Unit 7 Language and Society
(Unit 10 Unit 11
? 1. How is language related to society?
? 2. What social factors can influence the users of the same language speaking
7.1. The scope of sociolinguistics
? Sociolinguistics is the sub-field of linguistics studies the relation between language and
society, between the uses of language and the social structures in which the users of
7.1.1 Indicationsof relatedness between language and society
(1)An obvious indication of the inter-relationship between language and society is the fact
that language is not always used to exchange information as is generally assumed,
but rather it is sometimes used to fulfil an important social function--- to maintain social
relationship between people.
(2) Another indication is that users of the same language in a sense all speak differently. The
kind of language each of them chooses to use is in part determined by his social
background .When we speak we cannot avoid giving our listeners clues about our origin and
(3) language, especially the structure of its lexicon, reflects both the physical and the social
environments of a society. There are many examples of the physical environment in which a
society lives being reflected in its language, normally in the structure of its lexicon---the way
in which distinctions are made by means of single words.
? Whereas English, for example, has only one word for snow ( or two if we include sleet),
Eskimo has several. The reasons for this are obvious. It is essential for Eskimos to be
able to distinguish efficiently between different types of snow.
? English, of course, is quite able to make the same distinctions: fine snow, dry snow, soft
snow, and so on, but in Eskimos this sort of distinction is lexicalized---made by means of
The social environment can also be reflected in language, and can often have an effect on
the structure of the vocabulary. For example, a society's kinship system is generally
reflected in its kinship vocabulary.
We can assume, for example, that the important kin relationships in English-speaking
societies are those that are signaled by single vocabulary items. As society is reflected in
language in this way, social change can produce a corresponding linguistic change
This has happened in the case of Russian. During the period from 1860 to the present day
the structure of the Russian kinship system has undergone a very radical change as a result
of several important events: the emancipation of serfs in 1861, the First World War, the
revolution, the collectivization of agriculture and the Second world War..
In the middle of the last century, wife's brother was shurin, whereas now it is simply brat
zheny, brother of wife. Similarly, brother's wife, formerly nevestka, is now zhena brata,
wife of brother
? In other words, distinctions that were formerly lexicalized, because they were important,
are now made by means of phrases.
? The loss of importance of these particular relationships are due to the fact that social
changes in Russia have led to the rise of the small, nuclear family (4)As a social phenomenon language is closely related to the structure of the society in which it is
used, and the evaluation of a linguistic form is entirely social rather than linguistic. 7.1.2. Speech community and speech variety
? Speech community is a group of people who do in fact have the opportunity to interact
with each other and who share not just a single language with its related varieties but also
attitudes toward linguistic norms.
A social group may distinguish itself by the educational background, the occupation, the
gender, the age, or the ethnic affiliation of its members.
7.2 Varieties of language
It is an obvious fact that people who claim to be users of the same language do not speak the
language in the same manner.
? For example all the English –speaking people do not speak the same type of English. And
the language used by the same individual varies as circumstances vary.
Varieties related to the user are normally known as dialects and varieties related to use as registers.
? Linguistic features of a speech variety can be found at the lexical, the phonological, the
morphological, or the syntactical level of the language.
? Standard, or non-standard and dialects
7.2.1 Dialectal varieties
? Regional dialects, sociolects, and registers
126.96.36.199. Regional dialect
Regional dialects are linguistic varieties used by people living in different regions.
Regional dialect boundaries often coincide with geographical barriers such as mountains,
rivers, or swamps. This differentiation is accounted for by the lack of communication in the old
days when travel was difficult.
? Although variation may occur with respect to pronunciation, vocabulary, or syntax,
particularly, the most distinguishable linguistic feature of a regional dialect is its accent.
Distribution of British English
? 1.Received Pronunciation (RP)最早是11世纪时形成于英格兰中南部的一支方言。这
学语言，也被英国广播公司（BBC）的播音员使用，于是又被称为Public School English
《语言学概论（英）》备课笔记 讲授人：杨泓 全国性广播电视公司的播音员。显然，这些职业同时也体现出"高尚"和"优雅"的社会地位。
? 2. Cockney --- the East End of London
? 3. Geordie----Newcastle，口音语调起伏很富音乐感
? 4. Scouse---- Lancashire near Liverpool发音比较粗糙
? 5. Brummy---- 英语鼻音很重
7. Welsh: 而在威尔士，人们有自己的语言：威尔士语。在任何有文字书写的地方，
Dialects in China:
7.2. 1.2 Sociolect
Just as regional dialect is associated with separation caused by physical conditions, social dialect
has something to do with separation brought about by different social conditions. Social-class dialect, or sociolect, refers to the linguistic variety characteristic of a particular social class.
在词汇系统的使用上，上层社会的人习惯使用America，cake，helping，ice，lavatory, looking glass, pudding, relatives, rich, Royalties, scent, scurf, sick, sofa, spectacles, writing paper等，
? 而不是与它们相对应的the States， pastry，portion， ice-cream，toilet，mirror， dessert，
relations，wealthy， Royals， perfume， dandruff，ill，settee，glasses ,notepaper，
When we look at the language used by two speakers A and B, we can estimate roughly their
relative social status:
Speaker A speaker B
I did it yesterday. I done it yesterday.
