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Context: The speaker it talking about other musician Lilly Allen’s anti-file-sharing campaign. Analysis: The speaker uses the word ‘innit’ which is a reduced form of Standard English ‘isn’t it’ but more widely used. It is used in this case as a general purpose tag meaning ‘is that not the case?’. The tendency to add a tag question is very common among Estuary speakers at the Cockney end of the spectrum. Short and snappy tags are particularly popular, just like ‘innit?’, ‘right?’, ‘do I?’. Tag questions do not expect an answer. They are only used to increase a dramatic effect or to check that the person being addressed is actually listening. In this case speaker is trying to increase a dramatic effect of his annoyance with the issue.
“I am gutted to be injured.”
Speaker: Footballer Wayne Rooney
Audience: Readers of Daily Mirror
Date: Collected at 23/10/2010
Context: He is talking about that he will not be able to assist United on the pitch because he will spend the next three weeks recovering from an ankle injury.
Word ‘gutted’ is a informal (slang) term commonly used all over the country by many speakers. It is also very widely used by footballers after a disappointment like in this case when speaker tells the audience that he is upset about his injury.
As Online Slang Dictionary gives the definition as:
1. Upset, disappointed. British slang. (Adjective)
Word ‘gutted’ was added to the OED in its 1993 edition, with quotations going back only to 1984 (but, of course, it could be much older in speech). Their senses for it are: ‘bitterly disappointed; devastated, shattered; utterly fed up’. Speaker is using this word to express his disappointment.
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“Why, it’s what I’m obliged to keep a little of in the house to put into the blessed infants’ Daffy, when they ain’t well, Mr. Bumble,” replied Mrs. Mann as she opened a corner cupboard, and took down a bottle and glass.”
Speaker: Mrs. Mann, one of the characters of Charles Dickinson’s novel ‘Oliver Twist’.
Audience: Novel readers
Date: Collected at 10/11/2010
Context: The speaker, Mrs. Mann is a woman who runs the orphanage where Oliver grows up and she is talking with other character Mr. Brumble about orphan children.
Analysis: The character use word ‘ain’t’ which is a colloquialism and contraction for “am not”, “is not”, “are not”, “has not”, and “have not”. Charles Dickens used ‘ain’t’ form in the speech of many working- or middle-class characters in his works as a Cockney dialect. It is typically associated with working class citizens of London, who were called cockneys which as a word come from a Middle English ‘cokenei’, which means “city dweller.”This kind of dialect has many primary characteristics and one of them is using ‘ain’t’. Many of the traits of cockney speech suggest the lower classes to some observers and not perfect understanding of the English language.
“I don’t want no drink”
Date: Collected at 17/11/2010
Context: Spoken by my friend when I have offered to buy him a drink.
Analysis: Speaker uses double negative which is use of more than one negative to make a negative statement. In Old English, the more negative particles thrown in the stronger the negative and I think this is what speaker was trying to achieve. Emphatic double negative has a long history in English. Although today it is used in informal language to intensify a negative meaning, it’s considered unacceptable in Standard English language. It is because of the construction of standard language. When we use double negatives they are canceling each other out, leaving a positive meaning, rather than intensifying a negative.
“He’s my mate.”
Date: Collected at 10/11/2010
Context: Conversation between me and my friend on Facebook about his close friend.
Analysis: Speaker used the word ‘mate’. It is a non-standard from and in Standard English we would use ‘friend’. Word ‘mate’ is tend to use by Estuary English speakers. In this case speaker is using this form with intention to create a bond of solidarity with the person being addressed. ‘Mate’ is a social class word and tends to be dropped by Estuary speakers as they progress up the social scale.
“Still, You gotta admit”
Speaker: One of the characters in teenager’s comic book “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”.
Date: Collected at 10/11/2010
Context: Dialog between two characters in comic book.
Context: This word is used as a short for ‘got to’. It is form of non-standard English and is we change it to standard form it will say ‘You got to admit’. This form is used because teenagers are the audience, and it is mainly used by them as a ‘slang’ word. So by using this form the author makes a piece easy to read and understand for young audience.
“C U later”.
Speaker: My friend
Date: Collected at 15/11/2010
Context: Text message received from my friend.
Analysis: This message is written in nonstandard English. SMS language does not always obey or follow standard grammar. In Standard English this sentence should say “I will see you later”. SMS language is a term for the abbreviations and slang most commonly used due to the necessary brevity of mobile phone messaging. It can be likened to a rebus, which uses pictures and single letters or numbers to represent whole words. For words which have no common abbreviation, users most commonly remove the vowels from a word, and the reader is required to interpret a string of consonants by re-adding the vowels. This type of language is used because it saves more time in communicating between each other.
“To move is to stir; and to be valiant is to stand:
therefore, if thou art moved, thou runn’st away.”
Speaker: Gregory, on of the characters of William Shakespeare play ‘Romeo and Juliet’.
