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TOWARDS THE ISSUE OF SOCIAL VARIATION OF LANGUAGE

TOWARDS THE ISSUE OF SOCIAL VARIATION OF LANGUAGE
Ирина Усаченко, преподаватель

Николаевский национальный университет им. В.А. Сухомлинского, Украина

Участник конференции

УДК 8127

 

The article outlines the study of the impact of social environment on language and linguistic behavior.

Keywords: sociolinguistics, language variation, linguistic repertoire, sociolect, phonological variable.

 

The array of sociolinguistic research includes the study of the impact of social environment on language and linguistic behavior. Modern science uses methods of sociolinguistic research, including observations, surveys, analysis of written sources to determine social conditioning of language, linguistic phenomena, and changes in the linguistic environment. Considering language variation, sociolinguistics tries to establish social determinants of situational language variation. Investigating this issue, contemporary sociolinguistics operates with the works of U. Ammon, D. Crystal, H. Currie, J.L. Fisher, J.A. Fishman, W. Labov, R.I.Jr. McDavid, G.R. Pickford, Ye.D. Polivanov, A.D. Shveitser, P. Trudgill, W. Wolfram, Ye.A. Zemska, Yu.O. Zhluktenko and many other researchers. These studies are based on the assumption that the language repertoire of almost every individual consists of several subsystems or variants. According to I.R. Halperin, linguistic repertoire is divided into two groups: special literary vocabulary (terms and learned words, poetic words, archaic words, barbarisms and foreign words, literary coinages including nonce-words) and special colloquial vocabulary (slang, jargonisms, professional words, dialectal words, vulgar words, colloquial coinages). He noted that the stylistic function of the different strata of the English vocabulary depends not so much on the inner qualities of each of the groups, as on their interaction when they are opposed to one another [1, P. 67]. Contrary to this opinion V.A.Kuharenko distinguishes three subsystems of an individual’s linguistic repertoire: the elements common to all linguistic community; elements inherent to his/her social group; 3) the individual characteristics of a language [2, P. 158]. Accordingly, a bilingual individual’s language consists of two/three systems each of which is divided into several subsystems. Varying elements of these systems and subsystems, an individual is able to produce statements of various styles.

The problem of social variation of language is characterized by two dimensions – stratificational and situational. A.D. Shveitser notes that stratificational variation is related to the social structure of society and is manifested in language and speech differences, characteristic of representatives of different social strata and groups. Situational variation is characterized by a prior use of this or that means depending on the communicative situation [3].

To study the stylistic language variation at the individual and grassroots levels sociolinguistics uses the notion of sociolect. Turning to the question of the definition of the notion T.I. Yerofieieva notes that in the term “sociolect” the category of social is understood in the conditional-expansion sense, i.e. the phenomenon of linguistic similarity of a group should be designated as biosociopsycholect, but for the sake of brevity it is better to use the term “sociolect”. This term includes the concept of social type that appears in humans influenced by features inherent to this race, ethnic group, nationality, social class. On the one hand sociolect is the language of an average individual who is the representative of his/her social group culture; i.e. sociolect is invariant socially marked language subsystem. On the other hand, the concept of sociolect is broader than the concept of social type and includes also a system of linguistic means of any more or less big group of people. This linguistic means is caused by several factors, has not only social but also psychological and biological character, for instance place of birth, age, gender, temperament, education, profession, etc. [4, P.21]. V.P. Korovushkin treats “sociolect” as a complex system consisting of subsystems and specific sets of different level units that are interconnected by hierarchical relations. He also distinguishes the concept of “sociolectism”, which is defined as an element of phonetic, morphological, syntactic, lexical and semantic systems of sociolect with peculiar characteristics, thus it doesn’t eliminate sociolect’s own characteristics caused by sociolinguistic characteristics of its speakers at each linguistic level [5, P. 39]. M.B.Vakhtin and Ye.V.Holovko note that social stratification is typical for any society, in the developed countries of the West it has become a form of social groups [6, P. 51]. According to researchers, social situations have their own characteristics and structure. Probably we should distinguish not only the most distinctive features, which are cornerstone for this situation, but more minor features whose nature is more complex. In this regard we believe rather important are the parameters of sociolect according to M.Uesseler: belonging to a group, ideological orientation (ideas that arise from the affiliation of the speaker to a group, layer, class), historical background (socio-historical situation) [7, P. 144-146].

