkers exhibit higher involvement than Californians
• talk between friends exhibits higher involvement than
talk among strangers
• women exhibit higher involvement than men,
• storytelling exhibits higher involvement than a report
• Style differences are heard as social (class) differences
high involvement between co-narrators:
we were in this
we were in a peat bog
in Ire- in Ireland.
eh no it wasn’t in Ireland
[it was on the Isle of Skye]
[no, we were on the Isle of Skye]
[sorry, on the Isle of Skye]
[right next to the west] coast of Scotland
we were right on the north[right in the north]
[new year’s eve]
new year’s eve
freezing cold
freezing cold
in the middle of nowhere
just nothing
and we got stuck in this terrible bog.
{laughs} and jusas far as the eye could see
it was just bog
and we were like walking through it
and [it was quite late]
[and it was late]
and it was becoming dark
about five o’clock
and it was really really cold
and we were on our way home
after a long walk . . .
Note particularly overlap, joint production, speaker change, repetition
Tannen: women’s and men’s styles of involvement
systematic study of male versus female involvement
“men and women engage in cross-cultural communication”
• Women – higher involvement
closer together
more eye contact
more understanding checks
more attention signals
shorter gaps
more overlap
shorter turns
more frequent speaker change
more egalitarian
less appeal to expert knowledge
• Men – lower involvement
farther apart
less eye contact
fewer understanding checks
fewer attention signals
longer gaps
less overlap
longer turns
less frequent speaker change
Less egalitarian
more appeal to expert knowledge
• Men’s and women’s conversational styles clash causing systematic
misunderstandings in everyday interaction
• attention to stylistic differences and realization of their effects,
reframing and meta-talk about differences can smooth interaction
9. Conversation
9.1 Conversation Analysis
• Conversation Analysis (CA)
• from ethnography and the Sociology of everyday life (Garfinkle,
• order at every level of interaction, at every point in the system
• Where others had seen conversation as too messy for analysis,
Sacks found it highly systematic at the micro-level
• Turn-taking system:
– to avoid gaps and overlap
– to determine who speaks next
• Adjacency pairs: as basis of organization
– first part: question
– second part: answer
• Preference structure: describes differences in form and frequency of
possible second pair parts
– first part: invitation
– preferred second part: acceptance
– dispreferred second part: rejection
• preferred responses are more frequent and shorter
Please come to my party on Thursday.
Please come to my party on Thursday.
Uh, Thursday, gee, that’s a bad day for me.
Conversational repair
– system for handling problems, for clarification and correction
I saw Judy last Tuesday- sorry, Monday.
Other-initiated repair:
I saw Judy last Tuesday.
Uh:, Tuesday?
Oh, yeah, I saw her Monday at the party.
I saw Judy last Monday.
You mean Tuesday.
Yeah, I saw her at Nancy’s.
Insertion sequence
what time do you get to work?
oh, between seven thirty and eight, quarter to eight.
well, I might not be there the second you get to work
Double insertion sequence
Where can I catch the Saarbahn?
Do you know where Landwehrplatz is?
Is it just over on Mainzer Strasse?
Then I know how to get there.
Well, that’s where you catch the Saarbahn.
Recurrent pairs, sequences, exchange types, preferences, repair, cues
and signals all work together to create coherence in conversation
9.2 Conversation as a type of discourse
• Conversation is a special speech event or discourse type
• characteristic cohesive devices
• coherent structure
• Understanding checks:
y'know, right?, huh?, tags
• Attention signals:
m'hm, uh-huh, wow, really?
• move, turn, pair, exchange; pre-sequence
So, how have you been.
Not so well really.
Oh I'm sorry to hear that.
How about you?
Not too bad, I guess.
Yes, one muddles through.
By the way, I’m looking for Al.
I just saw him at Lou’s.
Really? Who else was there?
response, question
Wow. Are you busy right now?
Not really.
Would you do me a favor?
Would you call Al for me?
