LANGUAGE
abgdezhqi
klmnxopr
stufcyw
Top left: Greek
Bottom left: Cherokee
Middle: Arabic
Top right: Russian
What is language?
A form of communication that
is a systematic set of arbitrary
symbols shared among a
group and passed on from
generation to generation
A form of
Communication
What is Conveyed or
transmitted?
Other forms of communication:
– Direct: facial expression, body
stance, gesture, tone of voice
– Indirect: writing, algebra,
music, painting, signs
System
 sounds
 system of sounds that when put
together according to certain rules
results in meanings
 Systematic nature of language is
usually unconscious
arbitrary symbols
 associations
between
words/sounds and
the things they
represent are
arbitrary
Eng
Rabbit
Sp
Conejo
Jp
Usagi
Kanninchen Gr
Cuniglio
It
 not natural or selfevident meaning.
 meaning provided
by tradition and
consensus
 Because symbols
“look at
this”
lobster
Descriptive symbols
are arbitrary they
“grab hold
have to be learned.
of this”
Shared
 profoundly social
 we use language to send social messages about
 who we are
 where we come from
 who we associate with
we may judge a person's
background, character, and
intentions based upon the
person's language, dialect, or,
in some instances, even the
choice of a single word. Eh!
http://www.bbc.co.uk/voices/recordings/
Sociolingusitics
study of language(s) in relation to society - Social Uses of Language
 Language expresses, symbolizes and maintains the social order
Social variables influence a person's use of language
• Class
• Gender
• Status
• Age
• education
•National/ ethnic/
regional identity
A child learning a language also acquires social competence i.e. the
ability to recognize and interpret the social activity taking place.
e.g. opening or closing a conversation
taking conversational turns
Social Identity
language use is fundamental to the creation and expression of
social identity and difference.
the
social prestige or stigma attached to linguistic varieties often
supports and expresses the value attached to social identities.
Eg. the Queen’s English vs Cockney English
distinctive
aspects of language from pronunciation to syntax, to
slang, i.e. any aspect of linguistic code
• Glottal stop City = Ci’y water= wa'er
• Dropped ‘h’ house = ‘ouse, hammer = ‘ammer
• TH fronting three = free bath = barf
• Vowel lowering dinner = dinna, marrow= marra
Least Prestigious form associated with
low status, low education.
 Most prestigious form will be that
of the most powerful group in society
because this group controls education
and the media. http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/
http://www.bbc.co.uk/jersey/realmedia/queens_speech.ram
Prestige form often forms the standard language
 a national language permits internal cohesion and fosters external
distinction
 forms a powerful base for national identity
 minority languages serve to mark off ethnic difference within
multiethnic societies.
Restoration of languages in decline may be taken as an aspect of
ethnic revival eg. Irish
 English was the language of social
prestige in the mid 16th century when
the English colonized Ireland and Irish
went into decline
Irish was the language of the poor
 In the mid 19th century Irish
nationalist movement emerged and
sought to encourage and revive the
original language
 part of a national movement which
led to the Irish Free State
 Irish was made the official language
support for it in the form of compulsory
education, bilingual publications etc.
 90% of Paraguans speak
Guarani, yet until 1992 Spanish
was the official language, the
language of prestige and was
used in government, schools, and
commerce.
Guarani is used in informal
settings with friends and
relatives, in talking with status
inferiors.
 Guaraní raises feelings of
pride and linguistic loyalty in the
people
EBONICS
A “slang” dialect used by certain groups of the African-American
community.
Yo, Big Daddy upstairs,
You be chillin
So be yo hood
You be sayin' it, I be doin' it
In this here hood and yo's
Gimme some eats
And cut me some slack, Blood
Sos I be doin' it to dem dat diss me
Don't be pushing me into no jive
Ang keep dem crips away
Cause you always be da man, G
Straight up.
Aa-men.
English First
English First is a national, non-profit grassroots lobbying organization
founded in 1986. The goal is to Make English America's official language
Indexicals
items that mark features of the
speakers and for the hearers identity
 include pronouns, kinship terms,
forms of address, and speech levels
 they create and sustain a relational
social identity
The grammar of English names
Three word-classes:
• Title (Mr, Prof, …)
• Given name (John, Mary, …)
• Family name (Holdsworth, Smith, …)
Normal order:
Title
Given
Family
Mr
John
Smith
Possible combinations:
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
TGF
TF
GF
G
T
F
Not:T F
Professor Christopher Holdsworth
Professor Holdsworth
Christopher /Chris Holdsworth
Christopher / Chris
Doctor
ok for some titles
Holdsworth
NB: old-fashioned!