Thus, the demonstration of these parameters in practice was made by W.Labov who discovered the interaction between linguistic and social features on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, USA. After examining the geographic, social and economic characteristics of the region, he singled out the following parameters inherent to most of its inhabitants: firstly, identification of the population as indigenous; secondly, the lack of desire to change their place of residence (the examples are given when local residents in many cases left the island to get a higher education and then came back to fulfill themselves “at home”, for example, to become a real estate agent selling new homes to tourists from mainland, which were built by local people in the up-island); 3) opposition to tourists because of difficult economic conditions (“You can cross the island from one end to the other without stepping on anything but “No Trespassing” signs”). W.Labov noted that a study of the data showed that high centralization of [ai] and [au] is closely correlated with expressions of strong resistance to the incursions of the summer people [8, P. 296-297].

Among the current research we can pick out the work of K.O.Melezhyk one stage of the research of who was the study of morphosyntactic and lexical features of English student sociolect [9]. So, there was multi-ethnic group of students (representing Great Britain, the European Union and other European countries, including Ukraine, the USA and Canada, Asia and Oceania, Africa and the Middle East, Latin America), which completed the Master course at The London school of economics and political science. In terms of their relation to the English language respondents were divided into three levels developed  by an American sociolinguists W.Wolfram within sociolect informant classification: 1) students who were born in English-speaking countries and learned English as their mother tongue; 2) students who were born in English-speaking countries in the families of immigrants and first learned the language of their ethnic group, and a little later or simultaneously also English; 3) students who were born in other countries and first learned their native language, and then English as a second one [10]. Respondents were asked a series of questions regarding the use of English. Thus, the analysis of the responses showed that the integration process of students in the socio-cultural and linguistic space of linguocultural community was carried out, in particular, through the sociolect acquisition. The interviewed students used student sociolect selectively in different situations of communication (with friends outside the university, in the Internet), but the use of the sociolect was excluded in communication with teachers. The rapid sociolect acquisition takes place through membership of a group, motivation level, interactive communication range, high status of sociolect and positive attitude to it in this society. The informants performed a choice of language means depending on their socio-educated level, but regardless of belonging to any social group.

Research of C.A. Ferguson (1959) and R. Braun and A. Gilman (1960) found that the speakers in any environment control different styles of language and switch depending on the interlocutor they speak with [11, P. 35]. Socially stratified forms of language are characterized by mobility and diversity and vary not only depending on the social status of the speakers, but also on their social orientation. Individuals targeted for social advancement, often observe the norms not of their group but the reference one which they try to achieve. And vice versa, those individuals whose social situation is deteriorating, do not accept the rules of the social group they find themselves involuntarily [12]. Thus, the researcher M.D.Linn analyzes the speech African Americans. He notes that in the 1960’s linguists, speakers and educators tried to moderate the conditions of African-American students with informative learning. However, in 1974, they expressed the wish for the right to use their language. Of course, the political intention didn’t limit the boundaries of racial tolerance; on the other hand, the refusal didn’t help at all [11]. Another example is the study of A.Burkette (2007) which investigates English in Ashe County, North Carolina, in the Appalachian Mountains. She focuses on the use of conversational narrative to create community and display identity through the analysis of two grammatical variables: a-prefixing (they said he’s a-coming down) and nonstandard past tense (and they said he run till he dropped) [13]. Therefore, the evaluation of language of a social group is based not only on social status, but also the movement direction of an individual in the social hierarchy and value orientations.

Social differentiation of language is multidimensional phenomenon, represented by basilect, mesolect and acrolect (sometimes called edulect (education + lect) [14]). They represent a continuum of basilect, mesolect and acrolect zones which are distinguished according to context formality of the communicative situation, the level of speaker’s control for the language used in the situation and the level of language competence. An acrolect zone of the continuum is used in formal situations by well-educated individuals who have an advanced level of English, a mesolect variant is characteristic of informal contexts or cases where an educated person does not control his tongue because of fatigue, emotions or some other reason and switches from an acrolect to a mesolect zone. A basilect variant is typically used by individuals who do not have a good education and have a loose command of the language. Speaking of sociolinguistic variation, we mean, that usually the most dynamic situation takes place in a mesolect zone because when necessary an individual who uses a mesolect can “go up” to an acrolect or, “go down” to a basilect variant [15, P. 19]. As to these zones in English, British English traditionally refers Received Pronunciation to the acrolect zone, Scottish and Irish dialects and some foreign accents, territorial dialects belong to the mesolect zone, the basilect zone consists of uneducated residents of industrial cities [16].

B. Frank notes that a language is changing, and the driving force of language development is tense relations between the language system and linguistic norm that is constantly changing. Thus, according to level system of language, variation levels may be graphic (writing), spelling, phonemic (pronunciation), pronouncing (pronunciation norm), inflecting, word-building, lexemic, morphosyntactic, syntactic, and variation in types of texts. Thus, the interconnection between forms of language variation and variation of language units is emphasized [17]. Thus, in terms of sociolinguistic research the units of the mentioned levels can be socially marked, i.e. can be sociolinguistic variables.