He hasn’t got it. He ain’t got it.
It was she that said it It was her what said it.
In Britain, one of the most important markers of status is accent. “Received Pronunciation” (RP) ,
a non-localized form of pronunciation, refers to the particular way of pronouncing standard
English, which is an indicator of a public school education and thus a high social status on the part
of the speaker.
In the past the possession of an RP accent was extremely important because it served as a
high-status marker, and also as a qualification for high-prestige employment no matter what other
abilities the work might require
Investigations have been carried out by linguists to obtain evidence for the correlation between
certain phonetic features and social variables.
? Percentage of speakers
? Using [n] for[ ]
? Middle middle class 3%
? Lower middle class 42%
? Upper working class 87%
? Middle working class 95%
? Lower working class 100%
It should be clear that social-class dialects are not distinct entities; they merge into each other to
form a continuum. It is only the proportions which are different.
188.8.131.52 Language and Gender
Differences between women and men have always been a topic of interest to the human species
and supposed linguistic differences are often enshrined in proverbs:
A woman's tongue wags like a lamb's tail.
Foxes are all tail and women are all tongue.
1. women’s language is of politeness
In many countries women are more status-conscious than men:
Men’s language is more straightforward, less polite, and more Direct.
? Women’s language is more indirect, less blunt, and more circumlocutory. 2. Lexical items
? Compared with men, women tend to use such words：
? horridly, immensely, awfully, amazingly, etc.
Because females often use these intensifiers, these intensifiers have become greatly weakened in
the degree of intensity. E.g.
Wife: You always leave your papers about，dear!
Husband: Really? Didn’t I put them in place yesterday?
Women have their own vocabulary for emphasizing certain effects:
females: so good, such fun,
exquisite, lovely, divine,
precious, adorable, darling,
neutral: great, terrific, cool, neat
The above words, besides their specific and literal meanings, can indicate the speaker's
approbation or admiration for something
a. What a terrific steel mill!
* b. What a lovely steel mill!
( female speaking )
c. What a groovy steel mill!
It reflected a traditional attitude in favor of the male sex..
doctor lady doctor
? Career men and career women may receive different comments that reflect sexist social
attitudes biases against career women:
? A Career Man A Career Woman
? Aggressive pushy
? Good on details picky
? Outspoken mouthy
? Climbed the ladder of success slept her way to the top
184.108.40.206 language and age
220.127.116.11 idiolect a. It is a personal dialect of an individual speaker that combines elements regarding regional,
gender, and age variations.
b. It includes such factors as voice quality, pitch, and speech tempo and rhythm.
18.104.22.168 Ethnic dialect
Registers are language varieties appropriate for use in particular speech situations, also known as
In a narrow sense, it refers to the variety of language related to one’s occupation
In a broad sense, the type of language which is selected as appropriate to the type of situation is a
Three social variables:
? Field of discourse（语场）tenor of discourse(语旨), and mode of discourse.（语式）
7.2.3 Degree of formality
? Language used on different occasions differs in the degree of formality, which is
determined by the social variables.
? Martin Joos distinguishes five stages of formality:
? Intimate, casual, consultative, formal, and frozen
? According to Joos, it is routine to alternate, within a single discourse, between two styles
which neighbor on this scale
? 1. Frozen: Visitors would make their way at once to the upper floor by way of the
2. Formal: Visitors should go up the stairs at once.
3. Consultative: Would you mind going upstairs right away, please ?
4. Casual: Time you all went upstairs now.
5. Intimate: Up you go, chaps !
7.3 Standard dialect
It is not related to any particular group of language users, but it is the variety which any
member of a speech community can possibly use regardless of……
? Firstly, the standard dialect is based on a selected variety of the language, usually it is the
local speech of an area which is considered the nation’s political and commercial center.
Secondly, the standard dialect is not a dialect a child acquires naturally like his regional
? The standard dialect has some special functions. It is the language used on any formal
occasions.Official or national language
7.4 Pidgin and Creole
? A pidgin is a special language variety that mixes or blends languages and it is used by
people who speak different languages for restricted purposes such as trading.
? When a pidgin has become the primary language of a speech community, and is acquired
by the children of that speech community as their native language, it is said to have
become a Creole（克里奥尔语，混合语）.
7.5 Bilingualism and diglossia
? Bilingualism：in some speech communities, two languages are used side by side with each
having a different role to play; and language switching occurs when the situation changes.
This constitutes the situation of bilingualism.
? Diglossia: refers to a sociolinguistic situation similar to bilingualism. But instead of two
different languages, in a diglossic situation two varieties of a language exist side by side
throughout the community, with each having a definite role to play.
? Two varieties:
? The high variety and the low variety
徐大明，2007， 社会语言学研究，上海人民出版社。 杨永林，2003，社会语言学研究 (功能称谓性别篇)，上海外语教育出版社。