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LANGUAGE VARIATION Social Variation and Regional Variation Sociolinguistics Dialectology
Not determiners of sociolects Ethnicity/race Age Social class Education Religion Family (too little) Region/Space (not based on social norms) Occupation/Hobbies (only lexical differences, and it is the least stable) Gender Sociolect: Sociolect A dialect or variety based purely on societal norms (race, social class, etc)
Important Terms Dialect (any variety) vs. Accent (pronunciation) Sociolinguistics vs. Dialectology Sociolects (basilect, mesolect, acrolect) vs. regional dialects Hypercorrection ( a standard rule applies in contexts where it’s not supposed: idear or ‘warsh’? , ‘you & I’, he am…) Grammatical vs Lexical variation Jargon (specific vocabulary) vs. borrowing (from other languages) Standard vs non-standard Migration vs. immigration Linguistic Atlases (maps of regional variations) Language contact vs. linguistic isolation
Lexical differences across regions Northern: n n Pail, swill, whiffletree (= a thick quilt) Johnny cake, salt pork, darning needle (=dragonfly) Midland: n n Blinds (roller blades) Skillet (eaves) Piece (food taken between meals) Snake feeder (dragonfly) Southern: n n n Lightwood, lighter (kindling) Hasslet (edible pig inner organs) Chittlins (small intestines)
Phonological differences (regions) Northern: n n n [o] =/= [ ] (hoarse =/= horse) [s] in ‘grease’ (V) and greasy Vowel in ‘root’ and ‘wood’ are equal Midland: n n n Hoarse = horse (? ? ) Verb rounding (frog, hog, wasp, wash) Monophthongization (single Verb) of ‘new’, ‘due’ South: n n Diphthongization of Tuesday, new, due Final [z] in Mrs. Monophthongization of ‘five’ Diphthongization of ‘ten’
Morphosyntactic Differences (Regions) Northern n n Double modals – hadn’t ought Past tense been see climb for climbed’ (past tense marker lost) Uninflected be (How be you? ) Midland: n n clum for climbed’ (irregularization of past tense) seen for saw (forms reduction/simplification) Southern: n n n you all =/= you (second person distinction) Seed for saw (regularization) holp for helped’ (irregularization)
Basic Definitions Standard in the US: n Middle-class Midwesterners vs. Non-Standard: n African-American Vernacular; Latino English, or Spanglish, Appalachian, Old poor Southerners, etc.
Some Fundamentals Knowing non-standard dialects is helpful for both teacher & students. In urban ghettos, we find very little adjustment to school forms. Many bidialectals, when in contact with a super-ordinate (dominant) dialect, may reflect their awareness of that dialect as much of their own. Nonstandard dialects should be studied within their own system (in their own right), but also in comparison to other dialects of English (such as Standard English).
Some Common Non-Standard Dialect Features No [-ed] inflections (past participle, especially) Double negation (He don’t want no trouble) trouble [i] becomes [e] before m/n Zero copula (no is, are, am) am Habitual be Non-redundant pluralization (the boys, but six boy) boy Regularization of possessive pronouns (mine, yourn) yourn Regularization and Non-redundant plural in reflexive pronouns (hisself, theirself vs. himself, themselves) Object pronouns in subject position (specially in ‘compound subjects’) (Us girls) girls ‘them’ them as demonstrative adjective (them books) books Adjective = adverbs (good for both well/good) well/good Loss of 3 rd person sing. marker(he want or I has) has [ ] becomes [n] in word-final position in [-ing] words.
Black English features (‘Black English’ recognized legally in 1979) ‘zero copula’ [no is, am, are] Pre-Verb been Auxiliary done De-fricativization of voiced interdental Multiple negative No –s inflection for 3 rd person singular Extend 3 rd person to 1 st or 2 nd. I has some good friends. He don’t be rub me the wrong way. Dem books be boring.
William Labov (1970) Non-standard varieties of English are rule-governed systems and neither corrupt or inferior Advocates understanding of AAVE as ignorance leads to teacher-student conflict Can not draw on intuitions of children or nonstandard speakers as the superordinate variety will be reflected “In general, one can say that whenever a speaker of a nonstandard dialect is in a subordinate position to a speaker of a standard dialect, the rules of his [sic. ] grammar will shift in an unpredictable manner towards the standard”
Labov, continued… Labov uses systematic analysis to connect the meanings in non-standard and standard varieties He states it is important for teachers to be able to understand the intended meaning to be able to supply the standard equivalent Differences between the varieties are not as sharp as they first appear Non-standard varieties are not inferior as a means of communication – contrary to early beliefs
Pinker Linguists fight the myth that working class people and the less educated speak a simpler or coarser language It is usually only the ‘refined aspects’ of language (grammar, pronunciation) that are noticed “A language is a dialect with an army and a navy” (Max Weinreich) Early conclusions that non-standard dialects were grammatically deficient were based on subjects’ shy or sullen reactions to test batteries There areas where AAVE (BEV) is more precise than the standard variety: n n He be working (he generally works, perhaps regularly) He working (he is working at the time of the utterance) Labov’s research showed that AAVE speakers had a vastly higher percentage of grammatical utterances (within the system of the dialect) than the norm – academics had the lowest
Rachel Jones “Not White, Just Right” Claims skills with Standard English opened doors that would have otherwise been unattainable as a “poor black girl” Frustrations ensue from the idea that black kids believe speaking accurately is a white trait Such kids are submitting to the idea that success is a “white thing” States that recognising languages such as “Ebonics” is a “damning commentary on our history of inequality and lack of access to equal educational opportunities in this country” Claims Standard English has empowered her Claims mastery of Standard English is important for any group hoping to succeed in America
African American Vernacular English (AAVE) Also known as Black English, Ebonics, AAE n n n CNN Report on Oakland Ebonics Decision LSA Resolution on the Ebonics Issue More on AAVE