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Discourse Chapter3

Discourse Chapter3

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Published by UN Sophaktra

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: UN Sophaktra on Sep 24, 2009
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 As we have seen (2.2.), de Saussure claimed the status of a “social fact” for hisnotion of a homogeneous and invariant norm underlying individual behaviour. The concept of a “social fact” derives from the sociology of Durkheim (see Di-neen 1967: 193
et seq
.). The social fact that other sociologists and social anthro-pologists have emphasized is the heterogeneity and variation of language. Whereasde Saussure sees language as structured internally as a self-contained entity, thesescholars have seen language as also structured externally and informed by themore general patterns of social life. Standardization enables the linguist to concen-trate on the internal patterns of a language but by relaxing this degree of idealiza-tion one is involved in a consideration of how a language patterns in with the so-cial structure of the community in which it is spoken. One is involved, in particu-lar, in establishing what is meant by “a language”. By ignoring variation, the lin-guist can take a language as given and depend upon his own intuitions and therules generated by his own description to define it, but when variation is takeninto account, it becomes less clear what “a language” is. The linguist can make the simplifying assumption that a language is what isspoken by a single speech community. But although the linguist may be untrou-bled by the fact, this is a circular definition since a speech community can only bedefined in terms of its means of linguistic interaction. When one considers lan-guage in its actual un-standardized character one is faced with the need to givenotions like “a language” and “a speech community” a more exact definition. DeSaussure assumes a homogeneous speech community, all of whose membersshare a common code and the use they make of this code is represented as anindividual and idiosyncratic matter: there is no patterning in
. Bloomfieldalso equates one language with one system shared by a community: he defines“speech community” as “A group of people who use the same system of speech-signals” (Bloomfield 1935: 29). And Chomsky, of course, speaks of a “completely homogeneous speech community” and of “its language” (Chomsky 1965: 3). In allof these cases, a speech community is represented as isomorphic with a languagerepresented as a single code, a single system of speech-signals. But at a level of idealization which includes variation, they can no longer be considered as “primi-tive” or “pre-theoretical” terms (Lyons 1968: 171-2). They become fundamentalconcepts which call for precise formulation (see Hymes 1964: 385-6).From this sociolinguistic standpoint, the first difficulty in assuming an equa-tion between a language and a speech community is that there is no obvious way of recognizing a language as opposed to a “variety” of a language. One cannotdistinguish a regional or social dialect from a “different” language solely by refer-ence to formal properties (see Haugen 1966). One has also to take into accountthe social function of the code concerned and the attitude of the people who useit. As is pointed out in Fishman (1971), and elsewhere, the structural affinities of 
28 An applied linguistic approach to discourse analysistwo linguistic systems may be under or over valued by the effect of such factors asthe intensity of verbal interaction and feelings of symbolic integration among those who make use of them (Fishman 1971: 232
et seq
.). Thus it is possible fortwo codes or linguistic systems to have close structural affinity and yet to be con-sidered as two languages, and two codes to have much less structural affinity butto be thought of as two varieties of one language. Even such an apparently reli-able measure of affinity as intelligibility cannot be relied upon (see Wolff 1959).It is not the business of this dissertation to enter into a detailed discussion of the factors involved in identifying “a language”. What is of importance is that weshould recognize that what the grammarian sees as a unitary system is in reality acomplex of different forms of speech which can be formally and functionally dif-ferentiated. Whether it is preferable for the purposes of this study to treat them asdifferent codes or as variable realizations of one code is a question which I shalltake up later. Meanwhile we might note that the decision is by no means an obvi-ous one: it will depend on what the linguist himself believes as well as such “ob-jective” factors as structural affinity, functional differentiation, and so on.Once one recognizes the difficulty of defining what is meant by “a language”the definition of a speech community as a group of people sharing the same sys-tem of signs, or having “a common language” ceases to be satisfactory. Instead, atthis level of idealization, one is obliged to define it in terms of how groups of people interact and of the norms of social behaviour they subscribe to. AsFishman puts it:
