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Republic of the Philippines

Mariano Marcos State University

Laoag City 2900

Name: Cabrera, Rama Grace T. Professor: Jahnese D. Asuncion

Major: MAEd Lang/Lit Date of Submission: April 18, 2016
Course Code/Title: Lang 204 Written Report

Vernacular Maintenance and Change

Much research within the Labovian tradition has focused on the role played by the
upwardly-mobile lower middle class in processes of language change. It has been argued that most
people will adopt linguistics variants which are associated with high social prestige elite rejecting
stigmatized, low-status variants. Despite the assumed social disadvantage of adopting such
linguistic prestige forms, people in many inner cities and rural areas continue to maintain low-
status variants in their speech.

Milroy & Milroy Belfast Study

Sociolinguistic research has shown that the concept of social network is important for the
understanding of such strategies of vernacular maintenance. Social network was first used in a
sociolinguistic study of Belfast. In their study of vernacular maintenance in Belfast, James and
Lesly Milroy focused on three close-knit and relatively cohesive, lower working-class
communities in Belfast, where vernacular use was common and widespread.

Following Labovs study of vernacular use by black adolescents in Harlem (1972b), the
Milroys formed the hypothesis that:

The use of vernacular forms is associated positively with the

speakers degree of integration into the communitys social network.

The concept of social network has been used successfully in anthropological research and refers
to the informal and formal social relationships that individuals maintain with one another. Two
criteria are particularly important for the description of social networks: density and multiplexity.

Network density refers to the number of connections or links in a network.

Miltiplexity refers to the content of the network links.
o Multiplex network individuals in a network are linked to each other in
more than one function
o Uniplex network a network in which the members are linked to each other
in only one capacity
Vernacular - The language or dialect spoken by the ordinary people in a particular
country or region.

Dense and multiplex network are typically found in rural villages and urban working-class
areas. Anthropological research since 1950s has shown that dense and multiplex networks often
act as norm-enforcement mechanism, imposing all kinds of behavioral norms (dress, conduct,
language use) on their members.

The study was carried out in two outer-city (lower class rather than working class)
communities. Three working class Belfast districts. Two were in West Belfast (the Clonard -
Catholic and the Hammer - Protestant) and one was in East Belfast (Ballymacarrett - Protestant).
An important concern of the research was how to gain access to the vernacular in its most natural
form. The situation was complicated by the political and social conditions in Belfast, where
outsiders to the community were usually viewed with suspicion.

Methods of the Study

They relied on mutual acquaintance introductions to gain access to and move through a
community over an extended period. This instilled some measure of trust and familiarity,
minimized the self-correction speech and avoided the pre-selection of more 'respectable' speakers
of the communities (this might have occurred had the researchers been introduced through
institutional channels). Furthermore, the fieldworker had to be a woman as she entered the
communities alone since "women were much less likely to be attacked by men (L.Milroy).

Social Network Theory. Standardizing pressure from the education system and the media
were being opposed by counter-prestige that favored and enforced vernacular norms. Pressure to
maintain the vernacular is likely to be strongest in 'dense networks' and 'multiplex networks' to
measure 'dense' and 'multiplex' networks in a community.

Conclusion: It is easier for 'normative consensus' to be imposed

on speakers who are members of dense multiplex networks. Therefore,
they tend to maintain vernacular and impede language change - this is
seen as a sign of loyalty.
Gender Roles. Milroy studied variants in 'phonolexical alternation' in both Interview Style
(IS) and Spontaneous Style (SS) amongst a group of men and women (40-55) and men and women


Rounded Vowels
- E.g. PULL to rhyme with 'dull' rather than 'pool'. In the older age group
women used PULL variable more than men in both IS and SS. In the
younger age group, men used the PULL variable a lot more, particularly in
SS where women used it 20% compared to 61% of men.
Deletion of [th]
- E.g. 'mother' becomes 'mo'er' All groups used this variable however, mostly
men used it in both SS and IS.
|A| Backing
- E.g. Pronouncing 'hand' as 'hound'. Mostly used by East Belfast males at the
time of the study but spreading towards the West.

