HI there please Write a response to this first focus question: How does language
? in form and in use ? reflect and maintain social grouping? (500 words). The information below may help you in writing this essay.
? How does language?in form and in use?reflect and maintain social grouping?
? In what respects and to what extent do groups in society use English or their L1 differently?
? How significant is a correlation between status and language
? How does competency in English (L1 or the nation?s dominant language
) relate to life opportunities?
? Is one variant of a language
more useful to learning in schools than another?
? Does the language
of a classroom reflect social groups?
? Whose languages
do teachers use? Which variant should they teach?
variation, standards and status
The majority of English users and English teachers are not ?native? speakers of English. They do not all use the same linguistic forms, though there is interest, as you?ll read later, in some common language
forms. Understanding language
variation is fundamental to understanding the use of and teaching of English in a global context. Which variety of English should be the ?target?? Should an English of the inner circle set the norm? As Burns discussed, is there a language
that is ?global English??
At this point you need to consider how any person in a bilingual or monolingual setting, experiences and uses varieties of a language
. When you listen to Australians speaking English, or speakers of the dominant language
in your society, do you hear native speakers use that language
similarly? Use these questions to help you think about what you hear:
? What causes you to vary the way you speak
? If there are differences in your speech or amongst speakers of your first language
, what are they?just some vocabulary or pronunciation?
? Are there syntactic differences as well, leading to the use of recognisably different dialects of the language
? Are all these variations equal socially, or do native speakers associate some differences with particular social features of the speaker/s?
? Do speakers of the standard form of the national language
use forms that are not standard, or prestigious, at different times for different reasons? What groups vary? Why?
There are many ways of describing factors influencing linguistic choices. Generally, the participants in the interaction are a factor. Who is speaking and to whom are they speaking? Are the speakers (interlocutors) ?equals?? The setting or social context is a factor; this includes not only where, but on what kind of social occasion. A third factor is the topic of the conversation, and another important is the function of the talk. Is this a discussion, an invitation?what is the speech act?
Variation can be identified along different scales.
One scale is the solidarity-social distance scale:
Scale 2.1 The solidarity-social distance scale (Holmes 2001, p. 9)
High solidarity Low solidarity
How well we know someone is a relevant factor in choosing how we speak to them.
Another scale is the status scale:
Scale 2.2 The status scale (Holmes 2001, p. 9)
Subordinate High status
Status influences some linguistic choices. Was it a factor in forms of address?
A third scale is the formality scale:
Scale 2.3 The formality scale (Holmes 2001, p. 9)
Informal High formality
The formality scale helps in assessing the influence of the social setting or the occasion. Some settings?like a conversation with a manager or a ritual in a religious setting?will influence the speaker towards particular linguistic choices. Some choices are influenced by status and solidarity, but then the formality of the setting is considered, and the choice may change.
Another influence on linguistic choices is the function of the language
. Is the speaker primarily trying to convey information, or express how someone is feeling?
A scale to consider the function is:
Scale 2.4 The functionality scale (Holmes 2001, p. 10)
Gossip may provide much new referential information?news?while also conveying how the speaker feels about the people referred to.
Variation in linguistic choices has been the focus of much research and much teaching. Questions arise in English about how to map linguistic form onto speech acts expressed in different situations. Susan Ervin-Tripp (1976) carried out a classic study in the different ways English speakers expressed a directive speech act: requests. A classic study in the pronoun system as it was used to express solidarity and power was an early study in sociolinguistics. (Brown & Gilman 1960) Sociolinguistics remains a very productive research area. Typical more recent studies are Simon-Vandenbergen?s (2004) Intersubjective positioning in talk shows: a case study from British TV and Ostermann?s (2003) Localising power and solidarity: pronoun alternation at an all-female police station and a feminist crisis intervention center in Brazi
Different situations of use lead to different linguistic choices in both written and spoken language
. Table 2.1 below shows the results of a study of contractions in written and spoken British English.