Date: Collected at 18/11/2010
Context: Dialog between two characters in a play.
Analysis: Shakespeare uses word ‘thou’. The word ‘thou’ (in most dialects) is a second person singular pronoun in English. It is now largely archaic and it’s been replaced in almost all contexts by ‘you’. It is now used today as a Standard English language but it is still used in parts of Northern England, some Scots dialects, and a handful of US towns.
“The internet is often held up as the main reason for declining newspaper sales and dwindling revenues”.
Speaker: University of Oxford on University website.
Audience: Readers of the website
Date: Collected at 15/11/2010
Context: Article about “The future of the international news industry”.
Analysis: It is Standard English Language. It is used because it is spoken by University of Oxford which use high level of spoken language and use correct grammar.
“Every time you open your mouth to speak, there are infinite possibilities in terms of the words which you might choose and their potential combinations”.
Speaker: Teachers notes
Date: Received month ago
Context: Notes about language
Analysis: Teacher used Standard Language because of the importance of notes, document for students which should be written in this form of language.
There is a big argument about if strong accents and dialects are dying out. It is important first to explain meaning of those two terms which are used very often interchangeable but in linguistic terms they refer to different aspects of language variation. ‘Accent’ as a term is reserved for whole patterns of pronunciation typical of a particular region or social group. The term ‘dialect’ covers more differences including pronunciation and distinctions in vocabulary and sentence structure. Based on many surveys, researchers declare that it’s a big misunderstanding that regional dialects and accents in English Language are disappearing. They try to prove that all languages are constantly changing and some words will disappear from common use only to be replaced by other. Those changes might be a result of political or social pressures, such immigration, colonisation or invasion. Language changes the most by people influencing each other. Through interactions with speakers of different age, gender and ethnicity, social and educational background and from different geographical places we encounter and integrate in our own speech new words, pronunciations and expressions. Work of Lesley Milroy shows how open social networks are important factors in language change. I her famous study in Belfast she investigated three poor working -class communities with a high incidence of unemployment: Ballymacarrell, Hammer and Clonard and she were introduced to them as ‘a friend of a friend’. She was able to maintain contact with these groups over a period of time during which she was able to investigate the connection between the integration of individuals in the community and the way they speak. She incorporated into her analysis a description of two types of social networks to which her speakers belonged: open in which the number of community ties in the network is low (not everyone knows everyone else) and closed in which each member of the network has several ties with other members of network. Result of her study showed the importance of closed networks for dialect maintenance. Those networks tend to be conservative force on change in language in the community. They enable people to maintain non-standard dialects, rural or urban, despite pressure from standard language through education or media. Because people are tend to be more socially and geographically mobile these days we are more possible to live in opened networks and those present more favorable conditions for language change as such networks lack a linguistic norm of their own.
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There is another increasing evidence that Standard English dialects are coming under pressure by Estuary English, regional varieties spoken in and around London and as the originator of the term ,David Rosewarne, described it :’a mixture of non-regional and local south-easter English pronunciation and intonation’ (Rosewarne,1994: 3).The broadcast media are playing the biggest role in these changes. Sociolinguists (Stuart-Smith et al., 2006) have observed that young working-class adolescents in Glasgow, who had no direct contact with Southern English but are keen viewers of network soap operas such as Eastenders, are capable of reproducing ‘Media Cockney’ forms in spontaneous interaction with each other. This shows how broadcast media are opening up a repertoire of different speaking styles (including accents) especially for younger speakers and how they influence them.
Through many years, some English dialects have been treated more positively than others. People always have been making assumptions based on the way how we speak by judging some dialects or accents as being too posh, aggressive, unfriendly, harsh, ‘unintelligent’ or ‘common’. For example speakers of prestige accent, known as Received Pronunciation (RP) are rated more highly than regionally accented speakers in terms of general competence (e.g. ‘ambition’, ‘intelligence’, ‘self-confidence’, ‘determination’ and ‘industriousness’. This accent was spoken by merchant classes of London in the fourteen century and was familiar to students attending the universities of Oxford and Cambridge in the Middle Ages and today it is a preferred pronunciation for reading BBC news bulletins and for teaching English as a second language. This is how use of RP by members of middle and upper classes was a sign of prestige and status when more regionally marked accents were treated opposite. In conclusion : the ‘higher’ up the social scale, the more likely is to find the single accent-RP, the ‘lower’ down the social scale, the more likely is to find regional variation. This is how Birmingham accent is often disliked in terms of its ‘nasal whine’, because of its association with a large industrial conurbation. Much more positive reaction will be registered for the Southern Irish accent which will be praised for sounding ‘soft’ and ‘warm’. Same as other accents with similar ethnic rural associations such as Welsh, Scottish and West Country accents will evoke positive judgments.