Professor Chris ungrammatical!!
Terms of address
Who am I?
• Christopher John Holdsworth
• Christopher Holdsworth
• Chris Holdsworth
• Holdsworth, Christopher
• Christopher John
• Professor Holdsworth
• Dr. Holdsworth
• Dr C. J Holdsworth
• Holdsworth
• Christopher
• Chris
• Dad
Terms of address
What contextual elements influence the
form used?
 Is the formality of the setting relevant?
 Is the kinship relation or other social relationship
relevant?
 Is age or generation relevant in selecting the
appropriate form?
 Is relative status or rank relevant in selecting an
appropriate term?
 Is the gender of the speakers relevant
The sociolinguistics of English
names
• Classification: Sex (Mr/Mrs; John/Mary)
• The Solidarity hierarchy
• The Power hierarchy
Solidarity relations to a:
Stranger
Acquaintance
Friend/relative
Power relations to a:
Superior
Equal
Subordinate
To a close equal: a young friend
To a close equal: an old friend
To an even closer equal
To a close subordinate: a child
Even more subordinate: a pet
To equal acquaintances
To a superior stranger
What name do you use?
•
•
•
•
•
To superior stranger:
TF (Mr Smith)
To subordinate relative: G
(John)
To superior relative:
T
(Dad)
To equal acquaintance: G
To superior acquaintance:?
Inequality reigns
dentist is superior
to patient
teacher is superior
to student
salesperson is
subordinate to
customer
Power Semantic
• Determines which pronoun will be used on the basis of the
difference in social status (or power) between the speaker and
addressee.
– wealth, age, sex, institutionalised role in the church, the state,
the army, the family ...
• The T of "intimacy" versus the V of "formality" (French tu or
vous)
• Based on an asymmetrical relation and is non-reciprocal.
Does naming matter?
•
•
•
•
•
To the hearer: Yes.
To the speaker: Yes.
A wrong choice can offend or hurt.
Decisions are difficult.
The better you speak English, the more a
wrong choice will offend.
Forms of address
 vary with the nature of the relationship between speakers
reciprocal use of first names generally signifies an informal
intimate relationship
 title and last name used reciprocally indicates a more formal or
businesslike relationship between individuals of roughly equal status
 nonreciprocal use of first names and titles is reserved for speakers
who recognize a marked difference in status between themselves
this status can be a function of age (as when a child refers to her
mother's friend as Mrs Miller and is in returned referred to as Sally)
 or it can be along occupational lines as when as person refers to
his boss by title and last name and is in return addressed as John
Politeness
Use of polite language was one aspect of the
enactment of social hierarchy in the Thai court
 politeness entailed the correct use of formal
modes of addressing royalty with linguistic terms
that exalted royalty and humbled those of lower
status.
 The first person pronoun used when addressing
the king meant `I the slave of the Lord Buddha'
 second person meant `the dust beneath the sole
of your august feet' meaning that the speaker did
not dare address the king directly but to the dirt
on the floor.
 The Thai person who addresses his comments
to the dirt beneath the king's shoe is invoking a
cultural image of `low status' but he is also
indexing relative identity in the social interaction
of discourse.
Language and gender
Three issues:
Do women and men speak a different language
/ genderlect?
Do women and men behave differently in
conversations?
How sexist is the English language?
Do Men and Women Use Language
Differently?
•
•
•
•
•
Who talks more?
Who interrupts
more?
Who introduces
topics?
Who asks
questions?
Who is more
supportive?
Men and women in conversation
Who talks more?
•
•
Stereotype says that women talk more than men
Proverbs:
–
–
–
•
A woman's tongue wags like a lamb's tail.
Foxes are all tail and women are all tongue.
The North Sea will sooner be found wanting in water
than a woman be at a loss for a word.
But
–
In numerous studies it has been shown that it is the
men who do most of the talking.
Who Interrupts and overlaps more?