Table 2.1 Contractions used in written and spoken British English (Finegan, Blair & Collins 1997, pSpeakers and writers make choices as they speak or write in a particular register. These choices form sets of linguistic features that are able to be discovered by applying computer processes to large databases of language
Below are two sets of co-occurring features from Finegan, Blair & Collins 1997, p. 398:
? First and second-person pronouns
? that omission from subordinate clauses (He said ? she would agree.)
? psychological verbs (think, assume)
? demonstratives (this, that, these, those)
? contractions (isn?t, she?s)
? emphatics (really, for sure)
? hedges (kind of, more or less, maybe)
? sentence relatives (Then he lied, which bothered her a lot.)
? clause-final prepositions (The teacher I told you about.)
? wh- interrogatives (What do you consider ??)
? be as main verb (It is hopeless.)
? (frequent) nouns
? (frequent) prepositions
? longer words
? lexical variety
? attibutive adjectives (the tall buildings)
These two sets of features typify the linguistic forms of different registers. For example, in texts where you find first and second-pronouns and the that omission, you will not find many long words or much lexical variety. The features in Set 1 are typical of texts that focus on interaction while those in Set 2 are typical of texts that focus on transmitting information.
Examine the following three letters from (Finegan, Blair & Collins 1997, pp. 405?406). The first is a letter of recommendation for a student seeking admission to a masters degree program in linguistics, the second a letter to a magazine, and the third a personal letter from a woman to a female friend in another state. Identify the characteristics of each type of letter in terms of the co-occurring syntactic and lexical features. Where does each letter fall in the two dimensions interactional and informational texts?
Letter of recommendation
I have known Mr John Smith as a student in three of my courses and on the basis of that acquaintance with him, it is my recommendation that he should certainly be admitted to the masters program.
John was a student of mine in Linguistics 100, where he did exceptionally well. I encouraged him to undertake a linguistics major and subsequently had the good fortune to have him in two more of my classes. In one of these (historical linguistics) he led the class, obviously working more insightfully than the other seventeen students enrolled. In the other course (introduction to phonology), he did less well, perhaps because he was under some financial pressure and was forced to work twenty hours a week while carrying a full academic load. In all three courses, John worked very hard, doing much more than was required.
I recommend John Smith to you without reservation of any kind. He knows what he wants to achieve and is clearly motivated to succeed.
Your story on Afghanistan was in error when it stated that the Russian-backed coup of 1973 was bloodless. As a Community Aid Abroad volunteer in Afghanistan at the time, I saw the bodies and blood and ducked the bullets. It was estimated that between 1000 and 1500 died, but it is hard to get an accurate count when a tank pulls up to the house of the shah?s supporters and fires repeatedly into it from 10 metres away, or when whole households of people disappear in the middle of the night.
So, what?s up? Not too much going on here. I?m at work now, and it?s been so slow this week. We haven?t done anything. I hate it when it?s so slow. The week seems like it?s never going to end.
Well how have you all been? Did you get the pictures and letter I sent you? We haven?t heard from you for a while. Mother has your B?day present ready to send to you and Don?s too, but who knows when she?ll get round to sending it. How are the kids? Does Don like kindergarten? Well, Al has gone off to uni. I miss him so much. He left on Monday to go to ANU. He?ll be there for three years. He?s doing Asian studies and Pacific history. He wants to do politics next year.
Dialects?regional and social
A speaker or writer of a language
may vary the linguistic choices they makes. Different speakers of a language
may also make varying linguistic choices. Social features of the speaker influence the way they speak the language
. The differences between two speakers may be minimal. They may use different sounds for the same meaning. Speakers of standard American English pronounce a retroflex /r/ following a vowel; speakers of standard Australian English don?t. Hence car, park, near and smart sound different when spoken by standard speakers of American and Australian Englishes; there is an accent difference. The differences may, however, extend to differences in syntax, semantics and pragmatics.
Speakers of one language
may vary in their sound choices, as we saw above. They may also vary in their syntactic and semantic choices. The systematic variety of a language
specific to a particular group is a dialect. Consider the following vocabulary choices:
(a) When you go window-shopping, do you walk on the pavement or the sidewalk?
