Linguistics and Language

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Linguistics and Language

The term dialect (from the ancient Greek word ????????? dialektos, “discourse”, from ??? dia, “through” + ???? lego, “I speak”) is used in two distinct ways, even by linguists. One usage refers to a variety of a language that is a characteristic of a particular group of the language’s speakers. The term is applied most often to regional speech patterns, but a dialect may also be defined by other factors, such as social class.

[2] A dialect that is associated with a particular social class can be termed a sociolect, a dialect that is associated with a particular ethnic group can be termed as ethnolect, and a regional dialect may be termed a regiolect or topolect. The other usage refers to a language that is socially subordinate to a regional or national standard language, often historically cognate to the standard, but not a variety of it or in any other sense derived from it. Dialect: This is a complex and often misunderstood concept.

For linguists, a dialect is the collection of attributes (phonetic, phonological, syntactic, morphological, and semantic) that make one group of speakers noticeably different from another group of speakers of the same language. COMMON SOURCES OF MISUNDERSTANDING: 1) DIALECT is NOT a negative term for linguists. . Often times, for example, we hear people refer to non-standard varieties of English as “dialects”, usually to say something bad about the non-standard variety (and thus about the people who speak it). This happened quite a bit during last year’s ebonics controversy.

But, the term dialect refers to ANY variety of a language. Thus, by definition, we all speak a dialect of our native language. 2) DIALECT is NOT synonymous with accent. Accent is only a part of dialectal variation. Non-linguists often think accents define a dialect (or that accents alone identify people as non-native or foreign language speakers). Also, non-linguists tend to think that it’s always the “other” people that have “an accent”. So, what is “accent”? 3) ACCENT:

This term refers to phonological variation, i. e.variation in pronunciation Thus, if we talk about a Southern Accent; we’re talking about a generalized property of English pronunciation in the Southern part of the US. But, Southern dialects have more than particular phonological properties. Accent is thus about pronunciation, while dialect is a broader term encompassing syntactic, morphological, and semantic properties as well. A final note on accent. WE ALL HAVE ONE! There is no such thing as a person who speaks without an accent. This is not an exercise in political correctness, by the way. It is a fact.

In sum, a dialect is a particular variety of a language, and we all have a dialect. Accent refers to the phonology of a given dialect. Since we all have a dialect, we all have an accent. Idiolect: Another term that we must be familiar with is idiolect. “What’s an idiolect? ” you ask, on the edge of your seat. An idiolect is simply the technical term we use to refer to the variety of language spoken by each individual speaker of the language. Just as there is variation among groups of speakers of a language, there is variation from speaker to speaker. No two speakers of a language speak identically.

Each speaks her or his own particular variety of that language. Each thus speaks her or his own idiolect. Role of Dialect: Language says a lot about our identity. Americans, Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans all speak differently. When we meet somebody from a different part of the country, they may use different words, sounds or grammatical structures. A dialect is a variety of language that is characteristic of a certain area. For instance, in the Northern Cape, people refer to older people as grootmense and paper as pampier whereas in Pretoria they are called oumense and papier.

If you hear colored people from Cape Town speaking Afrikaans, they sound different to Afrikaans spoken elsewhere. People from Natal speak English in different ways to people from Johannesburg etc. So often, the way we speak says a lot about where we are from, who we are and what we care about. So studying dialects is one way of validating people’s identities and ways of life. Characteristics of Dialect: There are ten characteristics of dialect. 1. Dialect can be identified by variation of grammar. 2. Dialect can be identified by variation of vocabulary. 3.

Dialect can be identified by variation of prosody. 4. Dialect can be identified by variation of sentence structure. 5. Dialect can be identified by variation of figures of speech. 6. Variance of parent language by social class of speakers. 7. Variance of parent language by region inhabited by speakers. 8. Likely will not have its own written literature. 9. Likely speakers will not have state or nation of their own. 10. Likely region-specific for speakers. Difference between Dialect and Register: To describe differences we have to first understand these two terms separately. What is Dialect?

A regional or social variety of a language distinguished by pronunciation, grammar, or vocabulary, especially a variety of speech differing from the standard literary language or speech pattern of the culture in which it exists: Cockney is a dialect of English. What is Register? In linguistics, a register is a variety of a language used for a particular purpose or in a particular social setting.

