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H 714 Language and Identity: Social Class. November 14, 2006 Kendra Winner. Agenda. Linguistic Inequality Working Class Vernaculars Historical context Defining social class Basil Bernstein Patterns of early socialization Cross-cultural research on social class.

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H 714 Language and Identity: Social Class

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H 714 language and identity social class l.jpg

H 714 Language and Identity: Social Class

November 14, 2006

Kendra Winner


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Agenda

  • Linguistic Inequality

  • Working Class Vernaculars

    • Historical context

    • Defining social class

    • Basil Bernstein

    • Patterns of early socialization

  • Cross-cultural research on social class


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Language and Identity – Social Class

  • Gain familiarity with current thinking about the relationship between the social values and the linguistic values of language varieties.

  • Understand the historical and contemporary research, theory and politics of social class differences in language use and socialization.

  • Recognize patterns of language use that tend to be associated with class differences.


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Language Varieties and Linguistics

  • Linguistics should be descriptive, not prescriptive:

    • All language varieties display characteristics common to all human languages, i.e., rule governed.

    • Shown the grammar of two varieties, one with high and the other low prestige, linguists could not tell which was which or predict the skin color of those who speak the two varieties.


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Linguistic Prejudice

  • Why do people evaluate each other, favorably or unfavorably, on the basis of speech?

    • Values attached to non-linguistic characteristics

    • Language is a symbol of group membership

  • Why don’t all people speak in the way they obviously believe they should? (Labov, 1972)

    • Consequences of adopting a new variety


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Linguistic Inequality

  • Subjective Inequality

    • What people think about one another’s language

  • Strictly Linguistic Inequality

    • What linguistic items people have access to

  • Communicative Inequality

    • What people know about how to use lintuistic items to communicate successfully


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Sankoff (1976)

  • Perhaps the major task of sociolinguistics is to reconcile the essentially neutral, or arbitrary, nature of linguistic difference and of linguistic change, with the social stratification of languages and levels of speech unmistakeable in any complex speech community.


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Working Class Vernaculars

  • Historical Context

    • British Education Act of 1944

      • Raised school leaving age to 15

      • Made state secondary provided education free

    • U.S. Economic Opportunity Act, 1964

      • War on Poverty

      • Compensatory (remedial) education movement

      • Headstart


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Defining Social Class

  • Functionalist Definition

  • Cultural Definition

  • Challenges to defining social class


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(some) Dimensions of Social Class

  • Occupation

  • Education

  • Income

  • Manners, style, & cultural refinement

  • Net worth

  • Power

  • Ownership of land, property, means of production


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Basil Bernstein & Socio-linguistic codes (from Cook-Gumperz, 1973)

  • The child acquires a ‘working’ knowledge of the social structure through being able to talk and communicate with in different social situations.


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Basil Bernstein & Socio-linguistic codes (from Cook-Gumperz, 1973)

  • Modern society seems two require two kinds of speech of its members:

    • Formal/elaborated code:

      • …the use of speech to express the speaker’s difference from the shared assumptions of the group, in an attempt to make clear the exact meaning of his communication. In this code it is as though the communication were apart from the social context.


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Basil Bernstein & Socio-linguistic codes (from Cook-Gumperz, 1973)

  • Modern society seems two require two kinds of speech of its members:

    • Public/restricted code:

      • the ability to use speech which expresses the shared meanings and assumptions of the group. … the speech of daily life which trades upon the tacit assumption that the other person(s) in the communication share the same, or similar, background knowledge to our own.


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“They’re playing football and he kicks it and it goes through there it breaks the window and they’re looking at it and he comes out and shouts at them because they’ve broken it so they run away and then she looks out and she tells them off.”

“Three boys are playing football and one boy kicks the ball and it goes through the window the ball breaks the window and the boys are looking at it and a man comes out and shouts at them because they’ve broken the window so they run away and then that lady looks out of her window and she tells the boys off.”


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Aspects of working class language … and research implications

  • Well documented social class differences in use of sentence level lexical devices such as pronouns, full noun phrases, and cohesive devices.