Sure. No problem.
Great. Thanks.
No problem.
response, question
answer (commitment)
agree, comment
comment, thanks
10. Politeness
Politeness as a historical phenomenon (recall Brown & Gilman)
• Politeness as in-group behavior
• Politeness as code of civility
Politeness in Linguistic Pragmatics
• Grice:
politeness as a "social maxim"
• Lakoff:
revises Grice's account of implicature
• Cooperative Principle and Maxims as Negative politeness:
– Negative politeness:
• Maintain distance, don't impose (respect)
• Give options (deference)
– Positive politeness:
• Be friendly (solidarity)
• Lakoff introduces Power and Solidarity into description of inference
in conversation
• Paradox of power and solidarity (Tannen)
• Brown and Levinson: Positive and negative face, face wants and
face threats going off record, embedding, pre-sequences
• politeness and politic behavior (Watts)
• politeness, impoliteness and identity (Spencer-Oatey)
11. Language and Gender
• Gender as social construct versus biological sex
• Grammatical gender as a linguistic feature
11.1 Sexism in language
• So-called "generic" man; also chairman, congressman
Cf. you guys plural
• "generic" 3rd person pronoun he
• gender-marked forms of address: Mrs/Miss versus Mr, Madam
• gender-marking in noun pairs: governor versus governess, major
versus majorette, poet versus poetess, steward versus
• vocabulary unbalanced toward male body, male point of view
• Binary Distinctions and Markedness
– Langue versus parole (competence versus performance)
– Synchrony versus diachrony
– Man versus Woman Male versus Female
Feminist Linguistics
• 1st Stage: Accept binaries, attempt to eliminate bias
eliminate man, generic he,
introduce Ms for Mrs/Miss,
introduce "splitting": she or he his/her (s)he
eliminate stewardess (substitute flight attendant)
eliminate poetess in favor of poet
invent new female-oriented vocabulary: herstory
• Note:English drops differences; German accentuates them
– Chairperson or chair versus Vorsitzenderin
– Judy and Jill are authors versus Judy and Jill sind Autorinnen
• Splitting with nouns:
– alle Autoren und Autorinnen
– alle Autor/innen or alle AutorInnen
• 2nd Stage: Question binaries, reduce to power differential
– Argue for women's language as more involved, more
– cohesive, women as better listeners, linguistic
– Innovators
• 3rd Stage: Reject Binary Thinking
– Reveal traditional male/white/hetero-sexual bias in prevailing
– Study power relations in particular texts
– Ask how language system and practice construct gender
Women's talk versus men's talk
• Traditional gender stereotypes
• Women talk faster, more expressively, more overall, interrupt more,
swear less, use more color words, more hedges, tags
 all signs of lower status
• Rules for feminine speech
From etiquette books to self-help manuals
Little girls taught to talk "like ladies"
Polite speech as women's key to success
Women as "better communicators"
Women as responsible for successful conversation
• Early linguistic writing on gender and language
– Jespersen, Lakoff: largely introspective, confirms stereotypes, looks for
differences, finds deficiencies
• Research on gender and language
– general results are contradictory
– must look at specific types of interactions
– specific groups of speakers:
• female and male executives in business meeting
• two women college students talking about shared problems
• Black male gang members telling stories to interviewer
• 11.3 Gayspeak
• Sexism in language:
– not just male bias
– hetero bias
– pejoration of homoerotic terms
• Homosexuals multiply marginalized:
– default male/he,
– default "male or female",
– men and women, boys and girls, he and she, him and her
• Functions of Gayspeak
– Gayspeak as a secret language
• Simultaneous mutual recognition and exclusion of outsiders
– Gayspeak as an in-group language
• the "closet metaphor“
• flaming
– Gayspeak as a political instrument
As with feminists:
Reject binary thinking
Attempt to disrupt traditional male/hetero-sexual bias
Invent new vocabulary: gay, transgendered, straights, breeders
Reclaim pejorative terms: queer, dyke, faggot
12. Language and Power
• Power and Solidarity
Power: superior, equal, inferior
Solidarity: solidary versus unsolidary
• Solidarity implies closeness, unsolidarity implies distance
• closeness also implies control (power), distance renders power
differences irrelevant
• Paradox of Power and Solidarity (Tannen)
• power as a transitive feature of relationships, though power is
ultimately reciprocal (Foucault)
• power as socially constructed through language/discourse, not given