For example, when speaking in a formal setting, an English speaker may be more likely to adhere more closely to prescribed grammar, pronounce words ending in -ing with a velar nasal instead of an alveolar nasal (e.g. “walking”, not “walkin'”), choose more formal words (e. g. father vs. dad, child vs. kid, etc. ), and refrain from using contractions such as ain’t, than when speaking in an informal setting.

Now it is time to differentiate both terms. A dialect is a variety of language used by different speech communities, whereas register is a variety of language associated with people’s occupation. Register is to do with variation in language use connected with topic matter. “One’s dialect shows who (or what) he/she is, while one’s register shows what he/she is doing”.

Dialect is a special form of speaking belonging to a group. Register is a linguistic term used to describe changing how one talks based on the situation. 1. Dialect: a local variety of a language*, usually understood by speakers of other dialects of the same language, often without a standardized grammar or spelling, used mostly for non-formal purposes in a local community or among people coming from the same community but living in another community than that they came from. There is often no consensus if such a local language variety is a dialect or a language.

The choice is usually taken on the basis of political or conventional criteria and never on linguistic ones. 2. A speech register: a way of speaking or writing including vocabulary, syntax and pronunciation (or spelling) chosen by individuals to express themselves depending on the circumstances they speak: high register (formal occasions like parliamentary speech, official documents, celebrations), low register (informal occasions, conversations among family or friends’ group). There are also many in-between registers and specialized occasions like religious services, sport events, and so on.

An individual may choose his dialect as a speech register for informal occasions, and a standardized language of a larger social unit on formal occasions (often called diglossia). Register: In linguistics, one of many styles or varieties of language determined by such factors as social occasion, purpose, and audience, also called stylistic variation. More generally, register is used to indicate degrees of formality in language use. The different registers or language styles that we use are sometimes called codes.

According to a linguist Robert MacNeil (1989) the example of Register is; “It fascinates me how differently we all speak in different circumstances. We have levels of formality, as in our clothing. There are very formal occasions, often requiring written English: the job application or the letter to the editor–the dark-suit, serious-tie language, with everything pressed and the lint brushed off. There is our less formal out-in-the-world language–a more comfortable suit, but still respectable. There is language for close friends in the evenings, on weekends–blue-jeans-and-sweat-shirt language, when it’s good to get the tie off.

There is family language, even more relaxed, full of grammatical short cuts, family slang, echoes of old jokes that have become intimate shorthand–the language of pajamas and uncombed hair. Finally, there is the language with no clothes on; the talk of couples–murmurs, sighs, grunts–language at its least self-conscious, open, vulnerable, and primitive. ” Role of Register: Its chief importance is social. It signals the kind of interaction the speaker wants, or acceptance/no acceptance of the kind of interaction expected in any situation. For instance, level of formality is a major aspect of English register.

Highly formal register can signal authority, disapproval, unfriendliness. Informal register can signal various things: genuine friendliness; a fake attempt to come across as friendly; or even deliberate disrespect if the other speaker expects formal register. Choice of register can also signal social class, in areas where this is still an issue. Higher classes tend to use a more formal register in ordinary conversation. Understanding the difference between register and grammar is important, as many speakers confuse the two: particularly in thinking that only formal register is correct grammar.

This can lead to major errors of register: for instance, the highly formal “It is I” is only correct in the most formal register, and using it under any other circumstances will make a speaker sound a pompous idiot to most speakers. Characteristics/ Features of Register: 1) Language Styles “Every native speaker is normally in command of several different language styles, sometimes called registers, which are varied according to the topic under discussion, the formality of the occasion, and the medium used (speech, writing, or sign).

“Adapting language to suit the topic is a fairly straightforward matter. Many activities have a specialized vocabulary. If you are playing a ball game, you need to know that ‘zero’ is a duck in cricket, love in tennis, and nil in soccer. If you have a drink with friends in a pub, you need to know greetings such as: Cheers! Here’s to your good health! “Other types of variation are less clear-cut. The same person might utter any of the following three sentences, depending on the circumstances: I should be grateful if you would make less noise. Please be quiet. Shut up!