  • Working-class narrators referred more frequently to the internal states (e.g., feelings, thoughts, and intentions) of story characters (Hemphill, 1992; Winner, Melzi & Hemphill, unpublished).

  • Evidence that working class speakers adjust their speech as a function of the speech context.

  • Evidence of “epistemic” stances


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Sarah Michaels (2005)

  • James, Working Class

    9, 10, 11 Because I know the answer. Because me and my sister plays school a lot. My sister teach me this when I play school.

  • Stephany, Middle Class

    • The answer is 11 because you are counting by 3’s. The first number of the pattern is 2. And the second number is 5. There are three numbers from 2 to 5. The third number is eight. And there are three numbers between 5+8. And then that means that you just have to go up 3 numbers from 8 and then the answer is eleven.


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Picture Description

  • Children were asked to describe a picture of a circus tent so that another child who cannot see the picture could draw it.

    • What are the characteristics of each child’s picture description?

    • In what ways do they seem to understand the task similarly and/or differently?

    • How might any differences play out in school settings?


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Patterns of early socialization

  • Hess & Shipman (1965)

    • Looked at working class and graduate school mothers showing their children how to solve a sorting problem.

      • Maternal teaching strategies

      • Regulative strategies

    • Strong correlation between mother’s social class, how she taught a problem, the child’s ability to solve the problem and to explain the solution (e.g., not solve through imitation) speech style, and strategies of control


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Patterns of early socialization – Hess & Shipman

  • One mother introduces the task to her child as follows: I've got some chairs and cars, do you want to play the game?

  • Child does not respond.

  • Mother continues: O.K. What's this?

  • Child: A wagon?

  • Mother: Hm?

  • Child: A wagon?

  • Mother: This is not a wagon. What's this?


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Patterns of early socialization – Hess & Shipman

  • Mother: All right, Susan, this board is the place where we put the little toys; first of all you're supposed to learn how to place them according to color. Can you do that? The things that are all the same color you put in one section; in the second section you put another group of colors, and in the third section you put the last group of colors. Can you do that? Or would you like to see me do it first?

  • Child: I want to do it.


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Patterns of early socialization

  • Jenny Cook-Gumperz (1973)

    • Looked at maternal strategies of control.

      • Middle-class parents gave simple explanations and often used cause and effect, “If you pull that pan off the stove hot soup will spill on you and you’ll get hurt.”

      • Working-class parents gave simple directives, “Don’t touch!”


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Beals (2001) Eating and Reading

  • Tape recorded dinner-time conversations in low-income families (at home, parents chose when to tape)

    • Explanatory talk defined as talk that requested and/or made some logical connection between objects, events, concepts or conclusions. Included cause and effect, definitions or descriptions of words and objects, explanations of people’s actions or speech.

    • Explanations were frequent, on average 15% of the talk when kids were 3, 16% when they were 4, and 14% when they were five.

    • The more exposure to explanatory talk a child received the greater the child’s receptive vocabulary (PPVT-R) and ability to give definitions of words at age 5.


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Cross-cultural differences

  • India:

    • WC (67%) parents made more frequent references to the person world than MC (23%) and UC (28%).

    • MC and UC use slightly more declaratives than WC

    • Both WC and UC caregivers used directives


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  • Now be a good boy and listen to me

  • Sit on the chair

  • Now you must narrate a poem

  • Sit in my lap and start reading

  • Sit properly!

  • Show us you can clap

  • You can’t clap either, son?

  • Say something or today you will get my nose cut

  • Should I say, “I salute you my lord.”

  • Say something or now all of India will know what the boy is doing

  • Is this how you behave when guests come?


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Cross-cultural differences

  • India: (Bhatia, 2001)

    • WC (67%) parents made more frequent references to the person world than MC (23%) and UC (28%).

    • MC and UC use slightly more declaratives than WC

    • Both WC and UC caregivers used directives

  • China: (Tardif, 1992)

    • MC parents used questions more frequently and imperatives less frequently than did WC parents


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Purcell-Gates (2002)

  • Some people refer to the prejudicial stereotyping involved in blaming nonstandard speakers’ oral dialects for their academic failures as “linguicism.


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