(b) Do you put your shopping in the car?s trunk or in the boot?
(c) When the car?s engine needs oil do you open the bonnet or the hood?
(d) Do you fill up the car with gas or with petrol?
(e) Do you get to the top of a building in an elevator or in a lift?
(Holmes 2001, p. 125)
In table 2.2 try matching U.S. English variants to their semantic equivalents from other regions where English is spoken:
Table 2.2 Vocabulary choices between United States English and other Englishes
US English English equivalents
biscuit tomato sauce
potato chips tinned
bag (as of potato chips) scone
Pronunciation and vocabulary may differ between speakers who grew up speaking their form of the shared language
in a part of the world separate from where another speaker grew up. Grammar may also be different.
1. She has gotten used to the noise.
2. She?s got used to the noise.
3. He dove in, head first.
4. He dived in head first.
5. Did you eat yet?
6. Have you eaten yet?
The speakers of numbers 1, 3 and 5 above are likely to have learned to speak English in the United States; those of 2, 4 and 6 are likely to have learned English in Great Britain. While each dialect speaker may respond to what seems ungrammatical to them, differences that form part of a regional dialect are not as socially salient as differences that arise from social separation. Many languages
spoken in different parts of the world have undergone changes. There are many differences between European Spanish and the Spanishes of Latin America. As well, French
has been altered in its establishment in other parts of the world such as Canada and Haiti. While a Parisian uses travail (work), a Canadian French
speaker uses djobe. Regional dialect variations may occur within a country. There are regional dialects in Great Britain which differ in respect to sound system, vocabulary and syntax. There may be notions of prestige attached to some dialects for historical reasons, but regional dialects do not normally elicit the same reaction as social dialects do.
varies not only from region to region, but also across ethnic, gender, age and socio-economic groups.
Social dialects are systematic just as regional dialects are. Speakers of social dialects learnt their language
in the same way that speakers of standard regional dialects did; however, the linguistic forms that they choose may cause listeners to make social judgments. For example, someone who says I?m not sorry may be judged to come from a higher socio-economic status than another person who says I ain?t sorry. The social markedness of some forms has led to the description of some dialects as standard, and some as non-standard. The assessment of whether dialects are standard or not is based on whether a form or systematic use of certain forms attracts negative attention. An educated speaker of the language
might judge a speaker of non-standard forms to come from a lower socio-economic group. This is not a judgment of grammaticality. Consider the reflexive pronouns below:
1. Tom hurt himself.
2. Tom hurt hisself.
3. *Tom hurt heself.
One and two are used by speakers of English, but three is not. Only three is ungrammatical. One and two are used by different speakers of English and belong to different social dialects. Two is socially marked and educated speakers may make a negative sociological judgment about the speaker.
The more people interact, the more their language
varieties will become alike. The less contact two social groups have, the more their varieties will be differentiated. In the past, the differences along the continuum have been labelled:
Speakers whose differences are merely phonological speak a language
using different accents. Speakers whose differences are systematic and involve semantic and syntactic systems speak different dialects of a language
. Speakers whose variant arose from a contact pidgin and has developed a complex system speak a Creole. The contact language
that grows up where speakers of many languages
speak a common language
for limited purpose speak a pidgin.
Defining a variant as a language
, dialect or Creole is not simply a linguistic task. A clear determiner of language
and dialect is intelligibility. If two variants are mutually intelligible, they are dialects of one language
. If they are not mutually intelligible, they are different languages
; however, social factors influence these labels. In Europe, near national borders like that between France and Italy, we find forms of French
that are like those of Italian language
. As we move from Rome towards the border, we find Italian language
varying, and, as we get closer to the border with France, becoming more like French language
forms. ?Using their own local varieties, speakers of German can communicate better with speakers of Dutch living near them than with speakers of southern German dialects? (Finegan, Blair & Collins 1997, p. 416). There have been court cases over the status of African American vernacular English in an effort to determine whether the variety is a dialect or a language
; the latter has implications for bilingual education programs.