 A basic definitional property of speech communities is that they are
de-fined as communities of those who “speak the same language” (notwith-standing Bloomfield 1933), but rather, as communities set off by destiny of communication or/and by symbolic integration with respect to communica-tive competence
regardless of the number of languages or varieties em- ploye
d. (Fishman 1971: 234)
 To relax idealization so as to take language variation into account, then,commits us to a sociolinguistic point of view which takes as its object of concernnot an arbitrarily defined system of signs but the whole range of verbal means whereby a community interacts and is integrated. The notion of speech commu-nity is no longer a pre-theoretical or pre-scientific term, in the sense of Lyons, which can be used with whatever looseness is convenient, but becomes a technicalterm in sociolinguistics (see Hymes 1964: 385-6). The same shift of orientationbrings into focus the very aspect of variation which the notion of “a language”necessarily ignores, and the object of concern is no longer “a language” but a ver-bal repertoire, which Gumperz defines as:
... the totality of linguistic forms regularly employed in the course of socially significant interaction. (Gumperz 1964: 137)
3.2. Variation within the verbal repertoire
 The study of the uses to which a community puts its verbal repertoire is the prin-cipal concern of that area of socio-linguistics which is commonly referred to asthe sociology of language. Interest has centred on the functional value of the dif-
Extending the scope: de-standardization 29ferent codes available to a community for social interaction. Studies of “code-switching” have been made in communities where the codes concerned are sostructurally distinct as to be regarded as separate languages, as for example inRubin (1962), and in communities where they are so structurally related as to beconsidered as varieties of one language, as, for example, in Ferguson (1959),Geertz (1960) (for a review, see Pride 1971; Gumperz and Hymes 1972). Fromthe point of view of their social function, or the manner in which they signal so-cial meanings, it is irrelevant whether the codes within a linguistic or verbal reper-toire are “different languages” like Spanish and Guarani (Rubin 1962), or varietiesof the “same language” like high, low and middle Javanese (Geertz 1960), orEgyptian and Classical Arabic, French and Haitian Creole (Ferguson 1959). The studies that have been referred to above have dealt with situations whereit is possible to establish a correlation between different linguistic codes and dif-ferent social functions. Thus Ferguson, for example, is able to point to specificareas of use for his High and Low varieties:
In one set of situations only H (i.e. High) is appropriate and in another only L (i.e. Low), with the two sets overlapping only slightly.(Ferguson 1959: 430-1)
Similarly, Rubin is able to establish distinct domains of use for Spanish andGuarani. In these cases, since the modes of speaking are formally differentiated asdistinct codes there is little difficulty in recognizing when a switch occurs. But variation does not always take the form of a choice between discrete modes of speaking in this way. In principle the phenomenon whereby different linguisticforms attach to certain domains of social use is the same whether these formsbelong to formally differentiable codes or are simply “stylistic variants”. As Gum-perz points out:
... in some societies the shift between linguistically distinct codes may carry social meanings equivalent to the selection of stylistic alternates in others.(Gumperz 1972)
 This creates a difficult descriptive problem. Given that a verbal repertoireconsists of the range of linguistic devices available to a speech community for theconveying of appropriate messages, how does one set about correlating linguisticforms with areas of appropriate use when these forms are not grouped into sepa-rate systems. To put the matter simply, where a community’s verbal repertoire canbe distinguished as consisting of two formally different systems, like Guarani andSpanish, or Ferguson’s High and Low varieties, it is not difficult to make state-ments to the effect that Spanish is used in patient-doctor interaction and student-teacher interaction, that the High variety is used for formal speeches and sermons,and so on. Where there is no such clear formal demarcation lines within the ver-bal repertoire, however, one is faced with a much more difficult problem. How does one account for the variation which is intrinsic to language when this is notdivided up into more or less discrete segments. One recognizes for example thatthe way English is used in the delivering of a sermon is different from the way it isused in a sports commentary, that “the English” of personal letters is not the

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