a priori in nature
• power is encoded in the discourses of a community
12.1 The PC debate
• Political Correctness (PC) is a label from opposed side
• Those in favor of practices labeled PC favor:
– guidelines for non-discriminatory language
– affirmative action in hiring and admissions etc
• PC as public, community stance
– style sheets,
– company and college policies,
– court cases
Miss + Mrs  Ms
queers/homosexuals  gays
Colored People  Negros  Blacks  African-Americans
Crippled  handicapped  physically challenged
• Note: people in power decide which features of PC to enforce
• PC as public etiquette versus "linguistic hygiene" (Cameron)
• As public etiquette
• PC = avoiding offense to addressees through exclusion or through
differential treatment
• exclusion: mankind; the right man for the job
• differential treatment: host versus hostess
poet versus poetess
12.2 Linguistic hygiene
• "linguistic hygiene" or "linguistic interventionism"
– PC attracts attention to naming,
– solicits political or moral judgments,
– forces speakers/writers to take sides and go on record
• Do public naming and forms of address influence attitudes?
• Cameron's example: Pardon me, Madam. versus Hey, bitch!
• Linguistic prescription, language change and backlash
13. Forms of Address
• Forms of Address as socially (not linguistically) motivated variation
13.1´Speech as social marker
2nd person pronouns: Sie versus du, vous versus tu, Lei versus tu
honorifics and 1st person pronouns
last name versus first name (and nick names)
Titles like Mrs, Ms, Dr, Professor, Herr Oberregierungsrat
Kin terms like Aunt Mary and Oma Schmidt
Address versus reference versus summons
reciprocal versus nonreciprocal
13.2 Power and solidarity
• Brown & Gilman (1960): semantics of power and solidarity in use of
2nd person pronouns in European languages
• In clearly stratified society, "power semantic" developed:
– non-reciprocal V to mark deference
– then reciprocal V spread among nobility
• In more mobile society, "solidarity semantic" developed
– reciprocal "non-solidary" V even among common people
– reciprocal "solidary" T even among powerful people
• Also: reciprocal T to mark "shared fate"
"power semantic" still determines who initiates T
"shared fate" only works when fate is lack of power
pronoun use interacts with other systems
English lost 2nd person pronoun distinction
13.3 American English address
FN (first name) versus TLN (title last name)
FN includes common nicknames like Cindy, Penny, Jim, Bill
MN (multiple names) to signal intimacy
– Age difference (15 years or more)
– Status (e.g. boss - secretary; executive - shop worker)
– Age more important in kinship groups; status more important at work, in
Ervin-Tripp's flow chart
• System fails if FN is unknown
Title + ø = Title e.g. professor, father (priest)
Mr, Ms + ø = ø
• But also Generic Terms of address:
– First Names like Bud, Mac, Jane
– Informal titles like chief, sister, brother, dude
– Terms of endearment like dear, honey
13.4 Universals of address
• Intimacy and Solidarity: FN, T-Pronoun
– T-Pronoun (versus V-Pronoun) for solidarity
– FN more significant for intimacy than T-Pronoun
– MN even more significant for intimacy
• Age and Power determine Nonreciprocal forms of address
– But Age and Power may be contradictory, e.g. Grandmother receives
TLN but lacks real power
• Gender and Politeness may also contradict power
– e.g. Women receive more TLN even when men have more power
• Politeness as code calling for certain forms despite power
differences; PC as Politeness in public behavior generally
14. Critical Discourse Analysis
Critical Discourse Analysis
• (Fowler, Fairclough, Coulthard) analytical tool and mode of social
• opposed to Correlation Socio-linguistics (Labov, Trudgill)
• Power is constructed in the discourses of a community, Discourse
Analysis can reveal it
• Deconstruction, demystification can influence power (hence
linguistics is essential, and socially responsible)
Linguistic Indicators (Fowler's Checklist)
(1) Lexical processes:
• abstract versus concrete:
Force may be used - The cops will be there
• general versus specific:
The media expect - The SZ predicts
(2) Transitivity
John opened the door - The door opened
Circumstances dictate the raising of taxes
(3) Syntax: deletion, nominalization, passivization
We want you to arrive early - Please arrive early Early arrival will be appreciated
(4) Modality: modals, permit, predict, likelihood
(5) Implicature:
The party is low on funds > Please send money
BY how much were you exceeding the speed limit when you
ran the stop sign?