According to Milroys analysis, male network scores notably higher than female scores,
which implies that men had more and stronger ties to the local community than women. . In
Ballymacarret, men tended to be strongly integrated into the local community network. Most
women on the other hand, worked outside the area and their integration into the local network was
therefore rather weak. Not only were the network patterns for men and women sharply different
in Ballymacarrett, mens and womens activities were also separated and gender roles were clearly

The link between integration into the network, gender and vernacular use also existed in
the Clonard. On some linguistic variables (back vowel), however, the situation was reversed for
the younger generation, that is, young women showed greater use of certain vernacular variants
than men. Since the young Clonard women, who all work in a store outside the Clonard
community, have adopted this innovation. Because of these of this social change, young Clonard
women had stronger network ties that the Clonard men resulting to the spread and maintenance of
the new vernacular variant for the own group. Milroy and Milroy then described young women
from Clonard as early adopters.


The Belfast study is an important contribution to the understanding of language change and
language maintenance in a community. Language use, according to the Milroys, is influenced by
both status and solidarity. Use of the standard language is associated with high social status, while
the use of the vernacular indicates solidarity with local people, customs, and norms. Vernacular
use is typical in dense and multiplex network structures, which can be found in rural areas and the
old urban working- class districts, where solidarity with the group encourages and demands the
use of local, vernacular forms. While dense and multiplex networks functions as a conservative
force for maintenance of the vernacular forms, a break-up of the traditional network patterns can
initiate linguistic change (Milroy 1980: 162-3).

Dialect Loss and Maintenance in a Divided City: The Berlin Vernacular

The findings of the Berlin Urban Vernacular (BUV) project, which was carried out in
the early 1980s under the leadership of Norbert Dittmar and Peter Schlobinski, give further
support to Milroys hypothesis of the strong relationship between vernacular maintenance and
integration in a local community.
Germany was divided into two political divisions after World War II, they are: the Federal
Republic of Germany (FRG) in the west and the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in the
BUV (Berlinerisch) had received relatively little interest from traditional dialectologists,
who saw it as a corrupted city slang, highly influenced by the German standard variety. Low
German dialect influence is still clearly visible in BUV. An important example is the retention of
the Low German voiceless stops /p/, /t/, /k/ as opposed to the High German fricatives. Three
districts of Berlin were chosen for the date collection, they are: the traditional working-class
districts of Wedding (West Berlin), Prenzlauer Berg (East Berlin), and Zehlendorf (West
Berlin), a typical middle-class area.

The most important finding of the BUV project was that the pattern of linguistic variation
reflected the political division of Berlin. While BUV variants had been maintained to a larger
extent in the East Berlin district of Prenzlauer Berg, a clear loss of typical BUV variants was
observed in the affluent middle-class district of Zehlendorf. Speakers in the West Berlin working-
class area of Wedding were situated between the two extreme.

Furthermore, research on speakers attitude showed that BUV was clearly stigmatized only
in West Berlin, where it was seen as vulgar, working-class and an indicator of lack of education.
The adjectives employed for the characterization of BUV in west Berlin were, for
example, ordinr (common), vulgr (vulgar), schnoddrig(brash) and falsche Grammatik (bad
grammar), tierischer Slang (beastly slang), putzfrauensprache (charwomans language). Standard
German was generally seen as the legitimate prestige variety. In the East Berlin district of
Prenzlauer Berg, on the other hand, BUV was not only commonly used but also perceived as highly
prestigious. The stigmatized variety in East Berlin was Saxon, a German dialect spoken in a region
south of Berlin.
The reunification of German led to wide-ranging social changes in the East. BUV use in
East Berlin has declined considerably in the younger generation. However some speakers refuse
to assimilate and proudly insist on using Berlinerisch, even when talking to West Berliners. Many
West Berliners seem to have a little time for such strategies of linguistic identity maintenance, as
a response of oneWest Belin interviewed on television in 1992 shows:

die (Obstberliner) ham die Einheit jewolt und mssen sich nun
unsren Jargon aneignen

The East Berliners wanted unity, so now they must learn to speak like

(quoted in Schnfeld and Schlobinski 1995: 132)

Rajend Mesthrie (2009). Introducing Sociolinguistics.

Lesley Milroy and Sue Margain (1980). Vernacular Language Loyalty and Social Network.
Retrieved from:

She Urbans Chronicles (June 14, 2009). Language Variation and Change. Retrieved from: