Sociolinguistic Variation of the English Language
1. Sociolinguistic Variation of the English LanguageLecture № 1
2. Contents1.1. Sociolinguistics: its aim, object and ties with other humanities
1.2. Types of sociolinguistics
1.3. Language variation
1.4. Aspects of language competence
1.5. Methods employed by sociolinguistics
3. 1.1. Sociolinguistics: its aim, object and ties with other humanitiesMiriam Meyerhoff
As it is written by Miriam
Meyerhoff in the introduction to
“If I had a penny for every time I
have tried to answer the
question, ‘So what is
sociolinguistics?’, I would be
writing this book in the comfort
of an early retirement. And if
there was a way of defining it in
one simple, yet comprehensive,
sentence, there might not be a
need for weighty introductory
4. 1.1. Sociolinguistics: its aim, object and ties with other humanitiesSociolinguistics is a branch
of linguistics studying the
language in connection with
the social conditions of its
5. 1.1. Sociolinguistics: its aim, object and ties with other humanitiesThese conditions are a complex of
exterior (to the language)
circumstances in which the language is
actually functioning and developing:
community of people using the
language, the social structure of this
community, differences between its
speakers in the age, status, cultural and
education level, place of residence as
well as the differences in their speech
behaviour depending on the conditions
of the communication.
6. 1.1. Sociolinguistics: its aim, object and ties with other humanitiesThe term “Sociolinguistics” appears to have
been first used in 1952 by Haver Currie, a poet
and philosopher who noted the general absence
of any consideration of the social in the linguistic
research of his day
7. 1.1. Sociolinguistics: its aim, object and ties with other humanitiesWilliam Labov, a prominent American
sociolinguist, “the father” of
sociolinguistic experiment, defines
sociolinguistics as a humanity that
studies “the language in its social
This means that the attention of
sociolinguistics is centered neither on
the language itself, nor on its inner
structure, but on the way it is used by
people belonging to this or that society.
8. Aims of sociolinguistics1
to study how the language is
influenced by the changes
happening in the society where
this language exists
to study how the language is
used by people
of this or that society
9. 1.1. Sociolinguistics: its aim, object and ties with other humanitiesThere are many interconnections between
sociolinguistics and other disciplines
Scholars from a variety of
other disciplines have an
interest here, e.g.,
educators, and language
10. 1.2. Types of sociolinguisticsMicro
(referred to by some scholars
as sociolinguistics proper)
studies language processes
in small social groups
According to Florian Coulmas, it
investigates how social structure
influences the way people talk and how
language varieties and patterns of use
correlate with social attributes such as
class, sex, and age.
(or sociology of language)
studies processes in big
– states, regions etc.
William Labov has described it
as follows: it deals with
large-scale social factors,
and their mutual interaction
with languages and dialects.
11. 1.2. Types of sociolinguisticsSynchronic sociolinguistics studies relations between language and
social institutes as they are at a given period.
Diachronic sociolinguistics studies the development of the language
as inseparably linked to social development.
Theoretical sociolinguistics studies basic problems and laws
concerning the relationship between language and society.
Experimental sociolinguistics obtains empirical data proving
Applied sociolinguistics solves practical problems of language
teaching and acquisition, language policy.
12. 1.3. Language variationLanguage variation presupposes that we
have at our disposal a range of means
allowing to speak about the same things in
a variety of ways. Two important points
have to be made in this respect: that
variation can occur at different levels of
language system and that it can be
determined by different factors.
13. 1.3. Language variationA variable
principally an abstract representation of the
source of variation. Realised by two or more
the actual realisation of a variable. Analogous to the
phonetic realisations of a phoneme.
is a relatively neutral term used to refer
to languages and dialects.
14. 1.3. Language variationThe study of language in use with a focus
on describing and explaining the
distribution of variables is called
variationist sociolinguistics. It is an
approach strongly associated with
quantitative methods in the tradition
established by William Labov.
15. 1.3.1. Variation on different levels of language systemArea
16. 1.3.1. Variation on different levels of language systemMorphological variation
There is a remarkable diversity in the use of the verb to be in English dialects,
especially in its negative forms. Among the interesting features are: the use of is/’s
in the North; ain't is widespread in the East Midlands and South- East, with variant
forms (en’t, yun’t) further west; and forms based on be dominate in the South-West.
For comparison, the range of forms recorded in other persons is given below (minor
variants in parentheses):
I am: am, are, be, bin, is
you are (sing.):you are, ye are, thou are, thou art, thee art, thou is, you be, you bin,
thee bist, (thee be, thoubist, you am)
she is: is, be, bin, (am, bist)
we are: are,am, be,bin, (aren)
they are: are,am, is, be, bin, (aren, at, bist)
she isn’t: isn’t, ‘snot, isno’, ain’t, en’t, yun’t, idn’, inno, bain’t, ben’t (idn’t, binno’,
byent, ’s none, yen’t)
they aren’t: aren’t, ’re not, ain’t, en’t, yun’t, anno’, bain’t, baan’t, ben’t, byen’t,
byun’t, binno’, (amno’, inno’, in’t, isn’t, ’mnot, ’re none).
17. 1.3.1. Variation on different levels of language systemSYNTACTIC VARIATION
The word order give me it is usual in the North, most
of the East, and in a narrow band across the South
Midlands; give it me dominates in the lower NorthWest, West Midlands. and South-East, with the
prepositional form, give it to me, the norm in the
South-West, and also occurring in enclaves around
the Thames estuary and in East Anglia. The
pronounless form give me is recorded once, in Surrey.
