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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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today s topics
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
socio economic status class
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)
class based variation in norwich
Class-based variation in Norwich

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

from Trudgill 1974


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)

language class correlations are arbitrary
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

language class correlations are arbitrary7
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.

  • 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)
  • 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:

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.
types of linguistic prestige
Types of linguistic prestige
  • overt
  • covert
  • crypto
  • schizo
  • none
overt prestige
Overt prestige
  • double negation, ain’t
  • changes toward forms with overt prestige normally spearheaded by middle-class women (Trudgill 1978)
covert prestige
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
  • when only one person knows the high prestige form
    • what the yam really is
    • between you and me (?)
    • using hopefully and ironic “properly”
  • 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?
no prestige
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.
sources of linguistic prestige
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)
  • 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
  • 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

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.