What is Sociolinguistics?

- aspects of linguistics applied towards connections between language and society - the way use language – different social situations

Society : any group of people who are drawn together for a certain purpose Language : what the members of a particular society speak Social: how and where the members of a society interact and communicate

Sociolinguistics - the study of language as it affects and is affected by social relations. - encompasses a broad range of concerns, including bilingualism, pidgin and creole languages - other ways that language use is influenced by contact among people of different language communities - E.g., speakers of German, French, Italian, and Romansh in Switzerland. - examine different dialects, accents, and levels of diction in light of social distinctions among people.

- studies how language varieties differ between groups separated by certain social variables, e.g., ethnicity, religion, status, gender, level of educationand age - might also study the grammar, phonetics , vocabulary, and other aspects of this sociolect. (a variety of language associated with a particular social group)




Micro-sociolinguistics: - How social structure influences the way people talk and how language varieties and patterns of use correlate with social attributes such as class, gender and age. - in a simplistic term micro-sociolinguistics explores the ways in which society influences a speaker's idiolect - meaning the specific language of a person - and how people communicate with one another in line with different social variables/factors For example: Variance in Manglish and Singlish

Macro-sociolinguistics: - What societies do with their languages that is attitudes and attachments that account for functional distribution of speech forms in society, language shift, maintenance, and replacement and interaction of speech communities. - In other words macro-sociolinguistics moves alongside with other human cultural phenomena - macro-sociolinguistics focuses more on society as a whole, in relation to language. - In short, micro-sociolinguistics the emphasis is on language; with macro-sociolinguistics the emphasis is on society

Ranges from study of

wide variety of dialects

how men and women speak


the humourous realities of human speech

how language describe social class

Sociolinguistics attempts to answer: • How do people’s identity affect the way they speak, and how does the way they speak ‘create’ their identity? • What happens to languages and their speakers when people of different language backgrounds find themselves living and working in the same community? • How governments and institutions can maintain or revitalise languages, while at the same time maintaining effective communication in a community? • How do attitudes and ideologies about language affect the way a language is spoken?

Sociolinguistics and related Disciplines - Language and society – sociologists and linguists – other disciplines - Anthropologists, psychologists, educators and planners - Anthropologists – : exploration of kinship systems - Psychologists – : concern with the possible effects of linguistics structure on social and psychological behaviour - Educators – : making decisions about matters involving language - Planners – : need a considerable amount linguistic knowledge in making sound decision on attempts to make a standardised language

Sociolinguistics is interested in the study of how language: a) is used in a social context

b) enables us to say the same thing in different ways

c) provides us with different linguistic variations for expressions

(A) Sociolinguistics – study of social context Language - transfer of information - send vital social messages

who we are

who we associate with where we come from

Through language, dialect or even a single word – judge • a person’s background • character • intentions • feelings • relationships

For example: Situation A: Ray: Hello mum Mum: Hi. You are late. Ray: Yeah, that bastard Sootbucket kept us in again. Mum: Grandma’s here. Ray: Oh, sorry. Where is she?

Language is used • for asking and giving information • express indignation and annoyance • admiration and respect Ray’s utterance:
‘Yeah, that bastard Sootbucket kept us in again’ • why he is late • how he feels • the relationship with his mother

Example: Situation B: Ray: Good afternoon, sir Principal: What are you doing here at this time? Ray: Mr Sutton kept us in, sir

Take note of Ray’s language: • Speak to mother: ‘Hello’ – to greet ‘mum’ – as an address form ‘bastard’ and ‘Sootbucket’ – nicknames for teacher – relationship : intimate and friendly tone • Speak to the Principal ‘Good afternoon’ – to greet ‘sir’ – as an address form ‘Mr. Suton’ – to refer to the teacher - Relationship : formal, distant and respectful tone Aware of the social factors which influence his choice of words and manner of speech Sociolinguistics is concerned with the relationship between language and context in which it is used.

B) Language

- enables us to say the same thing in different ways

• addressing and greeting others • describing things • paying compliments

For example: Situation C – note the same thing is said in different ways At 5 o’clock, Norhayati Merican, a manager, leaves her office. As she leaves: a) Business partner: Goodbye, Norhayati Norhayati: Goodbye, Mike Her secretary: Goodbye, Ms Norhayati Norhayati: Goodbye, Maria Caretaker: Goodbye, Puan Norhayati Norhayati: Goodbye, Sunita



Norhayati Merican arrives home: d) Daughter, Suzana: Hi mum Norhayati: Hello dear. Taken your dinner? e) Husband: You are late again! Norhayati: Oh…stop complaining f) A close friend, Aiman calls: Hello, Yati Norhayati: Hi, man. What’s up?


many different ways of addressing people depends on who we are speaking to: * Mother to children of different ages * Employee to employer * Colleague – degree of closeness

In the example, Norhayati’s choice of using ‘dear’ to address her daughter reflects her affectionate feelings. Annoyed – would have used her full name ‘Suzana Hassan’ instead of ‘dear’ Factors that influence the choice of address: a) Family norms of address between children and parents b) Audience (who is listening?) c) Social context (formal or informal?) d) The relationship (how well they know each other)

(C) Language – offers a choice of words (linguistic variation) of expression. Vocabulary – is one areas of linguistic variation E.g : (i) ‘that bastard Sootbucket’ instead of ‘my teacher, Mr Sutton’ (ii) ‘dear’ instead of ‘Suzana’ Occurs in other areas too: (a) sounds (b) word-structure (c) grammar All these areas offer – speak a choice of ways of expression and different linguistic styles to be used in different social context

Example (1) : (a) Sam: You our ‘enry’s new ‘ouse yet? It’s in ‘alton, you know. Jun: I have indeed. I could hardly miss it Sam. Your Henry now owns the biggest house in Halton. (b) Woman: Give ‘im something! Man: ‘Knock ‘is ‘ead off’ Woman: The man knocked ‘er down and just walked away. The above examples show – obvious linguistic variation – pronunciation. All speakers drop the ‘h’ in their speech whereas Jun does not. Pronunciation like vocabulary - social information Speakers – same regional origins – different social backgrounds – reflected in – speech.

Example (2): (a) (b) Refuse should be deposited in the receptacle provided. Put your rubbish in the bin, Kamal.

The above examples – variation in grammar and vocabulary In sentence (a) – the passive grammatical structure is used ‘should be deposited’ - avoids any mention of the doer (people involved) In sentence (b) – an imperative verb form ‘Put’ and ‘an address form ‘Kamal’ is used. Both sentences express the same message / speech function (give a directive) But… Sentence (b) – is much more direct and specific

‘Refuse’, ‘deposited’ and ‘receptable’ – less frequently used words and are all more formal than ‘rubbish’, ‘put’ and ‘bin’

More examples: (c) Please tender exact fare and state destination. (d) Give me the right money and tell me where you are going. What are the linguistic features which distinguish (c) and (d)? - Vocabulary choice – tender vs give, state vs tell, destination vs where you are going,exact vs right and the use of please - Both use imperative structures but in (c) it is more formal avoiding the use of pronouns - Omission of determiners in (c)

The different ways of saying the same thing – social information Sentences (a) and (c) – more in writing than in speech - more formal and distancing - more formal context – speakers do not know each other well, strangers or far more superior than the other Sentences (b) and (d) - Informal context - speakers know each other (sentence (b))- address is used - Directive – softening making it more gentle.

Exercise: Make a list of all the names you are called by people whom know you. For each name note who uses it to you and when or where. What are the reasons why people choose one name rather than another for you?

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