521-Class 23

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Listen to this and this Lexicon Valley podcast. (Transcripts available on the webpage)

Read through the NPR's 'do you speak American' site. There's a lot of good stuff here. Here are pointers to help you navigate:

  1. Social identity
  2. Sociolinguistics basics
  3. Language and society
  4. Descriptivism and Prescriptivism
  5. Language crossing

Study Questions

  • Why do different people speaking what is ostensibly the same language--say, English--speak it differently?
  • What do you think it means that people make judgments about others based on the way they speak?
  • Why are some ways of pronouncing words seen as having higher prestige?
  • Is there a correct and an incorrect way of speaking a language?

Take home points[edit]

  • Language is regional, and remains regional
  • Insofar as the way someone speaks is a reliable indicator of where they come from, their race, ethnicity, SES, education, and hobbies, it serves as an honest signal (an emblem) of identity. And so we use it to make inferences!
  • Language is political. Varieties spoken by more powerful groups are deemed of higher prestige (high vs low codes). A given dialect is not any more or less correct in an objective sense, but not all dialects are deemed equally acceptable in all situations. People will judge you!
  • Although it’s tempting to think that some ways of speaking are just “wrong” (or plain irritating), these feelings do not derive from language per se. It's much more about who says what, rather than what one says.