Why variation matters
So, we conclude that language
varies. All languages
vary. What does this imply for teachers of global English? What variety is taught? Should the fact of variation be taught, so that learners know that what they hear and use in the future will also vary?
Each instantiation of a language
is unique. Why does it matter, as long as the speaker manages to communicate their message? Learners of English as a global language
may benefit from exposure to different Englishes, including the new Englishes, what Holmes refers to as ?world Englishes?. Listening to the pronunciation of different Englishes, for example, may help learners to communicate with other speakers of world Englishes. There are many samples of both written and spoken varieties of other Englishes available to teachers of English.
Social factors influence how we regard variants in language
. In some countries, governments sponsor the employment of ?native? speakers of English from specific countries, indicating an attitude about the preferred variety of English. Social factors also influence the speaker/listener of a language
. We choose the way we write or speak something for a reason (just as, we will see, we choose which language
we will use). The forms a person speaks lead a listener to social judgments about the speaker.
Judgments that listeners make about social features of speakers on the basis of samples of speech may be more or less accurate; they certainly are real. Early research in the United States showed that listeners made social judgments about unseen and unknown speakers on the basis of sound recordings that were three to five seconds in length. As well, teachers made judgments about fluency that influenced predictions of likely academic performance on the basis of short recorded samples. Variation can influence life chances.
variation and education
If the language
you speak can influence people?s response to you, what happens in
a classroom? And are all variants in a language
equally useful in learning? These questions have been addressed over the years in sociolinguistic work in English-speaking countries. Let?s look at them in turn.
identifies group membership. The group could be an ethnic group, a racial group, or it could be a subgroup of a majority national group that is differentiated by its access to society?s goods?for example income, health care, education. What is the role of education in respect of difference marked by language
We will consider this question more generally before looking at language
issues closely. It is important to consider how education systems may or may not contribute to inequality. Consider how social inequality ?enters? your classroom:
? Does inequality in society affect students (children or adults) and teachers?
? Are students and teachers aware of social differences?
? Have education systems acknowledged social differences?
? Does your school system have any policy to address equality in access and success?
A social justice framework was developed for Victorian schools. Was this evidence of an awareness of inequality? Do schools truly aim to reduce inequality?
The government system in Victoria has considered success (e.g. in gaining access to tertiary courses), retention rates, providing a curriculum relevant to different social groups and ensuring access to that curriculum for all as areas where equality should be ensured. What measures have been taken to accomplish this? Various programs have been tried to ensure that girls have equal access to mathematics and science, and to computer use. There is a closer focus on the appropriate teaching of literacy for boys. How are such measures based on the dominant group?s sociocultural assumptions?
Government and private education
In many countries, parents may choose to send their children to a government school or a private school. There is a dual education system in Australia, a private system and a government-funded system. The dual system is said to represent inequality in educational opportunity. How do the two systems compare? An extensive comparative study of this topic was carried out in the early 1980s by Robert Connell and others, which they described in Making the difference (Connell et al. 1982). Connell looked at curriculum, retention and the relationship between home and school among other areas of difference. Most countries have private and public schooling options. It is not always the case that the private system is the elite system; in some countries it is not. Can there be equality in education as long as a country has a dual system? Can two systems be equal if they are equally funded?
How does a child?s language
affect their chances of success in schooling? It has been felt by researchers in different parts of the world that the language
a child brings to school is a significant factor in educational success. Variation in language
experience, then, impacts on schooling. It may be a question of the child?s first dialect or language
being like or unlike that used at school. It?s possible that the child?s experience of language
variety in L1 could influence their study of L2 English as that variety may affect their experience of school more generally.
Variation can occur not just in the forms of language
a learner uses. Language
also differs in how people use it, and in how they use it in education. Studies of the use of language
in learning by some indigenous groups in different parts of the world show a preference for non-verbal learning styles. Studies of children from different social backgrounds also develop the child?s typical uses for language
. There are clearly differences in child language
experience prior to school within any one language
Please read through the transcripts you will find below of conversations in an English school with children who had returned from a school excursion. While you are reading, keep in mind the following areas of potential difference in language
forms such as:
(a) length of utterance
(b) complexity of sentence
(c) kinds of sentence conjunction
(d) variety in verb form
(e) length, complexity of, and variety in noun phrases.
use, that is:
(a) what each child does with language
in response to the excursion
(report? describe? etc.)
