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Language and Social Culture


Language and Social Culture Chapter 7 The standard language can be said to be a superposed, socially prestigious dialect of language. It is the language used by the ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Language and Social Culture

Language and Social Culture
  • Chapter 7

Language Varieties
  • Variety is a generic term for a particular
    coherent form of language in which specific
    extralinguistic criteria can be used to define it
    as a variety.
  • For example, a geographically defined variety is
    known as a dialect, a variety with a social basis
    as a sociolect, a functional variety as jargon or
    a sublanguage, a situative variety as a register.
  • David (1992 76) defines variety as a system of
    linguistic expression whose use is governed by
    situational variables, such as regional,
    occupational or social class.

Language Varieties
  • A language is typically composed of a number of
  • Dialect refers to any regional, social or ethnic
    variety of a language.
  • The language differences associated with dialect
    may occur on any level of language, thus
    including pronunciation, grammatical, semantic,
    and language use differences.

Language Varieties
  • A regional dialect refers to the language variety
    used in a geographical region. When people are
    separated from each other geographically,
    dialectal diversity develops.
  • When enough differences give the language spoken
    in a particular region, for example, the city of
    Chicago or New York its own "flavor," that
    version of the language is called a regional
  • A regional dialect differs from language in that
    the former is considered a distinct entity, yet
    not distinct enough from other dialects of the
    language to be regarded as a different language.

Language Varieties
  • The term social dialect is used to describe
    differences in speech associated with various
    social groups or classes.
  • Whereas regional dialects are geographically
    based, social dialects originate among social
    groups and are related to a variety of factors.
  • Social dialect could be further distinguished by
    gender, age, ethnic group, religion, and class.
  • In India, for example, caste, one of the clearest
    of all social differentiators, quite often
    determines which variety of a language a speaker

  • Register refers the functional variety of
    language that is defined according to use of
    language in context.
  • People participating in recurrent communication
    situations tend to use similar vocabularies and
    ways of saying.
  • For example, a physician may use technical terms
    when he is talking with his fellow physicians,
    but he may use ordinary vocabulary when he is
    talking to his patients. When talking about salt,
    a chemist may use "NaCl" in writing, but he may
    use the word "salt" before a preschool child.

Ethnic Varieties
  • In a society, speech variation may come about due
    to different ethnic backgrounds. Ethnic varieties
    are used by ethnic groups and regarded as social
    dialects. They often cut across regional

  • Black English
  • Black English has a few distinctive phonological,
    morphological and syntactic features.
  • Consonant deletion rule is used. The
    simplification approach deletes the past-tense
    morpheme, so "past" and "passed" are both
    pronounced as "pass". "Meant" and "mend" are both
    pronounced as "men."

  • In Black English, the frequent absence of various
    forms of "be" is one of its prominent syntactic
    features. Another syntactic feature of Black
    English is the systematic use of the expression
    "it is" where Standard English uses "there is" in
    the sense of "there exists", for example
  • a. Is it a Mr. Harris in this office?
  • b. Diana's been a wonderful lady and it's nothin'
    too good for her.

  • Another syntactical feature of Black English is
    the use of double negation constructions. For
    example, each sentence below containing more than
    one negators
  • a. Cronin don't know nothing. (Cronin doesn't
    know anything.)
  • b. I ain't afraid of no devils. (I'm not afraid
    of any devils.)

Language and Culture
  • The language used by a speech community is
    closely related to the culture of that community.
    A community's culture consists of what it is one
    has to know or believe in order to operate in a
    manner acceptable to its members, and to do so in
    any role that they accept for any one of

Language and Culture
  • The close relationship between language and
    culture has long been the focus of linguistic
  • Many linguists have come to realize that language
    and culture are so inextricably related that you
    cannot understand or appreciate the one without a
    knowledge of the other.
  • Language and culture is in a dialectical
    relationship. Every language is part of a
    culture, and it serves and reflects cultural

Language and Culture
  • The relationship between language and culture was
    distinctive in the work of Sapir.
  • Even though he believes that language and culture
    are not intrinsically associated, he believed
    that language and our thought-grooves are too
    much involved as to be impossible to untie each
    other, and are, in a sense, one and the same.
  • The association of a specific culture with a
    specific language was not given by nature but was
    a historical coincidence.

