Importance of Sociolinguistics

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23rd Sep 2019 Linguistics Reference this

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Sociolinguistics

Introduction

Language is the most dominant symbol of the behaviour which influences social factors. Language helps to communicate and deliver our point of views for a specific thing such as arguing over politics, talking about economic conditions of a country or giving suggestions for the improvement of the educational system (Linn, 2014). The fact is quite surprising that we often judge a person, his background, culture and cast by his or her language. It is not always about sharing or having an opinion about any topic or content, and it is relative of what we do on a regular basis and how we behave or interact with others.

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Sociolinguistics is the study of the relation between language and society. The objective of Sociolinguistics is to study the consequences of the language used on societies, in many theoretical perspectives, it has been observed that language and society are mutually constitutive, which means society and language both have an impact on each other and it is not possible to separate and understand the influences (Fishman, 2017). Sociolinguistics is an interdisciplinary subject that combines sociology and linguistics. It mainly studies the linguistic variation produced by various social factors and tries to study the influence of social factors on language and its results (Leeman and Serafini, 2016).

There are numerous factors which affect the way a language is spoken in a country or a city. These factors can be ethnic (racial or national), social (gender, age, class, education and economic class) and regional (geographical). The factors are interlinked with each other which means they have an impact on each other to some extent (Savignon, 2018).

The primary objective of the essay is to study the importance of sociolinguistics, give awareness that sociolinguistics can provide information on different languages and helps us to be more respectful for all other languages and people and to their dialects as well.

Language Variations

The notion of language variation is essential for both language and sociolinguistics. The English language does not vary on an individual or national level, but it can vary on a global level as well (Holmes and Hazen, 2014). It is now becoming the medium for international communication and is also making its worth in the world. English is used all over the world, like in teaching, science, sports, business and now the Internet is making countless innovations and efforts for people to understand and improve English so that they can communicate their ideas in an effective manner (Light and McNaughton, 2014). Moreover, the fact of English popularity and fame should not make this language superior to other languages, and everyone should respect every language.

Except for all these variations, there are some individual variations of a language which is known as Idiolects. We all have certain ways of speaking and communicating our point that demonstrates our identities. Linguistics choice gives us the opportunity to express who we are, our background and sometimes our educational level too (Biber and Conrad, 2014). It is a fact that our language changes with time as our social networking increases and we interact with many people. It varies from our different life experiences and exposures (Trudgill and Chambers, 2017).

Language variation is one of the critical contents of sociolinguistic research, and the study of meaning is the research centre of cognitive linguistics. “Various language variants” refers to a set of terms that express the same language function or achieve the same language factor, and each term has social and stylistic meanings. These meanings are closely related to extralinguistic factors, such as social status. , age, gender, occupation, ethnic groups, etc. Therefore, in a real speech community based on social structure, communicative competence must grasp the homogeneity of language and the variant of language based on cognitive ability, and the mastery of this knowledge is just as appropriate as a habit. It is a capability far beyond grammatical and linguistic structures, but a cultural and cognitive ability to master the homogeneity passed down from generation to generation due to the cultural and social reproduction process. Cognitive linguistics proposes that “knowledge” can be used to analyse the cognitive motivation of variation. Therefore, cognitive linguistics can promote sociolinguistics from the study of morphological changes in the surface to the more in-depth study of linguistic meaning, so that Linguistic society studies are more complete (Wolfram, 2017).

Since the core issue of cognitive linguistics is “meaning”, then we explore the enlightenment and contribution of “cognitive” cognitive research to sociolinguistics from this aspect. The most critical concern of cognitive linguists is how the internal variants of language affect the emergence of linguistic phenomena, meaning (Wieling and Nerbonne, 2015).

Variations of language can be classified into two variables: Linguistic variation and Sociolinguistic variation (Stubbs, 2014).

Linguistic variation is focused on social, contextual or regional differences in such a way that a particular language is used (Shin, 2016). The difference between languages, speakers and dialects is said to be interspeaker variation, whereas, the language spoken by a single speaker is known as the intraspeaker variation (Szymańska-Czaplak, 2015).

