Chapter one what do sociolinguists study

Chapter one what do sociolinguists study Chapter one what do sociolinguists study - Start

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Prepared by:. Mohammad . Zaareer. . Directed by:. Dr. . Khalil. . Nofal. What is a sociolinguist. Sociolinguists study the relationship between language and society. They are interested in explaining why we speak differently in different social context, and they are concerned wit.... ID: 697749 Download Presentation

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Chapter one what do sociolinguists study

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Chapter onewhat do sociolinguists study

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What is a sociolinguist Sociolinguists study the relationship between language and society. They are interested in explaining why we speak differently in different social context, and they are concerned with identifying the social functions of language and the ways it is used to convey social meaning. Examining

the way people use


in different social contexts, provides

a wealth

of information about the way language works, as well as about the social relationships in a community, and the way people signal aspects of their identity through their language(Holmes.J,2001,P:1).


Sociolinguistics is the study of the effects of

any and

all aspects of society on language. It also studies how language verities differentiate between groups separated by certain social variables such as: ethnicity, religion, status, gender, educational level, and social distance. Sociolinguistics is actually concerned with the relationship between language and the context that language is used in.


We use language to ask for or to give information. We use it to express our feelings; to show our annoyance or admiration about a situation we live. Our language is the mirror of our minds; what we think about is presented by our lexical and grammatical choices. Daily situations and social motivation are the manipulators of our use of language. They are also the directors of our terms when producing language.


Language can be both informative and expressive. See example 1 in the book, Ray gives an information about why he is late, and how he feels about the teacher “that bastard Sootbucket…”. Also, this example shows his different relationship between his mother and grandmother.

Unconsciously, Ray produces language according to :

Why he

speaks and the situation.

To whom he speaks

His feelings.


o Our lexical choices indicate who we are. Speech and writing provide clues about our thinking and culture. As an example, if you read the Pre-Islamic literature , you will taste their culture from using terms of love and war.


example, read “Utopia” by Thomas More and try to answer the following question. How do written texts reflect the social background?


key word is “the lexical choices”


The choice of one linguistic form rather than another is important, Because: 1-    It provides us with non-linguistic (social and regional) information. The two examples (example 1, and example 2) mentioned in the chapter clarify how the relationship between the two speakers governs the way of speaking and the choice of vocabulary items. In the first example, the speech serves many functions:

 It gives information (why the boy was late)

 Tells how the boy feels (angry and frustrated)

 Tells about the relationship between the two participants (in the first example, the relationship is intimate and friendly. On the other hand, the second example shows a formal, distant and respectful relationship). 



2-   It reflects social identity. While we talk we give clues to others about who we are and where we came from. Therefore, people can know about our social and regional background. Another social factor is “ethnicity”. In example 3, the friend use of the greeting “sut wyt


?” indicates her welsh ethnicity.

3-   Sociolinguistics is also interested in different types of linguistic variation used to express social factors.  



What is the linguistic variation? How does it happen? How are different types of linguistic variation used to express social factors?First, the linguistic variation occurs on the level of vocabulary, sounds, grammar (syntax) and word structure (morphology).

The linguistic variation leads to style, which is a group of different ways of expression. 

The different styles are used in different social contexts. This may involve a use of different dialect or different language.

In example 4, each participant has his own way or method of speaking (his own style) which, in turn, gives information about the social background. The speaker who drops the “h” reflects his education and occupation which is less than the other speaker. Therefore, although they share the same regional, the linguistic variation which occurred on the level of pronunciation has reflected the social background of the two speakers.


In example 5, the linguistic variation is on the level of grammar and vocabulary.In example 6, the linguistic variation occurs on the level of dialect. It involves the use of two different dialects. This means that they differ on the level pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar and style.  In northern Norway, a village, whose people were studied by the two sociolinguists


and Gompers, used two different dialects: one was for formal use, and the other was for the casual use. The formal (Bokmal) was used for education, media and press, official business transactions and worship places.  The casual (


) is the dialect used among family and friends while talking. It was also used to communicate with shop keepers. It signals one’s membership to the local community (the village), unlike the Bokmal which is used by strangers in the village. Therefore, if a local person used Bokmal while talking to a shopkeeper s/he will look too funny or snobbish.


