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LING 432-532 – Sociolinguistics – Spring 2011
Slide 1
Discuss calendar, readings
Wardhaugh Ch 1
LING 432-532 – Sociolinguistics – Spring 2011
Slide 2
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Wardhaugh – Chapter 1
What is considered grammatical in a language?
The prescriptive vs. descriptive debate – what is it exactly?
Chomsky separates out performance from competence
 Says linguists task is to examine competence, not performance
 “Linguistic theory is concerned primarily with an ideal speakerlistener, in a completely homogenous speech-community, who knows its
language perfectly and is unaffected by such grammaticality irrelevant
conditions such as memory limitations, distractions, shifts of attention
and interest, and errors (random or characteristic) in applying his
knowledge of the language in actual performance.” p. 3
Knowing how to use a language = communicative competence
LING 432-532 – Sociolinguistics – Spring 2011
Slide 3
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Wardhaugh – Chapter 1
In an ideal speaker-listener homogenous speech community,
there is no variation – people do not change their performance
and performance matches competence 100%
However, there IS variation in language (as we will see shown
again and again by socioling studies) – so should we as
linguists just ignore variation and call it background noise?
NO! It is in the variation, the use of language, where we can
truly examine linguistic competence – variation does have its
limits as well as its social significance (production and
perception/evaluation)
LING 432-532 – Sociolinguistics – Spring 2011
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Slide 4
Wardhaugh – Chapter 1
The challenge for sociolinguists (and some would argue ALL linguists) is to
explore the co-variation of linguistic items (Hudson) and social categories.
Linguistic items = ???
pronunciation, word choice, grammatical structures
Social categories = ???
identity, power, class, sex, region, politeness, status,
solidarity, accommodation
LING 432-532 – Sociolinguistics – Spring 2011
Slide 5
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The interaction between language and society
1) Social structure influence or determine linguistic behavior = You speak
the way you speak because of who you are
2) Linguistic structure/behavior determines social structure = Whorfian
hypothesis (p. 230) – you see the world thru your language
3) Influence of lang and society is bi-directional
4) Social and linguistic structure are independent of each other = no
relationship between the 2 (Chomsky again)
LING 432-532 – Sociolinguistics – Spring 2011
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Wardhaugh – Chapter 1
LING 432-532 – Sociolinguistics – Spring 2011
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Slide 7
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Different types of sociolinguistics
Chambers favors Variationist approaches (page 11)
Gumperz suggests that there is more than this – still doesn’t identify
causality
There is a debate about what we can do with sociolinguistics and what we
SHOULD be doing. See Cameron critique on p, 12
LING 432-532 – Sociolinguistics – Spring 2011
Slide 8
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Major topics in sociolinguistics: Language change, Variation, Boundary
marker (symbolic function of language as a means of group formation),
Multilingualism, including language contact; language conflict;
Relativism (“linguistic relativity hypothesis”)
Applications of sociolinguistic research: education, particularly in
multilingual situations; communication breakdowns in service
situations, industry, legal profession, language planning and engineering
LING 432-532 – Sociolinguistics – Spring 2011
Slide 9
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Wardhaugh – Chapter 1
Sociology of Language versus Sociolinguistics
Chambers 1995 (p. 11) notes that the sociology of language more concerned
with the more purely social end of the continuum, while sociolinguistics
with the more personal, although a great deal of overlap in the middle
Sociolinguistics (a.k.a. “micro-sociolinguistics”): The study of the
relationships between language and society with the goal of
understanding the structure of language. Typically looks at forms and
uses of language on a small scale.
Sociology of language (a.k.a. “macro sociolinguistics”): The study of the
relationships between language and society with the goal of
understanding the structure of society. Often concerned with large-scale
socio-political issues.
A divide between the two approaches – see p. 14 quote for a more unified
understanding
LING 432-532 – Sociolinguistics – Spring 2011
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Fields of Sociolingusitics
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Ethnography of speaking (Hymes, anthropological orientation, participant observer)
Variation studies (Labov, Trudgill, Chambers, quantification, linguistic orientation,
dialectology; Milroys and network analysis)
Sociology of language (Fishman, social and political issues, macro-sociolinguistics,
domain analysis)
Interactional sociolinguistics (Gumperz; face-to-face encounters, anthropological and
psychological in orientation)
Conversation analysis, ethnomethodologists (Schegloff, Sacks; sociologists, ethnic
structure)
Discourse analysis (Tannen; large chunks of language, psychological and highly
interpretive)
Social psychology (Giles; psychological, methodology highly experimental)
Pragmatics (Austin, Grice, Searle; speech act theory)
LING 432-532 – Sociolinguistics – Spring 2011
Slide 11
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Sociolinguistics in all forms is generally data driven
Some of it is quantitative and statistical analysis used to show correlation
between linguistics and social structures (usually variationist)
LING 432-532 – Sociolinguistics – Spring 2011
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Lets look at the list of Bell’s principles on pp. 18-19
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Slide 13
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Lets look at the list of Bell’s principles on pp. 18-19
LING 432-532 – Sociolinguistics – Spring 2011
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Slide 14
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Particularly “the observer’s paradox” - how does Labov resolve this?
Listen to NPR clip
William Labov - NYC