Topic One
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Introduction to Sociolinguistics
1
What do sociolinguistics study?
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The relationship between language and society
How does society (who people are, what they
do, who they are with) affect the ways people
speak?
What social factors can account for linguistic
variation?
2
Examples of aspects of
sociolinguistics we will study in this
module:
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Why do you use English (or Cantonese) differently
when you talk to me (your lecturer) from when you
talk to a stranger or when you talk to another student?
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Why do you use English (or Cantonese) differently
when you talk to your fellow student in class from
when you talk to her in the hostel?
3
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Why do you sometimes switch from Cantonese to English in
the middle of a sentence?
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What are some of the differences between the ways men and
women use language?
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Do people of different ages speak differently?
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What can a language tell about the social background of a
person?
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Will a language die?
4
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How do languages change over time?
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What languages should we use or teach in
school?
5
What determines language use?
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Why do you use English (or Cantonese)
differently when you talk to me (your lecturer)
from when you talk to another student?

Why do you use English (or Cantonese)
differently when you talk to your fellow
student in class from when you talk to her in
the hostel?
6
Factors determining language use
The participants
 The setting
 The topic
 The function (Holmes p.8)
Social dimensions
 Solidarity – social distance scale
 Status scale
 Formality scale
 Function scale
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7
What is a variety/code?
Spolsky (1998) Sociolinguistics:
‘Variety’ is a term we use to include any
identifiable kind of language
Example:
1)
Hakka and Cantonese are two varieties of
Chinese
2)
Holmes p.19: Indoubil – based on Swahili,
drawing on French, English and Italian
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8
Read the following extract and decide how you
would call it: a language, variety or code?
Gary: day dreaming, haha, just feel bored and can’t
concentrate. Dunno why –haha
Phil: why can concentrate ar? Have ‘heart problem’??
Work hard ar, u will have present on Friday wor, and
have 4 midterms. Don’t daydream la i will support
you mentally ar
Gary: thx. U make me feel warm studying in UST –
university of stress and tension yes, there r many ppl
watch me thru icq. I can be lazy and let them down!
9
Hong Kong as a multilingual speech
community
Bilingual individuals (individual bilingualism)
Bilingual society (societal bilingualism)
A speech community
10
What is the meaning of bilingualism?
The ability to use two languages e.g. English &
Chinese
11
Are you a bilingual?
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one who possesses at
least one of the
language skills even to a
minimal degree in the
second language.”
(Macnamara 1967)
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those who demonstrate
complete mastery of
two different languages
without interference
between the two
linguistic processes.”
(Oestreicher 1974)
12
Are you a bilingual?
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bilingualism is
understood…to begin at
the point where the
speaker of one language
can produce complete
meaningful utterances
in the other language.”
(Baetens-Beardsmore,
1982).
13
What is individual bilingualism?
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Focus on the linguistic competence of individual
persons
What are your L1 and L2?
14
What is an L1?
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This term is used in different, overlapping
ways, and can mean a) the first language
learnt; b) the stronger language; c) the mother
tongue; d) the language most used
Encyclopedia of bilingualism and bilingual
education, Colin Baker (1998)
15
What is an L2?
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This term is used in different, overlapping
ways and can mean a) the second language; b)
the weaker language; c) a language that is not
the mother tongue; d) the less used language.
Second language is sometimes used to cover
3rd or further languages.
16
What is societal bilingualism?
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Focus on the roles and functions of different
languages in one society
Is Hong Kong a bilingual society?
Must societal bilingualism come with
individual bilingualism?
17
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Topic One