Sociolinguistics variation is a study of the way any language vary, the difference in communities of speakers and concerning on the social factors such as speaker’s age, gender, ethnicity and the level of interaction they have in their communities.

Dialect

A dialect is a variation of languages which is comprehensively differ from further kinds of the identical language. Dialects become a language when the speakers are unable to understand each other. However, the dialects of the single language are shared accessibly (Piller, 2016). Moreover, the demographics based on geographical regions are evaluated when dialects are considered as a language. Danish, Norwegian and Swedish are treated as a different language since they have unvarying differences in grammar, still Danes, Norwegians and Swedes can recognise, understand and learn one another. Urdu and Hindi are known to have a common characteristic in their languages while speaking, still writing patterns are not similar (Bolton and Kwok, 2014).

The term dialect specifies any variety of the language and their accent, and in the perception of sociolinguistics, all dialects are appropriate, correct, meaningful, logical and systematic. The common mistake made by speakers of any language is the point of non-standard and standard varieties of the language. The latter is known as Dialect, though the people who are speaking are regarded as a lower class or people with no standard because they cannot speak fluent Englis. In simple words, people understand and respect dialect when they go through the sociolinguistics. It is correct and accurate to believe that the standard variety is the “right” one. Every language has its dialects, and they make their identification. We all have our dialects and accent which makes us differ from other (Grabe and Kaplan, 2014).

Nevertheless, some people are unaware of their accent or dialect, but they still judge other people if they speak some word in a different accent or not same as they do. Many people speak non-standard dialect are judged as an uneducated, having speed pathology or not knowing the English language which can get them into biases or discrimination in educational or professional settings and sometimes this can cause personal strategies too (Lawson and Sayers, 2016). These types of misperceptions are the reason for focusing on and emphasising on the importance of sociolinguistics.

Sociolinguistics Competence

Sociolinguistics Competence allows speakers to make a clear and appropriate difference between the possibilities. For example, lexical variants like ‘sir’, ‘excuse me’ or ‘hey’. Using ‘hey’ for elderly people is quite considered as inappropriate attitude or using ‘sir’ for an 11-year boy can be unsuitable (Drummond and Schleef, 2016).

The theory of sociolinguistics points out that if multiple variants of two or more languages are used simultaneously in a language community, this phenomenon should be called “diglossia”. There are also “High-Variety” and “Low-Variety” in this linguistic phenomenon. The advanced variants themselves are suitable for formal occasions are used as official languages of the country, for example in the fields of diplomacy, literature and education. The everyday colloquial words which we use for daily communication be classified as “low-level variants”. For the standard language and dialect, the former is the “advanced variant”, and the latter is the “lower variant”.

From the perspective of sociolinguistics, dialects are “low-level variants”, and from the perspective of Chinese ideology, dialects are still low-level, and they are often associated with low-education and low-status ratings. Dialects are the first language that people in every region can skillfully use (Block, 2015). They are prioritised for communication with their closest family, lover, and friends, so each person has at least one dialect skill. Only some dialects are closer to the standard language, while others are farther away. Although in the society, the dialect and the standard language have different status and it is difficult to be in the elegant, but this phenomenon has changed from the past ten years. More media will use dialects to produce programs, promote products, and highlight through dialects. Some geographical features attract more consumers, which even threatens the status of standard language so that the status of dialects soars, and the relationship between dialects and standard language changes due to human social culture and consciousness orientation. And when it happens, the relationship between the two becomes more subtle.

In sociolinguistics, dialects are hierarchical, related to race and class, and are a unique way of speaking. Since 1955, China has promoted language variants to the whole country and has clarified the legal status of some official dialect languages. Since then, the status of dialects has begun to increase. This policy has also led to the promotion of the status of local dialects in the country, especially in the dialects of the developed regions of the region, even by other regions, such as a large number of migrant workers who are pursuing social identity and based on their rapid integration with local communities. The ideal goal begins to learn dialects, which has led to an increase in the social status of dialects (Johnson, 2014).

