English Language- Regional Variation

Just covering the basics of what you need to know about regional variation.

  • Created by: Rebekah
  • Created on: 02-06-14 16:45

Language Repertoire or Idiolect

Your own personal language blueprint, who and where it's from

E.g. Family, Class, Sexuality, Gender, Work, Social Groups

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Kerswill and Williams

Kerswill and Wiliams conducted their research in Milon Keynes where a mixture of children originally from different places around the UK were attending primary school. Within the playgrounds new dialects were appearing as the varations combined.

Koineisation- the creation of a new dialect.

Dialect levelling- new dialects emerging from the melding of several other dialects.

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Milroy conducted her study on three different council estates in Belfast.

Generally women with low status were using more standard ronunciation than men possibly to raise their self-esteem.

The social networks of the women determined their accents, the re close-knit their community was the further from standard pronunciation their accent was.

The Ballymacarrett estate women had jobs off the estate and so had wider social networks and had more standard pronunciation.

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Holmes looked into four aspects of regional variation with reference to gender

Subordinate groups must be polite- The powerful expect the powerless to be polite and conform to their expectations. E.g. Women are a subordinate group who must be polite to men.

Women's role as guardian of social values- Women raise the children and so they need to pass on the norms and values and speak RP or Standard English.

Vernacular forms express machismo- The working class masculine identity is formed by avoiding RP and SE as they are seen as 'posh' and 'snobby'. Also avoid them as they are seen as feminine. 

The social status explanation- Women use Standard English more in order to empower themselves and elevate their status.

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Trudgill conducted his study in Norwich and focused on the different uses of regional variation between the class and gender.

With the pronunciation of the 'ng' at the end of words like 'sing' and 'walking', the lower the social status of the person, the more likely they would replace it with 'n'. Also men were more likely to replace the 'ng' as well.

There was also the use of 'h' dropping which the lower classes did more than the upper classes. Only 6% of Upper Middle Class participants dropped the 'h'. 

He also found that working class mun under-reported their use of RP features, where working class women over-reported their use, suggesting that men avoid RP to keep their W/C masculinity wheras women aim for it to elevate their status.

Social stratification theory- British society has a hierachy of social classes and their is a correlation between social class and the accent/dialect spoken.

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Chechire conducted her study on gangs in Reading, looking at the language used by the gang members.

She found that the gang leaders were more non-standard than those on the edges of the gang suggesting that there is covert prestige in non-standard language. This also links to the social network theory.

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Giles has two studies related to regional variation:

Communication Accommodation Theory:

The idea that we adjust our language depending on those we are speaking to. There is convergence where you become closer to the speech of your conversational partner; and divergence, where you move away from the language style of your conversational partner. This can occur due to the prestige of the language used by your conversational parter. 

Matched Guise Experiment:

He payed tape recordings of the same actor speaking in different accents to factory workers in the North of England. He then tested their judgments and attitudes towards the various accents. 

He found that people were more likely to agree with the RP accents ver the non-standard and regional ones due to the social connotations associated with the accents.

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Labov also conducted two studies in terms of regional variation:

Martha's Vineyard (1962):

He found that natives of the island who left at a young age (e.g. university) and then returned had stronger regional accents than their parents. He concluded that this was for demonstrating solidarity and distinguishing themselves from the 'summer people'.

New York (1966):

He tested three department stores in New York, each with clientele in a different class. He focused on the pronunciation of the post-vocalic 'r'. He asked each staff member where a particular department was, knowng it was on the fourth floor. He then asked them to reeat the answer notng their pronunciation of 'fourth'. He found those in the lower class shop never used the 'r', those in the  middle did on the repeat and those in the top did both times.

He suggested this meant that the lower and upper class staff were comfortable in their identity which they displayed in their speech seeking prestige, where the middle class staff wanted to elevate their status and seek overt prestige on the second attempt. 

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Non-Standard Accent Features

-'h' dropping

-Glottal stop- Medial (middle) or terminal(end) omission of the 't' sound => Gatwick- Ga'wick

-Post-vocalic 'r'- burr on the 'r' sound when preceded by a vowel => werk vs work

-'th' fronting

-high rising tone

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Estuary English

Hyrbidised language between RP and east end cockney.

stops the 'rich' people from sounding too posh and the w/c people from sounding too rough.

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The movement from one variety of English to another during group interaction. Particularly refering to speakers who speak both British regional dialects and varieties of English originating from other culters (E.g. Hinglish (Hindi and English)

Sue Fox examined Multi Ethnic Youth Dialect used by young people in large cities and found that Afrian and Asian varieties of English have merged with regional varieties of English to create new dialects. 

Sebba examined London Jamaican English and discovered tht West Indian young people were merging London regional dialect with elements of Jamaican Creoles. 

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