(b) how many different uses there are in each transcript.
support, that is:
(a) how much support each child needs from the listener
(b) whether the listener needs to request clarification.
skills, that is, whether the children are equal in respect of the language
skills required for school.
Transcript 1: Justin, aged 10
Teacher: Justin, tell me about when you went to Ludlow and Stokesay castles, will you?
Justin: We went on a coach and it took us, er, about three hours to get there.
Teacher: Mm, that was a long time.
Justin: And I was in Mrs McClaine?s group. And, um, and we, when we got there there was a cannon outside, and then we got off the coach and we went into the castle and it was very old. The door hadn?t been mended yet.
And then we went up to the drawbridge and then we went in and, er, the first thing we went to was a door and we went through that door, then another door and another door and then we came to the well and some of us did a picture of the well in our books.
Then I went to look through a window, there was a river there, and, er,?then we went to, then we went to a kind of chimney.
And then we, er, went through another door and, and we there was, and, er?there was a chimney and Michael looked up it and some dust went in his face.
Then we went up some, and we went up some stairs and, then there was a little window and out, out, if you looked through the window there was a little swing park by the river.
Teacher: Were all the doors the same size or were they different?
Justin: Some were the same size and some were smaller.
Transcript 2: Virginia, aged 10
Teacher: Tell me about your visit to Harlech Castle, will you?
Virginia: My granny took me when I was on holiday. It?s very big, but not so big as Caernarvon, that?s massive. It?s partly ruined but a lot still stands, the castle stands on a cliff so it?s well protected.
You know, when it was built the sea came to the base of the cliff.
We went into the dungeons and David thought they were marvellous but I didn?t like them?I wouldn?t have liked to be a prisoner in them. It was dark and cold and wet and I bet they?d be rats. I?d rather die.
But then we went up on the battlements and you could see all the mountains of North Wales and the sea.
You could see the flat marshes and the sand dunes where the sea had once been?now you can walk on that side but once you could only get to the castle from the land.
And if the sea came up all the way round, invaders couldn?t land. They?d have to attack from the land side. I imagined them all riding up in their armour. And the people in the castle would be in a very strong position. I don?t think they?d be beaten?not if they?d got enough food to last them.
Transcript 3: Jean, aged 10
Teacher: Tell me about your visit to Ludlow and Stokesay last week.
Jean: It was nice. Me and Jennifer had some fun on the coach. And we had lots of sweets and some pop.
Teacher: I know you enjoyed it?but what was the castle like?
Jean: Old stone?falling down..
Teacher: What interested you most?.
Jean: The well?it was deep. I dropped a penny in it..
Teacher: Why did you do that?
Jean: Jennifer told me to.
Teacher: Tell me some more about the castle.
Jean: That man told us not to go on the walls. He told Peter Smith to get down.
Teacher: Did you enjoy the visit?
Jean: Yes, we?d some ice cream coming back and we sang all the way.
If you are the teacher of adult language
students, do you suspect you see group differences in the familiar uses of language
? For example, do some learners seem more willing or ready to explain when giving an answer?
In a multilingual society, teachers may expect variation within one language
community and language
variation across groups. What is ?successful? school language
like? Does it help to look at the linguistic forms children use? This was the belief amongst some who focused discussion on dialect difference and learning. Others felt that children came to school with practice in using language
for different purposes. What are the different uses for language
in schools? The interest in genre has focused on the child?s typical uses for language
Collins discusses the theories of Basil Bernstein, a British sociologist and sociolinguist, and Pierre Bourdieu, a social theorist. Both of these researchers were interested in the language
for schooling, and how that related to social power and groupings.