In traditional society, the dialect and the standard language are always opposite. This is reflected in the opposition of the social stratum, that is, the gap between the upper aristocrats and the lower class is obvious. Here we come across the “overtly prestige” and the “covertly prestige” English differences. For example, in the conventional British aristocracy, French is used, and only the working-class people use English. However, with the continuous advancement of human civilisation, the differentiation of people’s status or class has gradually narrowed, and the different relationship between dialects and standard language has gradually become blurred. This is the manifestation of the trend of levelling social classes. From a sociological point of view, this is because the scope of the middle class in human society has been extended to a large extent. It has brought the distance between the underlying society and the upper society, and the dialect has a broader scope and a sense of identity.

A speech community is a collection of people who participate in a particular sequence of language, style and manner of speaking. The notion of a speech community is about sharing the same communication within their community or group to expresses and establishes meaningful participation in society and culture as a whole. As Milroy (1992), stated that a speech community is not a community unless they experience a shared view, belief, or activity. The cumulative group of people share common interests, hobbies, or lifestyles. Speech communities may experience particular sets of vocabulary, as well as speaking can display a similar way of thought process and a similar way of communicative manner.

For this recording, a group of undergraduate international students from India have been selected. The participants belong Indian society club at the University of Westminster. The group chosen for this investigation is essentially international students from India studying for an undergraduate degree at the University of Westminster. The group included three males and one female. The average age between the members ranges from 19-20 years. I believe that the speech community is the group which best represents my preferred group.

Applied Sociolinguistics

Discernment

In the dialogue transcript, there is discernment within the language that is used by the individuals. This can be identified from one of the conversation that indicates:

S: Hello friends good morning to all of you….I am just a bit tensed up about the whole student’s issue with Delhi University.

J: What up friends,?! Hows all doing? Anyone have any idea about the news today…?

A: Hey! Morning friends, yes I have, I watched the news on T.V today about the Indian education system special report.

J: In our country students after graduation they have not any job to live the best life because many students don’t get a good job. Irrespective of their talents.

A: Oh, it’s very bad, our policymakers and stakeholders need to understand…uumm…err..there basic notion about not how to push the student out of their edge.

R: yes, you are right but friends our government is lacking behind on the job security. Damn!! Errrrr?

 

In the above mentioned, Sara and Jay are pointing out that they are highly concerned with the current issue of their home county’s education structure. Jai indicates that the situation in India with regards to the job market is very tough. Students are unable to get jobs within their home country, and this results in them exploring new opportunities elsewhere. There is some discrimination within the practices of government as well as individuals who are giving employment opportunities. Jay’s conversation indicates that discrimination in this regard is not only restricted to the country India, but it can be the same thing with young graduates around the globe.

In the above context, discrimination can be identified with regards to the level of education, qualification and experience of individuals when they move into a corporate world or job market.

Inequality

Inequality in the class or at any place can lead to lack of confidence, as the teachers or supervisors sometimes, create an environment in which they favour some students or employees, and degrade to some people. In the given transcript, inequality is mentioned as:

R: Yes, ajay I remember. I also watched the news, many students in Delhi tried committing suicide after marks issue.

A: I have also heard about this news. The Indian education system is so hard, AND ESPECIALLY THE TEACHERS GIVES SO MUCH BURDEN, STUDENTS COMMIT SUICIDE OUT OF FRUSTRATION!!!

The students who have low marks and not getting a good job are committing suicides as they are frustrated and annoyed because of getting rejections. Many people are getting a job which is not related to their field of interest, yet, they are still dragging themselves to earn money and support their financial issues.

Opportunities

A: ya, our education system is not teaching us regarding job demands. So many students after graduation don’t do anything. They wait for any best opportunities, and government job. But that time they have a very burden of economic problems. And after they do a part-time job in any companies. But it’s not a profit. That’s why I will studying here and hopefully going to States for a job.

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It is the best facility a country or city can provide to its citizen, opportunities within their specific or interested domain. Many of the citizens have left India just because it is not giving enough opportunities to the graduates.

