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Sociolinguistics

 

Chapter 1

 

 

SOCIOLINGUISTICS

 

By our language we define the groups to which we belong. We define certain people as inside the group, and we leave others out. Language comes to be an accurate map of the sociological divisions of a society. (Robins Burling:1973)

 

 

This branch of linguistics concentrates on language in society, in other  words, it tries to examine how and why people use language a they interact with other members of their society. Sociolinguistics examines variety in language and has shown that language is not merely used to communicate ideas but also to communicate our opinion of others and of ourselves. Even the simplest utterance such as ‘Hello!’ can reveal that the speaker wishes to be friendly and informal, and that he or she is probably British (many Americans would prefer ‘Hi!’). in considering any spoken communication, therefore, a student will notice that a speaker’s language reveals information on his sex, approximate age, regional and perhaps ethnic origins, education and attitude to his listeners. Variation also occurs in terms of the subject matter under discussion: nuclear disarmament will not be discussed in the same terms as neighborly gossip. Nor will one use identical forms of language with a shopkeeper and a minister of religion. Speakers can also range in formality from the shared intimacy of slang through casual conversation to the stiff correctness that usually characterizes an interview. Variety, then, and not unchanging monotony is the norm in mother-tongue usage and so sociolinguistics studies how, when, why and in what ways variation occurs.

  

In multilingual communities, lingua francas have often grown up as a means of permitting communication where such lingua francas have developed, whether in Africa, America, Asia, Australia or Europe, they show remarkable similarities. Initially this similarity surprised linguists but the greater our knowledge grows, the more we realize that human beings are similar and human needs are similar, so perhaps it would be even more surprising if our techniques for communicating proved to be very different.

  

Sociolinguists thus set themselves the tasks of examining language use, its variation, its development, change and standardization, its regional and class dialects, its lingua francas, its specialized codes. Much has been learnt, including the fact that we use language as often to exclude others as we do to establish bonds. The greater our knowledge grows, however, the more we are forced to recognize the extraordinary flexibility and complexity of all human systems of communication.

  

It is more common for a lingua franca to be what is known as a pidgin language. The definitions and uses of the term pidgin vary in the literature; it will be defined as a mode of speech that is not anyone’s native language, but which can be demonstrated to have developed from at least two such languages. Typically, a pidgin retains a large portion of the vocabulary and phonology of a language, but simplifies its morphology and syntax. Such things as grammatical gender distinctions, elaborate compound verb tenses, and complicated systems of pronouns are frequently eliminated in pidginization.

  

When people speaking a pidgin are for  one reason or another isolated from other language communities, it may happen that a new generation will be born which acquires no other language except the pidgin. A language like this, which has been a pidgin but has become a native language, is called a creole.  Obviously, the exact point at which a pidgin stops being a pidgin and becomes a creole may be difficult to determine.

  

One of the most amazing things about the linguistic competence of speakers is their ability to move back and forth among languages, dialects, and registers with ease, as demanded by the social situation or their own inner necessities. This skill is called code-switching. Code switching is a change by a speaker (or writer) from one language or language variety to another one. Code switching can take place in a conversation when one speaker uses one language and the other speaker answers in a different language. A person may start speaking one language and then change to another one in the middle of their speech, or sometimes even in the middle of a sentence. In the United States today, especially in academic and business situations, the ability to code-switch is clearly a survival skill.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

 

Aarts, Bas  and April McMahon. 2006. The Handbook of  English Linguistics. Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Akmajian, Adrian. An introduction to language and communication ________

Coulmas, Florian . 1998. The Handbook of Sociolinguistics. Blackwell Reference Online

Davies, Alan & Catherine Elder. 2004. The Handbook of  Applied Linguistics. Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Fromkin, Victoria., Rodman, Roert and Hyam, Nina. 2003. An Introduction to Language. Heinly, a part of Thomson Corporation

Richards, Jack, John Platt and Heidi Weber, Longman Dictionary of Applied Linguistics. Longman 1985

Todd, Loreto. 1987. An Introduction to Linguistics. York Press.



Jack Richards, John Platt and Heidi Weber, Longman Dictionary of Applied Linguistics. Longman 1985. p 43

 

 

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