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SOCIOLINGUISTICS

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Valeria Gomez

on 24 November 2014

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Transcript of SOCIOLINGUISTICS

Difference between Sociolinguistics and Linguistics.
Widely held view
Sociolinguistics and the sociology of a language.
We've already defined
Sociolinguistics
as "The study of language in relation to society"
Speakers and Communities
Conformity and Individualism
SOCIOLINGUISTICS
by R.A. Hudson

Sociolinguistics
Study of language in relation to society
Not everyone may agree with that view of linguistics and sociolinguistics.
According to the author
Sociolinguists
Linguists
Separate people.
Linguistics: It only takes into account the structure of language, excluding the social context in which it is used and acquired.
According to this
Task of linguistics: working out "the rules of language X" after which sociolinguistics may enter the scene and study any points in contact with society
BUT WAIT!
WHY NOT!?
Speech is a social behavior, to study it without reference to society doesn't make sense!
There are two particular reasons to accept this view.
a) We cannot take the notion of "Language X" for granted, since it is a social notion, as it is defined as a group of people who speak X
b) Speech is a social function, both as means of communication and also as a way of identifying social groups, and to study speech without reference to the society which uses it excludews the posbility of finding social explanations for the structures that are used.
The converse
of this definition
"The study of society in relation to language" defines what is generally called
THE SOCIOLOGY OF LINGUISTICS
Main difference
Emphasis
Language
Society
Individual speaker
as important as an individual cell in biology
if we don't understand how an individual works, we won't understand how a collection of them works.
Individual
Not a "social automaton" giving a true and accurate reflection of his past like a tape recorder.
Filters his experience of new situations through his experience
Two people could hear the same person talking, but be affected by his speech in different ways.
2 forces
one that leads to individual differences
one that leads to similarities between individuals
(Individualism)
(Conformity)
Focussing and Diffusion
Focussing
found where there is a high degree of contact among speakers and agreement on linguistic norms (eg. very closely knit small communities)
Diffusion
found where neither of these conditions holds (e.g. the Gipsy language)
Two extremes where no society should be placed
The sociolinguistic development of the child
Linguistic models which the child follows
Pattern: 1)Parents
2)Peers
3)Adults
AGE-GRADING
Means that there are linguistic forms which are used only by children in their "peer" stage and which are transmitted from one generation of children to the next without ever being used by adults.
What about a child's own speech?
As soon as children start to speak
they start to speak differently to different people.
This shows that they adapt their speech to their social context.
VARIETIES OF LANGUAGE
Global and specific statements
Is it possible to describe the relations of language and society as "Language X" or "dialect Y" and global social categories like "community Z"?
Hard to define, since every individual in a community is unique in his language. In addition, there different linguistic items.
Linguistic Items
Transformational- generative linguistics
a- Lexical items
b- Rules of various kinds
c-constraints of various kinds of these rules.

Different linguistic items in "the same language" may have quite different social distribution.
Varieties of Language
What makes one variety of language different from another
The linguistic items that it includes
definition of Variety of Language
set of linguistic items with similar social distribution.
Speech communities
Simplest definition by Lyons
All the people who use a given language (or dialect)
According to this definition, speech communities may overlap and need not have any social or cultural unity.
A more complex definition by Hockett
The whole set of people who communicate with each other, either directly or indirectly via the common language
criteria of communication is added. but if two communities spoke the same language, but had no contact with each other, they would count as two different communities.
The next definition shifts the emphasis from shared language to communication.

Bloomfield:
A group of people who interact by means of speech
leaves open the possibility that some may interact by means of one language and others by means of other
Gumperz also recognises this:
social group which may be either monolingual or multilingual, held together by frequency of social interaction patterns and set off from the surrounding areas by weaknesses in the lines of communication.
Later definition by Gumperz includes the
requirement
that there should be some
specifically linguistic differences
between the members of the speech community.
Any human aggregate characterised by regular and frequent interaction by means of a shared body of verbal signs and set off from similar aggregates by significant differences in language use.
emphasis on communication and interaction.

relatively recent definition ( Labov) puts emphasis on shared ATTITUDE to language rather than shared linguistic behaviour.
The speech community is not defined by any marked agreement in the use of language elements, so much as by participation in a set of shared norms; these norms may be observed in overt types of evaluative behaviour, and y the uniformity of abstract patterns of variation which are invariant in respect to particular levels of usage.
Definitions like this put emphasis on the speech community as a group of people who FEEL themselves to be a community in some sense, rather than a group of people which only linguists and outsiders could know about.
Lastly, this definition refers to "groups in society which have distinctive speech characteristics"
Le Page:
Each individual creates the systems for his verbal behaviour so that they shall resemble tse of the group or groups with which from time to time he may wish to be identified, to the extent that:

a. He can identify groups
b.He has both opportunity and ability to observe and analyse their behavioural accordingly
c. His motivation is sufficiently strong to impel him to choose
d. he is still able to adapt his behaviour.
These communities may overlap
A child may identify with different groups on the basis of sex, age, geography and colour.
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