Language and sociolinguistics

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  • Language and sociolinguistics
    • Labov's 1966 NY study investigated how often R was pronounced when it was the final or preconsonantal letter in the word by sales assistants in 3 Manhattan stores from different levels of price, the top being Saks, the middle Macys and the bottom Kleins.
      • They were asked questions concerning the "fouRth flooR". Different levels of formality and social class meant 'r' pronunciation varied - the Saks assistant clearly pronounced "r", showing considerable prestige, whereas Kleins' didn't. Therefore the lower middle class were most susceptible to overt prestige.
    • Labov's Martha Vineyard study looked into the pronunciation of vowels like "aw" and "ay" from different social groups (age, ethnicity, occupation). The Vineyarders had subconsciously imitated and converged with the pronunciations of a group of fisherman who exaggerated their pronunciation to separate themselves from tourists. So these became the local sounds.
    • Peter Trudgill's Norwich Study 1974 investigated how gender affects dialect in each social class, such as dropping the "g", "h" dropping from the front of words" and glottalstop.
      • OVERT PRESTIGE - education, official contexts and is associated with the well-educated middle class, because they thought more about what they said.   COVERT PRESTIGE - not identifying with standard English, showing group loyalty and solidarity in the working class and regions.
        • He found men tended to use covert prestige. Women tended to use overt prestige to appear a higher class than they were due to instability about their place in society in comparison to men. The higher your class, the less likely you are to use non-standard forms.
    • Lesley Milroy - argues that close-knit networks with linguistic norms have been disrupted by increased geographical mobility. She found in her study of 3 working-class communities in Belfast that those with a dense, multiplex network in the community correlated with the use of linguistically similar vernacular or non-standard forms because of social pressures operating in the communities.  In areas of high unemployment, women usedless prestigious forms to find solidaritywith unemployed males.
    • Basil Bernstein was a linguist who said there were two speech codes. Elaborated code is language associated with the well educated middle class. It is characterized by context-free speech, longer, analytical, more complex and compound sentences, and polysyllabic words. Restricted code is used by the less educated working class and is instead characterized by shorter and less complex sentences that are descriptive and context bound.
      • According to Bernstein, this is why working class children may not understand things in language lessons. They have had access to only restricted code from socialization, whereas the middle class has access to both elaborated code and restricted code because they are more geographically and socially mobile.                                  However he generalizes the classes and doesn't  have must evidence.
    • Howard Giles - Matched guise - he made people listen to a passage read in various accents and evaluate the personal qualities of the speaker based on their accents (despite a few of them being the same person using different accents). They found that Received Pronunciation was the most impressive and influential, and the Brummie accent was the least imposing and convincing.
    • Social networks - the connections one individual has to other individuals or groups. E.g. family, class members, internet chat rooms. A loose social network is where there is little shared between the groups, possibly because there are lots of them. A dense social network could be best friends who are also a part of extended family.
    • Speech community - a group who share a similar social experience, so have similar vocabulary grammar. E.g. fans of heavy metals; members of an isolated Scottish island community; work.
    • Paul Kerswill - dialect levelling is the standardisation of regional dialects. Factors involved include greater geographical mobility, breakdown of tight-knit networks, adolescents not taking after their parents' dialect because of social pressures to conform to their peer group.


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