This is doubtless one of the forms which would be
much more widely represented in an urban dialect
18. 1.3.1. Variation on different levels of language systemLEXICAL VARIATION
There are nine chief variants noted for threshold, for
example, and a further 35 alternatives. In the case of
headache, there is a fairly clear picture. The standard
form is used throughout most of the country, but in
the North and parts of East Anglia there is a
competing regional form, skullache. The variant form
head-wark is found in the far North, with a further
variant, headwarch, mainly in Southern Lancashire.
Northumberland opts for the more prosaic sore head,
with bad head used in adjacent localities to the south.
19. 1.3.2. Types of variation : temporalLong term: English has changed
throughout the centuries, as can be seen
from such clearly distinguishable
linguistic periods as Old English, Middle
English, and Elizabethan English.
Language change is an inevitable and
continuing process, whose study is
chiefly carried on by philologists and
20. 1.3.2. Types of variation: temporalShort term: English changes within the
history of a single person. This is most
noticeable while children are acquiring their
mother tongue, but it is also seen when people
learn a foreign language, develop their style as
adult speakers or writers. and, sometimes, find
that their linguistic abilities are lost or
seriously impaired through injury or disease.
Psycholinguists study language learning and
loss, as do several other professionals, notably
speech therapists and language teachers.
21. 184.108.40.206. Regional variationIntranational regional varieties have
been observed within English from its
earliest days, as seen in such labels as
‘Northern’, ‘London’ and ‘Scottish”.
International varieties are more recent
in origin, as seen in such labels as
‘American”, ‘Australian’ and ‘Indian’.
22. 220.127.116.11. Regional variationA variety of language peculiar to some
district and having no normalized literary
form is known as dialect. However, in
cases when a regional variety is
characterized by statehood and possesses
a literary form (usually codified in
grammars and dictionaries) the term
variant is preferred.
23. 18.104.22.168. Regional variationThe term dialect is also to be
differentiated from the term accent. A
regional accent refers to features of
pronunciation which convey
information about a person’s
geographical origin, e.g. bath [baө]
as opposed to [ba:ө]; hold [həuld]
24. 22.214.171.124. Regional variationA regional dialect refers to features of grammar and
vocabulary which convey information about a
perons’s geographical origin. Compare, for instance,
They real good and They are really good; Is it ready
you are? and Are you ready?
Speakers who have a distinctive regional dialect will
have a distinctive regional accent but the reverse does
not necessarily follow. It is possible to have a
regional accent yet speak a dialect which conveys
nothing about geographical origin.
25. 126.96.36.199. Social variationTheir use of language is affected by their sex,
age, ethnic group, and educational background.
English is being increasingly affected by all
these factors, because its developing role as a
world language is bringing it more and more
Into contact with new cultures and social
26. 188.8.131.52. Interspeaker variation and intraspeaker variationinterspeaker variation, i.e. that is
variation between individual speakers
The same words strut, price, night, tide
will be realized in two phonetic variants:
as [strΛt] [prais] [nait] [taid] in London
and as [strut] [preis] [neit] [teid] in the
27. 184.108.40.206. Interspeaker variation and intraspeaker variationthe intraspeaker variation, i.e.
variation within individual speakers.
The following situation can be an example of intraspeaker variation when
the same person will sometimes use one variant and sometimes the other
variant or even alternate in different sentences. A woman on Bequia (the
largest island in the Grenadines the native population being primarily a
mixture of people of African, Scottish and Carib Indian descent) was heard
calling to her grandson at dusk one evening. The exchange went like this:
Jed! Come here! [heə]
(silence from Jed)
Jed!! Come here!! [hiər]
28. variation according to use and variation according to userUser-related varieties
User-related varieties are associated with
particular people and often places such as
Black English (English spoken by blacks,
especially by African-Americans in the US)
and Canadian English (English used in
Canada: either all such English or only the
29. variation according to use and variation according to userUser-related varieties
When purely geographical aspect of variation is taken
into account the term dialect (for definition view
above) is applied. But when the social factor is
determining the term social dialect or sociolect is
employed. Social dialect embraces a number of
linguistic peculiarities typical of some social group –
professional, age, gender group or other. The term is a
blend (socio-+ dialect) that first appeared in the
1970s. The speakers of a sociolect usually share a
similar socioeconomic and / or educational
30. variation according to use and variation according to userUse-related varieties
Use-related varieties are associated with
function, such as legal English (the language
of courts, contracts, etc.) and literary English
(the typical usage of literary texts,
conversations, etc.). A variety of a language
used for a particular purpose or in a particular
social setting is called register.
31. variation according to use and variation according to userUse-related varieties
For example, an English speaker may 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 the
word ain’t when speaking in a formal setting, but
the same person could violate all of these
prescriptions in an informal setting.
32. 220.127.116.11. Personal variationCode and code-switching
Code (language code) – languages, dialects, jargons
and stylistic varieties of the same language regarded
as a means of communication. All these – separate
languages or varieties of one language – in
sociolinguistics sometimes receive the name of
language formations. The sum total of codes and
subcodes used in a given language community that
complement each other functionally is called socialcommunicative system.
33. 18.104.22.168. Personal variationCode and code-switching
Depending on the sphere of communication
the speaker switches from one language means
(one code) to another. This alteration between
varieties, or codes which takes place in
individual utterances, or even across sentences
or clause boundaries is called code-switching.
This phenomenon is identified as the reason of
for intraspeaker variation.
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