Language and Culture
  • Although it is true that human culture in its
    great complexity could not have developed and is
    unthinkable without the aid of language, no
    correlation has yet been established between
    cultures of a certain type and a certain type of
  • In fact, there were and still are areas in the
    world where societies share a very similar
    cultural orientation and yet speak languages that
    are not only mutually unintelligible but
    completely unrelated and structurally different.

Language and Culture
  • For example, the North American Indians of the
    Great Plains possessed many of the same or very
    similar cultural characteristics but their
    languages belonged to at least six different
    language families.
  • The opposite may also hold true Estonians and
    Lapps speak related languages (both belong to the
    Finnic branch of the Finno-Ugric subfamily of the
    Uralic family of languages), but their cultures
    are quite different.

Language Change
  • Language is in state of constant change.
  • The development of English is usually divided
    into three major periods.
  • Old English period is considered to have lasted
    from 449 to 1100.
  • Middle English period is from 1100 to 1500, and
  • Modern English from 1500 to the present.

  • The world is changing and the causes of language
    change are many. The following may be some of the
    main causes of language change.
  • ? historical cause
  • ? social cause
  • ? pragmatic and psychological cause
  • ? scientific and technological development
  • ? political cause
  • ? the increase of international contact

  • historical cause
  • Historically, English has been changing
    throughout its history.
  • England was conquered by the French-speaking
    Normans in 1066. For many years after the Norman
    Conquest, French was used for writing most
    important documents, and English was
    comparatively little used for writing.
  • Before the Norman Conquest, the West Saxon
    dialect used by King Alfred had achieved a
    prominent position in England, and this West
    Country variety was increasingly regarded as the
    standard form to be used in writing English.

  • After the Conquest, however, no single variety of
    English possessed any particular prestige, and
    consequently every writer of English was inclined
    to use his or her own local variety and to spell
    it in whatever manner he or she liked.
  • Thus, various kinds of words went into English,
    such as crown, country, duke, court, judge, jury,
    crime, battle, arms, soldiers, siege.

  • social cause
  • Language change may result from the change from
    one social group to another or the interaction of
    one social group with other groups.
  • Social centers and prestige groups change
  • The greatest change can be found in the lower
    middle class, and lower-middle-class teenagers in
    particular. Because lower-middle-class speakers,
    especially teenagers, feel that a linguistic
    feature such as r-fulness in American English is
    a marker of social acceptability, they cultivate
    it so much that in self-conscious speech they
    actually use it more than the class they are
    modeling themselves on.

  • pragmatic and psychological cause
  • The avoidance of particular words for social
    reasons seems to occur in all languages and
    euphemisms arise in their place.
  • English euphemisms play an effective, or
    sometimes a crucial role in easing off awkward
    situations or elevating embarrassing atmosphere.

  • In 1856, people said "She has cancelled all her
    social engagements."
  • In 1880, the sentence changed into "She is in an
    interesting condition." Five years later, people
    changed the word "interesting" into "delicate".
  • At the beginning of the 20th century, there came
    a more cozy expression "She is knitting little
    booties." I
  • n 1920, people said "She is in a family way."
  • Since 1935, people have preferred to say "She is
    expecting." or more directly, "She is pregnant."

  • scientific and technological development
  • Scientific and technological development can be
    one of the causes of language change. New
    technical terms keep coming into people's daily
  • With the development of science and technology,
    new inventions come about continuously
    transistor radio, radiogram, electric blanket,
    washing machine, egg-timer, pressure cooker,
    immersion heater, deep freeze, hovercraft,
    bulletin train, container ship, mini-car, instant
    coffee, computers, etc.

  • political cause
  • The cause of language change may come from the
    political system and the political movements in a
    specific culture.
  • The special political life of the US has produced
    some words unique only to the Americans, such as
    assemblyman, Senate, Congress, senator,
    congressman, running mate, lynch.
  • Furthermore, political movements of feminism and
    political correction have brought about new words
    and expressions. Some people prefer the use of
    chairperson instead of chairman.

