The features of spoken language often changes depending on a number of factors; one of which includes the location and of whom they are speaking with. In the popular TV series, The Wire, the audience is introduced to the first transcript set in a deprived area of Baltimore where many of the street jargon slang and social accent is prominent. In comparison, language that is used in a courtroom of the second transcript is far more formal than street language.
In the first transcript the purpose of the detective whom is communicating with the witness is in charge because he starts the conversation off as he speaks first, and to show control he asks a question “So your boy’s name is what? ” – This shows the control, but another purpose is to ask question to solve the crime that has been committed. The purpose of the witness is to show the behavior of how he responds to the detective and uses accent, dialect, sociolect (The dialect of a particular social class. to show that he is from a background where he has less intelligence than the detective by responding in short answers and grunts to the questions asked, when the detective, McArdle, asks “So your boy’s name is what? ” the witness replies with a short answer, which is also a statement “Snot. ”
A reason why the witness is replying in short answers may be because that he is refusing to give away too much evidence and go to court when the detective says “…even after the rollers and the ambo got here… you were still here waiting ‘cause you got something to tell me, right? In this quote the detective also uses idiolect ‘rollers’ for ‘Police vehicles’ and ‘ambo’ for ‘ambulance’, the witness replies with a shock “I ain’t going no court. ” The witness uses a variety of dialect, he may use dialect because he uses it in his everyday vocabulary or because he was bought up with it or he is less intelligence, he uses word such as ‘naw’ which stands for ‘no’.
But his dialect may change completely when he explains ‘shoot crap’ which may mean rolling dice or a game, the detective had to change his vocabulary to suit the witness to show solidarity, it may also make them seem more friendly and understandable to the person listening; as the detective is more intellectual than the witness. The effects of the listener, which is the witness, may show that he didn’t understand the detective’s questions, especially when the policeman asked ‘So your boy’s name is what? this shows that the policeman is in charge to show that he has a position of authority by starting the conversation.
Another quote that the detective says “You call this guy Snot? ” makes him sound confused and wants to find more information, as by doing so, he continues to ask questions, such as “He like the name? ” these quotes shows that the policeman is gradually using dialect to make the listener understand by doing so, he is changing his vocabulary to suit the listener.
One key difference between the two characters in transcript one is the level of formality of spoken language used. In the street setting, the witness uses ellipses, such as when he says ‘play it out until the pot’s deep. ’ This highlights informality of language as he does not use full sentences. He says `pot’s deep’, which is a reference to when all the money is there, this also shows that the use of dialect specific to the poorer areas of Baltimore are prominent here.
The witness uses street jargon ‘…we roll bones’- this shows they are from a different social class by using street jargon or dialect, as ‘roll bones’ meaning ‘rolling dice’. The detective starts off the conversation and speaks in a more formal standard form of English to start off the conversation, ’So your boy’s name is what? ’- The detective starts off formally because he is taking control and he is also showing it by starting off the conversation, this shows that he is more intellectual.
The detective also uses idiolect, by doing so he uses a variety of language used by one person, such as ‘…your boys would shoot crap’- This show that the policeman is using idiolect as a reason why he rephrases ‘rolling dice’, as another reason why: the witness explains ‘rolling dice’ as ‘roll bones’ and ‘few shooters’ the detective doesn’t fully understand the use of the witnesses idiolect, as the detective doesn’t understand he then uses his own idiolect to make himself understand what the witness had explained.
The effects of the audience- which is the detective, is that he speaks more formally at first when he is starting the conversation, at first he seems more intellectual by asking questions, at the same time , taking control ‘So your boy’s name s what? ’- This shows that the detective is taking control. This is also effective because he is only using standard English, but the witness doesn’t understand, by showing this the witness says ‘Huh? to show that the witness seems less intellectual and answers the detectives questions with short answers or grunts- to then make the detective to eventually use dialect and abbreviations, to make sure that the witness understands, by doing so, the witness starts to understand and answer in longer sentences- for example ‘Naw, man.
We catch him kick his ass. But ain’t nobody going past that to shoot the nigger. In the second transcript, the purpose of it is that the language in a courtroom is different as the street scene, the language in a courtroom is more formal because people in the courtroom have higher standard and higher class, by saying ‘Your Honor’ it shows a more formal and politeness. The juror, Hansen, is the one who is interrogating the witness by asking her questions- the comparison to the first transcript; they start off conversations by asking questions and in formal language.
In the courtroom scene, it is apparent that the judge uses pragmatics; which is a demand ‘Call your next witness,’ the judge is being demanding because he is in a higher class than the juror and the witnesses, so he is demanding to the people in the lower class, instead of asking, this shows that the judge has more intellect than the people lower than himself. This highlights in formality of language used in a courtroom as they are demanding and questioning the witnesses…
Courtney from Study Moose
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