Another social factor is the topic. The topic of discussion influences the way we speak, making us display different choices of linguistic variation. In example 6, in that Norwegian village people alter between two kinds of Norwegian dialects in accordance to the topic of discussion. Talking about foreign politics or university topics will compel the speaker to opt for the formal dialect (Bokmal), while they opt for (Ranamal

) when they return home and talk about different topics related to their children or friends.



Any set of linguistic forms that is influenced by social factors is called a code or variety. It is a broad term that includes different accents, styles, dialects and even languages which contrast with each other for social reasons (the social factors)  


In example no. 7, the linguistic variation occurs on the level of languages. This means that each language has its own pronunciation, morphology, syntax and lexis. A speaker of one language cannot understand the speaker of another.  (Remember: this is opposite to dialects, where speakers used to understand each other).In the example, a village called “


” experienced three stages:

1.    It was a part of the Austrian empire. The people spoke German.

2.    Later, they sued German for casual use (with friends and relatives) and


with people outside the village, and it has become a language of solidarity used by young men to each other.

3.    Italian was used for reading and writing, church and school as well as communicating with people from outside the region.  By 1971, the adults were all trilingual (speaking three languages). In that village, the social distribution is also different. And the social distribution is accompanied by linguistic distribution as well. 



The Linguistic Repertoire is the distinguishable varieties or codes which are available for use in different social contexts.


Social factors account for the use of linguistic variation. This depends on Participants: The speakers in a speech eventSetting: the social context of the interaction (speech event)The topic: the topic of discussion

The function: the purpose of this topic (why)

There are four dimensions which are related to the social factors: 


Social distance

Status scale

Formality scale

functional scales


As for social distance scale, it is concerned with the relationship of participants. It emphasizes solidarity. How well we know someone influences our linguistic choice. The relationship, wither intimate or distant, affects the linguistic choice while speaking. We can therefore use nick names in calling our siblings or friends, but can not do so in addressing our teachers. The more formal the relation is, the more careful we are in choosing the appropriate linguistic form in addressing the speaker.


As for Status Scale, it has two ends: superior (high status) and subordinate (low status)

.  The social status is relevant to the choice of linguistic forms. For example, dropping the (h) while speaking reflects a social group that is lower than that of someone who keeps the (h) in his pronunciation. Also, if a person is addressed by Mr. While he addresses others with their first names it means that the person enjoys a higher or superior status.

As for Formality Scale, it has to do with high formality and low formality

. We evaluate the formality of the topic and we use the linguistic form accordingly. For example, in the village called “


”, the use of Italian was used for formal purposes (reading, writing, religious sermons), while the German was used for communication with family members. Similarly, Bokmal was used for formal purposes like education, newspapers, radio and TV, while


was used for casual purposes like communicating with the locals


As for the functional scales, they embrace two functions: referential and affective functions. Each speech event has its own function. The referential function is to provide information. For example, the weather bulletin provides information about what the expected temperatures will be like. However, if two people are talking to each other, and one of them is saying “it is too humid today”, this sentence conveys her feelings. The function here is affective. In Example 1, the boy speech serves referential and affective functions: he is giving information why he was late, and is expressing his frustration and fury towards the teacher. In speech, sometimes one function dominates the other:

The more referential is the topic, the less feelings it conveys, and vice versa.


So, these dimensions, along with the previously mentioned factors provide a useful framework for discussing language in its social context.


The chapter defined the study of linguistics which is done by two tasks performed by sociolinguists: 

1-   Identifying the linguistic variation involved (wither pronunciation, syntax, lexis, morphology, dialects or languages).

2-   Identifying the non linguistic (social) factors and dimensions that led to the linguistic variation






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