The above-mentioned statement said by Ajay, clearly indicates that students after the completion of graduation wait for the job in which they have the expertise to get more exposure of it, but in a result, they get a job of entirely a different field after waiting for so long. The best option for the students is to enrol themselves for a master’s degree from any foreign university and get settled there only. It is quite strange that after getting an education for about 10-12 years in the birth nation, people or students chose to serve other countries as they are giving more opportunities and facilities to them.

Race, Ethnicity & Culture

The policies which are being made is following the traditional aspect, rather than thinking and making policies with a broader aspect. In the transcript, a participant, Raju mentioned it as:

R: Ya, you say that’s right. Ajay but friends we know very well. In our education system is controlled by very rigid not so educated government. They do not know about a whole lot about professional opportunities.

The above statement shows that educational policies and rules are made by the people who have crossed their 60’s and their behaviours are rude and rigid. Moreover, such people do not want policies to be changed, and they are happy with the policies which were made many years back. The policymakers are stuck just to some of the fields such as medical, engineering or arts, but not focusing on the other subjects in those fields. The thing which has a terrible impact on the students is, the new opportunities or chances are for the ones who are politically or financially secure, deserving people are not being approached, and their talent is not being promoted.

Perception

As students in India are not getting jobs of their choice or they are having some issues regarding their field as some stereotypes people are doing the recruitment process and selecting the one who has a strong financial background. The perceptions about a particular class of students stop them from challenging themselves. As it is said by Ajay and Raju in the transcript:

A: But friends, we make government…so if we elect the right government who can ensure of our future employability opportunities.

R: You see, we are aware that there are some loopholes in our education system but if we the young generation choose wisely our government things can be better.

S: yes, glad we discussed some important stuff. It is good to know we all are coming from different parts of India but have similar concerns about our education system

 

The statements by the two boys that they are perturbed by the behaviourist approach of the academic pedagogy of their country. The system which is following old methods and curriculum and the country is not promoting their learners to succeed as they are not offering them enough employability opportunity. The language used by students shows that they all

After analysing the transcript, the most important thing for today’s generation is guidance and awareness from elders. Some people want their children to pursue their education and career in the field they are happy with, although every child has its interest and capabilities.

Importance of Sociolinguistics

Sociolinguistics is very important for the one who is an average language learner as there are little things which can lead someone to embarrassment. For example, a person pointing out to some object or another person is considered an indecent act in Italy. In America, it is acceptable, until and unless someone is not pointing to any other person. According to David Broersma, this kind of attitude or mistakes can lead people to think that you are ill-mannered, non-serious and dishonest (Piller, 2016).

In the second half of the 20th century, the characteristics of sociolinguistics shifted from general planning work to experimental verification of the proposed hypotheses, and mathematical descriptions of specific facts. His research methods are general linguistics and sociological methods, which are divided into field research method and linguistic material social analysis method. Field research methods include surveys, tests, oral interviews, interviews, external observations, and participation observations (the researcher himself becomes an observer); the linguistic material social analysis method uses correlation analysis to compare the dependent and independent variables, respectively. Based on social parameters and linguistic phenomena, the use of social constraints language variation simulation method and social control speech behaviour simulation method (Holmes and Hazen, 2014).

Sociolinguistics interacts with other traditional linguistic schools (such as dialectology, phonetics, lexicology, and semantics). For example, dialectology and sociolinguistics have significant interactions: sociolinguistic scholars borrow a variety of methods from dialect scholars to observe the spontaneous speech of respondents, while modern dialectological research must consider some contextual conditions of dialect speech; society the main difference between linguistics and psycholinguistics is that psycholinguistics studies use psychological processes as the restrictive speech acts of human beings. Sociolinguistics is interested in the social differences in language function and development, but the methods of collecting quantity in these two disciplines (Observations, experiments, questionnaires, etc.), methods of investigating respondents, and a series of studies have similarities. In conclusion, society and culture play a vital role in our language acquisition, and it shapes our respective roles in society. A language not only reflects a speaker’s individual linguistic or social variants but at the same time displays the cultural, community, political background of the respective nation.

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