Here the utterances range from a high or formal style, down to a low or informal one–and the choice of a high or low style is partly a matter of politeness. ” (Jean Aitcheson, Teach You Linguistics. Hodder, 2003) 2) Participants in an Exchange “Like variation in our manner of dress, stylistic variations in language cannot be judged as appropriate or not without reference to the participants in the interchange (i. e. , speaker and listener or reader and writer). For example, you would not speak to a 5-year-old child, an intimate friend, and a professor using the same style of speech.

Using the term eleemosynary ‘charitable’ would probably be inappropriate for the child and the friend, while using number one ‘urinate’ would probably be inappropriate for the friend and the professor. ” (Frank Parker and Kathryn Riley, Linguistics for Non-Linguists, 3rd ed. Ellyn & Bacon, 1999) 3) Register Features “Register features are core lexical and grammatical characteristics found to some extent in almost all texts and registers. . . . “Any linguistic feature having a functional or conventional association can be distributed in a way that distinguishes among registers.

Such features come from many linguistic classes, including: phonological features (pauses, intonation patterns), tense and aspect markers, pronouns and pro-verbs, questions, nominal forms (nouns, nominalizations, gerunds), passive constructions, dependent clauses (complement clauses, relative clauses, adverbial subordination), prepositional phrases, adjectives, adverbs, measures of lexical specificity (once-occurring words, type-token ratio), lexical classes (hedges, emphatics, discourse particles, stance markers), modals, specialized verb classes (speech act verbs, mental process verbs), reduced forms (contractions, that-deletions), co-ordination, negation, and grammatical devices for structuring information (clefts, extra position). “

A comprehensive linguistic analysis of a register requires consideration of a representative selection of linguistic features. Analyses of these register features are necessarily quantitative, because the associated register distinctions are based on differences in the relative distribution of linguistic features. ” (Douglas Biber Dimensions of Register Variation: A Cross-Linguistic Comparison. Cambridge University Press, 1995) Sociolinguistics:

(Wikipedia) “Sociolinguistics is the descriptive study of the effect of any and all aspects of society, including cultural norms, expectations, and context, on the way language is used, and the effects of language use on society. Sociolinguistics differs from sociology of language in that the focus of sociolinguistics is the effect of the society on the language, while the sociology of language focuses on language’s effect on the society. Sociolinguistics overlaps to a considerable degree with pragmatics. It is historically closely related to linguistic anthropology and the distinction between the two fields has even been questioned recently.

It also studies how language varieties differ between groups separated by certain social variables, e. g. , ethnicity, religion, status, gender, level of education, age, etc. , and how creation and adherence to these rules is used to categorize individuals in social or socioeconomic classes. As the usage of a language varies from place to place; language usage also varies among social classes, and it is these sociolect that sociolinguistics studies. ” Sociolinguistics is the study of how language serves and is shaped by the social nature of human beings. In its broadest conception, sociolinguistics analyzes the many and diverse ways in which language and society entwine.

This vast field of inquiry requires and combines insights from a number of disciplines, including linguistics, sociology, psychology and anthropology. Sociolinguistics examines the interplay of language and society, with language as the starting point. Variation is the key concept, applied to language itself and to its use. The basic premise of sociolinguistics is that language is variable and changing. As a result, language is not homogeneous — not for the individual user and not within or among groups of speakers who use the same language. By studying written records, sociolinguists also examine how language and society have interacted in the past.

For example, they have tabulated the frequency of the singular pronoun thou and its replacement you in dated hand-written or printed documents and correlated changes in frequency with changes in class structure in 16th and 17th century England. This is historical sociolinguistics: the study of relationship between changes in society and changes in language over a period of time.

Branches of sociolinguistics: Sociolinguistics can be defined broadly or narrowly – Broad: branch of linguistics studying those properties of language which require reference to social, including contextual, factors in their explanation Narrow: seeks to explain patterned co-variation of language and society; seeks rules to account for that variation. Some traditions of sociolinguistic investigation:

1) Linguistic variation: (sociolinguistics proper): focuses on the linguistic variable that correlates with social differences. Unit of study is language itself considered a part of linguistics.

2) Ethnography of speaking: emphasis on various aspects of context that are involved in differing interpretations of language use. Unit of analysis is not language itself but rather the users of language: the speech community generally considered part of sociology or anthropology. 3) Language planning (also applied sociolinguistics, sociology of language): emphasis on practical aspects of this study. Much about language contact issues and language use in education.


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