> you were exceeding the speed limit
> you ran the stop sign
Turn taking:
length and number of turns, selection of next speaker, backchanneling and interruption etc
15. Language, culture and thought
• Language as expression and medium of thought
• Language behavior as mirror and basis of culture
15.1 Concepts and propositions
• "Culture" consists in what a person must know and believe to
function as a normal member of society
• Knowing-how versus knowing-that
• "Culture" breaks down into concepts like family and walking and
propositions like People live in houses
• Concepts usually correspond to words in a language, while
propositions usually correspond to sentences
• Thus language serves as the medium of expressing and
understanding culture, and functioning in society
• Jakobson: Languages differ not in what they can express but in what
they must express, e.g. grammatical gender and number
The red table is high
Der rote Tisch ist hoch
Il tavolo rosso é alto
no gender;
singular number in verb
gender & number in subject NP;
number in verb
gender & number in subject NP and in
predicate adjective;
number in verb
The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis
• Sapir: Language not just guide to social reality for linguist, but
shaper of reality for members of the language community; The "real
world" is unconsciously built up on language habits
• Whorf: Standard Average European (SAE) versus Hopi, Nootka,
naming and segmentation of reality, e.g. snow, colors, but also
grammar, esp. nouns versus verbs, duration, tense
• Strong versus weak versions of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis:
– Strong: Language determines the way we think
– Weak: Language influences the way we think
15.3 Linguistic relativity
• "New principle of relativity, which holds that all observers are not led
by the same physical evidence to the same picture of the universe,
unless their linguistic backgrounds are similar." (Whorf 1940)
• Cultural relativity versus Linguistic relativity
• Compare: kinship systems and vocabulary
farfar 'father-father =
paternal grandfather'
farmor 'father-mother =
paternal grandmother'
mormor 'mother-mother =
maternal grandmother'
morfar 'mother-father =
maternal grandfather'
farbror 'father-brother =
paternal uncle'
morbror 'mother-brother =
maternal uncle'
abuela 'grandmother'
abuelo 'grandfather'
prima ‘cousin, female’
primo ‘cousin, male’
• Gaps in vocabulary and culture, evident in borrowing and translating
– Cooking terminology: sauté marinate grill filet
– German animal terms: fressen saufen trächtig
15.4 Prototypes and basic-level concepts
• As Wittgenstein noted, no list of properties suffices to identify all the
activities we call games.
• Apparently, we learn prototypes and extrapolate from them.
Labov's cups:
Prototype effects (in grammar):
My daughter's a real fish/a regular fish
Strictly speaking, a dolphin isn't a real/regular fish
Basic-level concepts (lowest level where single term applies):
pine in hierarchy: plant - tree - pine - ponderosa pine
chair in hierarchy: piece of furniture - chair - kitchen chair
"basic-level = single term" holds even when hierarchy differs
city dweller: tree - pine tree - ponderosa pine
tree - pine - ponderosa

Lecture: Sociolinguistics Professor Dr. Neal R. Norrick