InterOverSurvey of faculty X
interrupts ruptions laps
meeting
Y
% of utterances MM
that
FF
involved
interruptions and MF
overlaps
FM
Zimmerman and West (1975)
43%
35%
57%
45%
96%
100%
4%
0%
Turn taking behaviour in mixed
sex conversations
• Turn-length: men take more and longer turns
• interruptions: mainly by men
• Silence (after speaker’s turn before addressee continues):
women's silence far longer
• back-channels: (e.g. um hmm, oh really?) women use more
(supportive behaviour)
• questions: 70 per cent by women, e.g. as a means for topic
introduction ("D’ya know what?")
• topics: men tried 29 times and succeed 28 times; women tried
47 times and succeeded 17 times
• women talk to other women about family and interpersonal
matters; while men talk to male friends about cars, sports,
work, motorcycles, carpentry, and politics
• women are more sensitive to social connotations of speech
(Tannen 1992: 75)
Genderlects
What a terrific idea!
What a divine idea!
THE CUP
1. Give me the cup
2. The Cup
3. Could you please give me the cup
4. Would you give me the cup?
5. Give me the cup, won’t you
6. Can you give me the cup?
7. I can’t reach that cup
8. I want that cup
9. Can you get that cup for me?
10. I need that cup
Shit! You’ve put
the peanut butter in
the fridge again!
Genderlects
Oh dear! You’ve put
the peanut butter in
the fridge again!
Male speakers often use
socially disfavored variants of
sociolinguistic variables while
women tend to avoid these in
favor of socially more favored
variants.
women's language which
consists of polite deferential
ways of speaking which
ultimately subordinate
women in society
Some explanations for differences
(1)
(2)
(3)
(4)
Subordinate groups must be polite
Woman’s role as guardian of society’s values
Vernacular forms express machismo
Women have less access to power and status: they ‘make up’ for
this by their preferences for the prestige (standard) linguistic
forms. This is thought to give them respect and some status.
(5) Women and men are socialised in different ways which is
reflected in their language use patterns.
(6) women may be more status conscious than men because:
– society sets more standards for women and
– Women’s typical activities do not confer status itself.
(7) Women and men have different networks which lead to women
and men using different ways of speaking.
Japanese differences
Women’s form Men’s form
otoosan
oyaji
‘father’
onaka
hara
‘stomach’
oishii
umai
‘delicious’
taberu
kuu
‘eat’
Sexism in the English language
Generic use of man and he
• The words he and man are sometimes used to
refer to humans in general
• -man used as a kind of suffix
(Bolinger 1980, quoted by Graddol and Swann 1989: 103)
Sexism in the English language
• The feminine as a marked category
– dog - bitch
(masc. = neutral term)
– lion - lioness /tiger - tigress
(masc. = neutral term)
– actor - actress
(fem. nowadays often avoided)
– manager - manageress
(fem. suggests lower status, e.g.
of laundrette but not of bank)
• Generally, masculine terms often unmarked in the
sense that
– it is the feminine term that takes an ending
– only the masculine term can be used both for males and
females.
Lexicon: lexical Asymetries
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Mistress
Queen
Spinster
Witch
Governess
Lady
Cow
v
v
v
v
v
v
v
Master
King
Bachelor
Warlock
Governor
Lord
Bull
• the lexical bias reflects a social bias in the culture
• What happens when you try to correct lexical bias?
• Once alternatives have been offered, each speaker is faced with a
choice of which form to use.
Semantic derogation/pejoration
• Semantic derogation: words referring to women tend to
take on derogatory or pejorative meanings through time
• What was the original meaning of these words?
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Queen
Hussy
Spinster
Tart
Girl
Mistress
Wench
Whore
Harlot
Woman in charge of spinning
A young child of either sex
A lover of either sex
A fellow of either sex
housewife
Term of endearment for young women
a female sovereign ruler
a youthful female person;
a woman who has power, authority, or
ownership
Which word seems to go
with each picture?
taketa
naluma
Which one is Masculine and which one Feminine?
Sound Symbolism: The vast majority of people pair taketa with
the angular illustration and naluma with the curved one.
taketa
Because the consonants are
hard it is perceived as
“harder” and more
“masculine”
Clorox, a hard-working laundry
product
naluma
consonants are sonorants
perceived as “softer” and
more “feminine”
Chanel, a perfume
Does Language determine
how we Perceive the world?
