Language Variation

Yesicha Ryona

Language Variation
Regional Variation The Linguistic Variable Linguistic and Social Variation Data Collection and Analysis

Regional Variation
Traditional study of dialect Important part of Historical Linguistics Family trees and phonemic “splits” between languages and dialects attributed to time, space, etc… Latin v /w/ to /v/ in later period IE. *ptr to Latin pater to French pere To Germanic fader to English father

Dialect Atlases
“Try to show the geographical boundaries of the distribution of a particular linguistic feature by drawing a line on a map” Such a line is called an isogloss On one side of the line people say one thing, on the other they say a different thing.

The isogloss is the boundary line between groups who say something differently. When there are a number of different things said on one side of the boundary from what is said on the other side, we can say that the boundary marks a dialect boundary.

Figure 1. The Rhenish Fan

Figure 2. Intersecting Isoglosses

Linguistic Variable
A linguistic item which has identified variants.
Fishing / fishin’/ fishen Singing / singin’ Car / cah With / wit / wif Latin / la?in thirty / thirdy Coffee / cowfee “It was a macao Tom not a parrot!” He’s happy / he be happy / he happy Climbed / clomb Look for a present for my mom / look for my mom a present

Linguistic and Social Variation
An early study of linguistic variation by Gumperz (1958), but one cast in a „modern‟ mold, shows some of the intricacies involved in trying to relate linguistic variation to social variation.

Linguistic and Social Variation
Because the society he was studying is rigidly stratified on the basis of caste membership, the problems are considerably fewer than those encountered in such cities as New York, Detroit, or even Norwich, but they are still present.

It is I. We want to sound high class sometimes, so we say and write things that are stilted and/or purple. The upper class often don‟t care what fork they use and use slang with relish. Middle class people sometimes reveal themselves as middle class by being too proper in dress, behaviour, and language.

Idiolects and Sociolects
Idiolect (idios Greek “self” lect “speech” as in lecture): speech characteristics and linguistic behaviour of individuals Sociolect: speech characteristics of members of social groups

Data Collection and Analysis
In sociolinguistics, this task has two basic dimensions: devising some kind of plan for collecting relevant data, and then collecting such data from a representative sample of speakers. As we will see, neither task is an easy one.

Data Collection and Analysis
Many studies have made a four-fold distinction in categorizing those circumstances: a casual situation, an interview situation; the reading aloud of a story; and the reading aloud of lists of words and of pairs of words like den and then.

Random Sample or Judgment Sample
Random: usually better way to do it. It
is more objective, but more difficult to do. Judgment Sample: an investigator chooses subjects according to a set of criteria: age, gender, social class, education, etc…

Dependent and independent variables
The linguistic variable in these studies is the dependent variable – the difference that we are interested in. Other variables may be incidental or unrelated to the correlation being studied. Statisticians consider most of these sociolinguistic studies to lack sufficient rigour.

Sociolinguistics and scientific studies
Sociolinguists need to collect reliable data, but how can they? Since we can not even give satisfactory definitions of sociolingustics, or language, or society, or dialect, or creole, how can we do scientific studies in this field?

Epistemic relativism vs Logical Positivism
Relativism: sociolinguistic studies are not useful because all linguistic norms are relative. Jibberish or the sound of gas escaping from a tube is as important and interesting as human speech Logical positivism: since we can not be sure about any of these claims, we should not make any claims. We need scientific proof. Theoretical linguistics is about universals. It is rigorous and highly structured.

Is Sociolinguistics
A science A social science Part of the humanities A liberal studies requirement

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