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Li2 class-based social variation I. Today’s topics. Linguistic variation conditioned by socio-economic status (class) Stigmatization and prestige varieties sources discrimination Class and traditional dialect Correlations of linguistic variables with class are arbitrary.

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Li2 class based social variation i l.jpg

Li2class-based social variation I

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Today’s topics

  • Linguistic variation conditioned by socio-economic status (class)

    • Stigmatization and prestige

      • varieties

      • sources

      • discrimination

    • Class and traditional dialect

    • Correlations of linguistic variables with class are arbitrary

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Socio-economic status/class

  • Professions most likely to have local accent:

    • policeman, fireman…

  • Correlation between class (socioeconomic status) and traditional dialect

    • Lower classes tend to have more regional variation and preserve/use regional/non-standard variants (e.g. h-deletion in England)

    • Why?

      • Upper class more likely to move, go away to school, etc.

      • Regional pride (cf. later discussion of Martha’s Vineyard)

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Class-based variation in Norwich

% application of t-glottalization (t) and h-deletion (h)

from Trudgill 1974

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Stratification can be the same across communities

R-deletion in NYC and Detroit

Mean % r-deletion in the black community in Detroit (Wolfram 1969)

  • Many dialects of English delete non-prevocalic r.

    • “non-prevocalic r” = any r-sound that isn’t followed by a vowel:

      • car, party, sophomore, etc.

Mean % r-deletion in 3 New York department stores (Labov 1966)

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Language/class correlations are arbitrary

r-deletion in America vs. England

data from Labov (NYC) and Trudgill (Norwich)

Percentage of non-prevocalic r’s pronounced

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Language/class correlations are arbitrary

Raising of long a to u before nasal consonants in two Persian dialects

Figure 1. Percent raising of (an) in the Farsi of Tehran and Ghazvin.

Yahya Modaressi-Tehrani (1978) A Sociolinguistic Analysis of Modern Persian. Doctoral dissertation, University of Kansas.

Stigmatization l.jpg

  • Some stigmatized features in American English:

    • r-deletion

    • double negation

    • ain’t

  • N.B. stigmatized features sometimes have covert prestige, as we’ll see later

  • 150 respondents from SE Michigan (Preston 2000)

  • Mean scores of rankings for “correct English”, 1-10

  • Least correct: South, NYC, NJ

  • Most correct: Michigan (only state in the 8 range)

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  • Linguistic variables often assigned to qualitative scale by speakers (unmarked, better, worse…)

  • Most prevalent with class-linked variables, because of independent social links between class and quality

  • A famous example:

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Linguistic prestige on Martha’s Vineyard

  • Labov 1962

  • linguistic variable: centralization of diphthongs

    • /Aj, aw/ → [j, w]

    • In the chart above, higher numbers = more centralization

  • began with fisherman (traditional inhabitants)

  • spread to other islanders (presumably to distinguish them from tourists)

  • Labov study of college-age Vineyarders found two groups:

    • one hated the island and intended to leave as soon as possible

    • one intended to stay

    • strong correlation between positive attitudes toward life on the island and degree of centralization.

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Types of linguistic prestige

  • overt

  • covert

  • crypto

  • schizo

  • none

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Overt prestige

  • double negation, ain’t

  • changes toward forms with overt prestige normally spearheaded by middle-class women (Trudgill 1978)

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Covert prestige

  • Overt prestige is about seeking prestige by assimilating to the standard.

  • Covert prestige is about not choosing to assimilate to the standard.

  • Each choice has a distinct set of costs and benefits…

  • pull of ultra-masculinity: working-class male

  • Particularly noticeable in teenage years

  • Important force in maintaining non-standard varieties of speech

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  • when only one person knows the high prestige form

    • what the yam really is

    • between you and me (?)

    • using hopefully and ironic “properly”

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  • Agreement that there is a prestigious form and a stigmatized form, but no agreement on which is which

    • often: [t] vs. []

    • coupon vs. cyoupon

    • foreign words and local words

      • Des Plaines, Desmoines, Worcester, etc.

    • regional splits:

      • r-deletion

      • gymshoes/sneakers?

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No prestige

  • spicket vs. spigot

    • Harvard Dialect Survey, Q41: Do you use "spigot" or "spicket" to refer to a faucet or tap that water comes out of? (10860 respondents)

      • spigot (66.89%)

      • I say "spicket" but spell it "spigot" (12.64%)

      • I don't use either version of this word (9.23%)     

      • spicket (6.38%)

      • I use both interchangeably (2.52%)

      • I use both with different meanings (2.00%)

    • Doodlebug/pill bug/roly poly/etc.

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Sources of linguistic prestige

  • spelling?? (often cited in the literature)

    • Often

    • hors d’oeuvres

    • r-deletion

    • night

  • change in progress:

    • forms undergoing change are more stigmatized (Labov 2000)

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  • Linguistic variables play a major role in discrimination

    • nonstandard dialect confused with stupidity

      • Newcastle

      • Ebonics

  • masked guise assessments of education, height, etc. based on speech

    • Canada bilinguals recorded speaking French and English

    • when speaking English, listeners judged them to be:

      • more intelligent

      • more dependable

      • taller

      • better looking

    • same results for (Canadian) anglophone and francophone listeners

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  • Prestige combines linguistic and social elements

  • Socioeconomic status is thereby closely linked to language and attitudes about language

  • Not everyone aspires to speak the prestige form

  • There is no absolute good in language:

    • Correlations of linguistic variables with class are arbitrary

References l.jpg

Labov, William. 1962. The social history of a sound change on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Master’s essay, Columbia University.

Labov, William. 1966. The Social Stratification of English in New York City.  Washington, D.C.:  Center for Applied Linguistics.

Labov, William. 2000. Principles of Linguistic change. Volume II: Social Factors. Oxford: Blackwell.

Modaressi-Tehrani, Yahya. 1978. A Sociolinguistic Analysis of Modern Persian. Doctoral dissertation, University of Kansas.

Preston, Dennis. 2000. Some plain facts about Americans and their language. American Speech 75.4:398-401.

Trudgill, Peter. 1974. The Social Differentiation of English in Norwich. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Trudgill, Peter. 1978. Sex,covert prestige, and linguistic change in the urban British English of Norwich. Language in Society 1:179-96.

Wolfram, Walt. 1969. A Linguistic Description of Detroit Negro Speech. Washington, D.C.: Center for Applied Linguistics.