Is Our thinking and Our
Behaviour determined by
our language?
Sapir-Whorf hypothesis
'Human beings do not live in the objective world alone, nor alone in the world
of social activity as ordinarily understood, but are very much at the mercy of the
particular language which has become the medium of expression for their
society. It is quite an illusion to imagine that one adjusts to reality essentially
without the use of language and that language is merely an incidental means of
solving specific problems of communication and reflection. The fact of the
matter is that the "real world" is to a large extent unconsciously built up on the
language habits of the group.' 1929
Two different cultures
with different languages
will have different
perceptual experiences
Benjamin Lee Whorf
(1897-1941)
Edward Sapir
(1884-1939)
Sapir-Whorf hypothesis
two basic principles:
1. linguistic determinism
 the language we use to some extent determines the way
in which we view and think about the world
Strong determinism
language actually determines thought, that language
and thought are identical.
Weak determinism
thought is merely affected by or influenced by our
language
2. linguistic relativity
distinctions encoded in one language are
unique to that language alone.
Eg. The Colour spectrum, is a continuum,
each colour gradually blending into the next;
there are no sharp boundaries. But we impose
boundaries; we talk of red, orange, yellow,
green, blue, indigo, and violet.
these discriminations are arbitrary and in
other languages the boundaries are different
Colour Terms
•Dani (New Guinea) have only two colour categories
•mili which means dark, cold colours such as black
•mola which means warm, bright colours such as
white
•languages with three colour terms add Red
•those with four add yellow
•English has 11
(red, yellow, black, white, green, blue, purple, pink,
brown, orange, grey)
Sapir-Whorf hypothesis
Sapir Whorf says habitual thought
might be influenced, if not
determined, by linguistic structures.
We perceive the world through
language - the colors we see is
predetermined by what our culture
prepares us to see
do we see blue and green colours
because our language has two
different names for these two
neighbouring parts of the colour
spectrum?
Can the Tiv perceive or
distinguish between Red and
yellow?
Sapir-Whorf hypothesis
The physiology of our eyes is essentially the same.
All normal humans share similar sense perceptions of color
despite differences in color terminology from one language to
another.
People can see subtle gradations of color and can comprehend
other ways of dividing up the spectrum of visible light.
However, as a society's economy and technology increase in
complexity, the number of color terms usually also increases.
i.e. the spectrum of visible light gets subdivided into more
categories.
As the environment changes, culture and language typically
respond by creating new terminology to describe it.
Which belong
together?
The green things
and the blue things
Or the circles and
the bars ?
Carroll and Casagrande looked at Navaho Indians
•they place great stress on form and shape, rigidity and material
from which an object is constructed
•they gave three groups of children
•one Navaho speaking
•one English speaking
•one bilingual
• showed them a green stick, a green rope and a blue rope and a
blue stick
• asked them which objects went together
• Navaho speakers said objects with the same form i.e. ropes went
together
• English speakers categorize by colour rather than form put green
stick and green rope together
• confirms the relativity of language hypothesis
Language and Gender Concept
do children learn to recognize themselves as boys or girls
when their language emphasizes gender?
 Alexander Guiora looked at children in Hebrew speaking
homes, Finnish, speaking homes and English speaking homes
Hebrew has the most gender emphasis of the three languages nouns are either masculine or feminine and even second person
and plurals are differentiated by gender
"Land" is feminine, but "field" is
masculine; "mountain" is
masculine, but "hill" is feminine
"bed" is feminine, but "table" and
"chair" are masculine; "month" is
masculine, but "year" is feminine;
"lamp" is masculine, but
"lampstand" is feminine.
English emphasizes
gender less, only in third
person singular his and
hers
Finish emphasizes gender least, only
man and woman convey gender
Consistent with the idea that language may influence thought
Hebrew speaking children acquired the concept of gender identity
the earliest on the average and Finnish speaking children the latest
Criticisms of Sapir Whorf
If language determines thought then language must precede
thought
- but even pre-linguistic babies can think
- not all activities involve language but do involve thought
Differences are not in thought but in ways of expressing the
same thoughts
-if this were not so then it would be impossible to translate
Sapir-Whorf hypothesis not generally accepted that language
channels thought
general view now is that language sets up a filter between the
human being and the world he or she perceives that heightens
certain perceptions and dims others.
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