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Sociolinguistics (summary) . What is sociolinguistics? It studies why people speak differently according to: - Whom they are talking to? - What they are talking about? - In what kind of context they are talking? . More specifically ….

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sociolinguistics summary
Sociolinguistics (summary)

What is sociolinguistics?

It studies why people speak differently according to:

- Whom they are talking to?

- What they are talking about?

- In what kind of context they are talking?

more specifically
More specifically…

1. Social motivation for language variation:

- socio-economic status

- gender

- ethnicity

- region


2. Language contact

- Pidgin language

- Creole language

basic concepts you should know
Basic concepts you should know:

Dialect vs. language:

Mutual intelligibility:

Situation in which speakers of different language varieties are able to understand and communicate with the other.

- Chinese dialect, a special case

Dialect continuum:

Situation in which a large number of contiguous dialects exist, each mutually intelligible with the next, but with the dialects at either end of the continuum not being mutually intelligible.

several points to be noticed
Overt prestige vs. covert prestige

- Overt prestige:

Type of prestige attached to a particular variety by the community that defines how people should speak in order to gain status in the wider community

- Covert prestige

Type of prestige that exists among members of nonstandard-speaking communities that defines how people should speak in order to be considered members of those particular communities.

e.g. the young boy in American Tongues

African American speech community

Several points to be noticed:
pidgin vs creole language
Pidgin vs. Creole language
  • Pidgin language:

Language developed by speakers of distinct language who come into contact with one another and share no common language among them.

- originates to overcome communication barriers

- typically spring up in trading centers

- made of mixtures of elements from all of the languages in contact

- most of the vocabulary derived from socially or economically dominant language

creole language
Creole language
  • Creole language:

a language that develops from contact between speakers of different languages and serves as the primary means of communication for a particular group of speakers

- typical in plantation setting

- some of them are stabilized pidgin

- different from pidgin, Creole language serves as the first language for speakers

case studies
Case studies

r-Lessness in New York City:

lack of [r] in words as four, card etc. in New York dialect

- misconception: there is a total lack of [r] in those words for speakers of the dialect.

- Labov: speakers vary their use of [r] according to their social status.

high status: the use of [r]

low status: the lack of [r]

hypothesis: salespeople tend to reflect the prestige of their customers.

Salespeople from the highest prestige store would exhibit

the highest incidence of [r] in their speech, while those

from the lowest prestige store would exhibit the lowest

incidence of [r]

case new york department stores
Case: New York Department stores

Percentage of [r]s in floor

Casual Careful

Saks 63 64

Macy’s 44 61

S. Klein 8 18

pau princivalli case
Pau Princivalli case:
  • bomb threats were made in repeated telephone calls to the Pan American counter at the Los Angeles airport.
  • Paul Prinzivalli, a cargo handler who was thought by Pan American to be a "disgruntled employee," was accused of the crime, and he was jailed.
  • Evidence: Princivalli’s voice sounded like the tape recordings of the bomb threat caller
  • Labov’s defense:

Pau Princivalli: New York

bomb threat caller: the Boston area of

Eastern New England

- Linguistic fingerprint