  • the increase of international contact
  • Communication with speakers of other languages
    could lead to language change.
  • During the sixteenth century, English borrowed
    many words from French and Italian because
    Englishmen were in contact with speakers of these
  • In Korean we find many words borrowed from
    Chinese and Japanese but few before this century
    from European languages.
  • Russian has borrowings from Mongol, but none from
    the American Indian languages.

Lexical Change
  • There is a constant change in the vocabulary of
    the language. New words may be added. Some words
    may become obsolete. And a new dimension in
    meaning may be attached to an existing word.
  • Words may become archaic or extinct. When a new
    word comes into use, its unusual presence draws
    attention but a word may be lost through
    inattention-nobody thinks of it nobody uses it
    and it fades out of the language.
  • If we read Shakespeare, we may find many of the
    words are no longer used nowadays, such as
    beseem, mammet, wot, gyve, fain, and wherefore.

  • Borrowing
  • As mentioned elsewhere, the discovery of new
    products, new ideas, or new ways of doing things
    will require words to talk about them.
  • In the area of foods and cooking, English has
    borrowed a large number of words from French.
  • During the Middle English period such words
    entered the language dinner, supper, broil,
    baste, appetite, salmon, sardine, pork, beef,
    veal, mutton, poultry, grape, orange.

  • Creation of New Words
  • Apart from borrowing, new words have made their
    entry into English via word formation rules such
    as compound, derivation, acronym formation,
    blending, abbreviation, clipping, back-formation,
    and coinage, etc..
  • Some new words are created from the brand-name or
    trade-mark of a product. For example, the
    invention of Kodak.
  • A couple of totally new formations such as nylon,
    and possibly gas, most new words are formed by
    new combinations of morphemes which are already
    in existence.

  • Shifts in Meaning One way of enlarging the
    vocabulary is expanding the meaning of a word
    that already exists in the language.
  • There are at least four processes by which words
    change in meaning.
  • By amelioration, a word is assigned to a more
    favorable class of objects than previously. The
    word nimble comes originally from the Old English
    word niman, meaning "to take." It now means
  • The opposite of amelioration is pejoration. A
    word becomes attached to a less favorable class
    of objects than previously. The word spinster
    originally means the girl who spins, but now it
    means an older unmarried woman.

  • When a word relates to a larger class of objects
    than previously, it has gone through
    generalization. A place was originally the same
    thing as a plaza, and a butcher was a person who
    slaughtered goats.
  • In the opposite direction, a word can go through
    specialization and refer to a smaller class of
    objects. A wife was originally any woman, a deer
    was any animal, and disease was lack of ease for
    any reason.

Sound Change
  • Words such as table and face, which had at
    the time of borrowing, underwent a sound change
    in English during the fifteenth century. The
    vowel was raised and fronted to ei. Along with
    native name, gate, bake, we find face and table
    going through the same change in pronunciation.

Syntactical change
  • A syntactic rule that has been lost from English
    is the morphosyntactic rule of adjective
    agreement. The rule stipulated that the endings
    of adjectives must agree with the head noun in
    case, number, and gender.
  • This adjective agreement rule was dropped out of
    English because, for the most part, the
    inflectional endings to show agreement in case,
    number and gender became extinct.

Language Planning
  • The term language planning refers to a deliberate
    attempt, usually at the level of the state or
    government administration, to affect language use
    in order to prevent or to solve some problems of

Standard Language
  • The standard language can be said to be a
    superposed, socially prestigious dialect of
    language. It is the language used by the
    government and the judiciary system, by the mass
    media, and in educational institutions.
  • Because it functions as the public means of
    communication, it is subject to extensive
    normalization especially in grammar,
    pronunciation, and spelling. The process of
    normalization is controlled and passed on via
    the public media and institutions, but above all
    through the school systems.
  • Command of the standard language is the goal of
    formal language instruction.

National Language and Official Language
  • A national language is considered as a national
  • An official language is the language that is used
    in official situations in a nation or an

  • Today in Kenya, both Swahili and English serve as
    official languages, but Swahili is the national
    language. To promote and institutionalize Swahili
    as the national language of Kenya has called for
    a variety of government policies ranging from the
    preparation of instructional materials to ensure
    that the Swahili used in official dealings is
    "good" Kenyan Swahili.

  • End of Lecture