As you read the Collins article, did you think about what kind of language
leads to success in your classroom, and the differences there are amongst learners? uses of languages
? Also, is their content knowledge, ideas and events that a learner knows about that makes a difference in the student?s ability and in the status they have? Does some knowledge have more status than other knowledge? For example, is it more important to know one?s country?s history than to be able to work with machines, or with technology? How valuable is proficiency in English language
? What is the cultural capital that Bourdieu wrote about in your country?
Teaching that takes account of variation in learners? language
forms and use has led to two main focuses. One is that the learner?s variant is accepted. Variation in language
forms is not significant if it communicates, except that it carries social markings. Accepting variation is simply accepting the reality of language
. It also promotes a good learning environment. Children who speak non-prestige variants know those variants from their family; the school does not want to stand between child and family. The other thrust has been to teach or accept variants in context. It is appropriate to use one variety in one context, and another variety in another context. It is appropriate to speak differently in formal situations from the way one would speak in a family situation (though, these may cross over of course). So, we teach the language
forms as they are appropriate to the context. This has been done in ESOL teaching for a long time as well as in teaching learners whose language
forms vary within one language
A particular and very productive way in which we have addressed language
variation in teaching is to distinguish spoken language
from written language
. Systemic functional linguistics has helped us to teach more clearly the formal differences between speaking and writing. Making the distinction also helps us address the sociocultural issues that arise when teaching learners who use different variants. It has enabled teachers in Australia and the US, for example, to accept the spoken forms of learners in their classrooms (and link them to appropriate contexts) while teaching more rigorously the forms of written English. In your reading by Burns (see Introduction of this Study Guide), it is suggested that this may be the way to address variation in English as an international language
(EIL). For example, there is a social role for Chinglish or Singlish and it does not need to be replaced; however, neither of these variants use the forms preferred in written English. Distinguishing between the contexts for both written and spoken English and between the linguistic forms each draws on may help teachers of EIL respond to variation.
Clearly some variations of a language
are valued more than others. Language
relates to social power. If social power is the opportunity of a person or group of people to realise their own will even if opposed, how does language
relate to power? From research into attitudes towards variants, we know that language
can enhance a speaker?s status. It may also serve to identify and delineate group membership. Groups that use language
in certain ways to do things form discourse communities. The language
practices of a prestigious group may not be well understood by another group or by other persons who might want to participate in common activities. Language
here has the power to exclude.
In this topic we have looked at how any speaker varies their language
, and how any language
has groups of speakers who regularly use variations in forms. Those used by a single speaker are typically discussed as register. Those phonological variations used by groups of speakers may be counted as accent. More extensive variations may collocate and form dialects. These dialects may be derived from earlier pidgin or Creole forms of a language
. Variation is part of the English of all ?inner circle? countries; this needs to be remembered when considering which English to teach in non-anglophone contexts. Variation in any language
carries with it social value and marks social difference. Now we will look at English as an international language
If you have this book ; An introduction to Sociolinguistics by Janet Holmes 2008, chapters 4,6,7, 11, 13 which describes how a speaker varies their use of a language
Brown, R & Gilman, A 1960, ?Tu and vous: the pronouns of power and solidarity?, in T Sebeok (ed.), Style in language
, Technology Press of Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, Mass.
Connell, RW et al. 1982, Making the difference: schools, families and social division, George Allen & Unwin, Sydney.
Ervin-Tripp, S 1976, ?Is Sybil there?: the structure of some American English directives?, Language
and Society, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 25?66.
Finegan, E, Blair, D & Collins, P 1997, Language
: it?s structure and use, Harcourt Brace, Sydney.
Holmes, J 2001, An introduction to sociolinguistics, Pearson Education, Harlow, U.K.
Ostermann, A 2003, ?Localising power and solidarity: pronoun alternation at an all-female police station and a feminist crisis intervention center in Brazil?, Language
in Society, vol. 32, no. 3, pp. 351?81.
Simon-Vandenbergen, A 2004, ?Intersubjective positioning in talk shows: a case study from British TV?, Text, vol. 24, no. 3, 399?422.
Tough, J 1989, Talk for teaching and learning, Ward Lock Educational, London.
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