Many people suffer because of this irrational prejudice. I’m polish and I speak with a different accent and most of the time people are making deductions from it about my person, my job, character and my status. But I believe that the fact that we judge some of the dialects and accents as more ‘posh’ or ‘intelligent’ than others is based more on social, rather than linguistic criteria. I think dialects and accents should be a source of pride and a reflection of cultural identity but in the same time I think that language change should not be perceived as a negative thing. Most of the contemporary linguistic commentators accept those changes in language like changes in society which are unavoidable. English language has always been changing and will continue to do so, but I think we need to think about this as a positive process, process occasionally regrettable but mostly the one which is renewing and refreshing English language making it flexible and very modern but still showing huge links to its past.
Use of standard and non-standard English may cause many difficulties in many educational situations. To explain this I would like to concentrate first on what standard and non-standard language is. Standard language is the type of language which is thought as a ‘correct’ in schools, using ‘correct’ grammar and avoiding slang words and expressions and mostly used in formal situations. This type of language is written in a ‘correct’ form of spelling and it is spoken in a ‘standard’ accent such as English Received Pronunciation. Non-standard language is mostly used in informal situations and it’s using grammars and words and accents which are special to a particular place. It often contains expressions which are regarded as ‘incorrect’ in standard language.
Children first identify themselves with language of their parents and they construct language system which accords well with those around them. As they increasingly interact with siblings and other relatives, they learn the language of interaction with peers or language of the neighborhood (the local dialect).In school they meet different form of language, Standard English. Therefore they start to learn that they have different identities which they share with their families, friends and community and that they have a linguistic loyalty to them. Children usually cope well with this mismatch: they learn there is a ‘school’ language and how to switch from that language to language they speak at home. This process is called code switching. But it also cause lots of difficulties and teachers are trying to help children to become more aware of the grammatical differences between the formal “Standard English” and the informal home language. These way children learn how to select appropriate language to use in the given context. As a part of a government pilot programme, banning British children from speaking patois in school, student at one of the schools at South London were taught that speaking non-standard language is only appropriate in certain circumstances and that they need to use Standard English. Inspectors found that children were using very often in their work local speech, colloquial phrases and Creole. Bill Cosby, one of the most famous American comedians was backing up this campaign. He was mainly concerned about constant use of street slang contributing to educational failure of black pupils, particularly boys from Afro-Caribbean backgrounds. This “playground patois” has become the only way of communication for some children very badly affecting their educational achievements. Emma Thompson, famous British actress also commented about the necessity of speaking two different types of English. Her comments were based on recent studies which have shown that half of teenenagers can’t see the difference between Standard English grammar and colloquial language. This is all happening because of use of social networking websites and the popularity of mobile phone text messaging which is undermining children’s literacy skills. Also TV programmes which use a great deal of slang are an issue. Some parents and teachers have complained in the past that children are picking up slang and catchphrases from watching TV programs, and the hearing poor English on television can affect the way kids write and speak. Even some of the MPs were worried about the use of slang and non-standard English on children shows. They were worried that children would pick up bad habits and they will start using some of the phrases like ‘ain’t’ and ‘you was’.
I think teachers should have a biggest impact on children in using the right form of language by showing children that all equivalent forms of language are correct when they are used appropriately. Instead of regarding that Standard English is correct in all cases and outlawing all dialect forms we need to explain to students that both, their Standard English and local dialects are good to use but in the different context for which they are appropriate. Secondly teachers should encourage students to use spoken Standard English in the classroom, not by correcting them but by giving them experience of speaking in many different kinds of public roles such as judges, newsreaders or interviewers. They could take part in oral presentations presented to several classes or even had a chance to ask questions some of the visitors to the school like of policemen or firemen.
Children should be able to see difference between standard language and colloquial language and should be able to know when to use it. I believe not being able to do so could hugely affect their future. Children who are only fluent in non-standard language are more likely to have problems in academic field. Those who only speak nonstandard form of English have often difficulty reading and writing with proficiency in Standard English. This leads to situation that children are uneducated and in a future they are less likely to advance their careers. Using ‘proper’ language overall leads to higher pay jobs, bigger social mobility and a great social success. It creates powerful impression when we speak Standard English. Other people see us as intelligent and well informed when we use ‘correct’ grammar and when we show high level of vocabulary. It opens up opportunities that are closed for those who use any form of non-standard language.
Class notes “Assorted information for Access English Language Level 3”
Coggle, P. (1993). Do you speak Estuary? Bloomsbury
Milroy, J. & Milroy, L. (1999). Authority in Language: Investigating Standard
English. 3rd edn. London and New York: Routledge.
Milroy, L. (1980). Language and social networks. 3rd edn. Oxford.
Milroy, L. (1987). Observing and Analysing Natural Language: A Critical Account
of Sociolinguistic Method. London: Basil Blackwell.
Montgomery, M. 1995. An introduction to language and society. 3rd edn. London.
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