Studying the variation of pronunciation, sociolinguistics allows one to set regularities inherent to not constant but varying rules of language behavior. “A phonological variable”, defined by W.Labov as difference or inconsistency that are specific for a language form compared with abstract pronunciation standard, is a unit of pronunciation variant structures [18]. O.D. Petrenko notes that phonological variable variant is the specific value of the variable. Their realization in informants’ speech makes it possible to determine the average rate of each phonological variable and its options in different situations of communication, that is, formulate variable rules of phonological variables’ realization and their variants in each sociolect that can be regarded as the pronunciation norm for this social group in certain communicative situations. So, the peculiarities of realization of the language segment structure in the pronunciation of a particular social group and determination of the phonological variables’ average realization and their variants allows interconnecting informants’ pronunciation with the choice of specific spoken style [18,19]. W. Labov notes that it is impossible to understand the processes occurring in the language without the context of social life. So, “before a phoneme can spread from word to word … it is necessary that one of the two rivals shall acquire some sort of prestige” [20, P. 275].

Referring to the issue of the interaction of stratification and situational dimensions of social variability, W.Labov noted that the total variation model can be realized in different ways in different social groups. For example, the language of members of the higher social strata is characterized by the predominant use of “prestigious” forms, and representatives of the lower middle class usually use hypercorrect forms in situations of official communication [18]. Thus, persons wishing to appear erudite in front of others sometimes use hypercorrect forms that can create exactly the opposite effect. Such situation, for example, can be observed in Iran, where residents try to speak literary Persian [21, P. 144-145]. A similar case was investigated in France (Deulofeu 1981; Gadet 1989). The researchers have suggested that unconventional “que” use carries negative social judgment and functions to stereotype working-class speakers [22, 23]. So to analyze an interferema it is necessary to take into account the behavior of communicants in different communicative situations.

The problems of social differentiation of the language are considered in the context of the general problems of language and speech variation due to both social and intralingual reasons. An interdependent interaction of subsystems within national language indirectly reflects the social processes taking place in a society, and the norm serves as the regulator of this interaction. The dynamic nature of norm and social evaluation of norm attitudes causes sociolinguistic interpretation of the norm as a complex variable system of linguistic rules. The study of development pattern of language sociolinguistic subsystems helps identify the prerequisites of language and speech variation at a certain stage of language development depending on communicative situation, and many other factors, including social class, gender, age, ethnicity.

 

References:

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Комментарии: 5

Хамзе Димитрина

Глубокоуважаемая коллега! Огромное Вам спасибо за очень интресный, познавательный и перспективный доклад! Проделана солидная работа! Благодарю Вас сердечно и желаю дальнейших успехов в науке! Димитрина

Гренадёрова Иванна Николаевна

The article is very interesting and informative. The material is well crafted and is presented briefly and concisely. I liked it a lot! Wish you good luck!

Косых Елена Анатольевна

Доклад посвящён актуальной проблеме реализации и возникновению социолекта. В докладе, логически выстроенном, решается проблема ранжирования лексем и их встроенность в язык и речь и реализация/функционирование в социуме. Доклад может иметь высокую оценку.

Аязбекова Сабина Шариповна

Интересный доклад. Теоретические положения подкрепляются примерами европейских и восточных стран. А какая ситуация складывается с изучаемой проблемой на примере России и других постсоветских государств? Мне кажется, здесь очень широкое поле для социолингвистики. Доклад может получить высокую оценку ввиду проработанности материала и постановки проблемы. Успехов! С уважением, Аязбекова С.Ш.

Шатилова Елена Сергеевна

The article is well structured. The author knows the methodology of the study. The scientist knows many fundamental scientific works. Information filed a brief, but in full. Overall, the study carried out at a high scientific level.
Комментарии: 5

Хамзе Димитрина

Глубокоуважаемая коллега! Огромное Вам спасибо за очень интресный, познавательный и перспективный доклад! Проделана солидная работа! Благодарю Вас сердечно и желаю дальнейших успехов в науке! Димитрина

Гренадёрова Иванна Николаевна

The article is very interesting and informative. The material is well crafted and is presented briefly and concisely. I liked it a lot! Wish you good luck!

Косых Елена Анатольевна

Доклад посвящён актуальной проблеме реализации и возникновению социолекта. В докладе, логически выстроенном, решается проблема ранжирования лексем и их встроенность в язык и речь и реализация/функционирование в социуме. Доклад может иметь высокую оценку.

Аязбекова Сабина Шариповна

Интересный доклад. Теоретические положения подкрепляются примерами европейских и восточных стран. А какая ситуация складывается с изучаемой проблемой на примере России и других постсоветских государств? Мне кажется, здесь очень широкое поле для социолингвистики. Доклад может получить высокую оценку ввиду проработанности материала и постановки проблемы. Успехов! С уважением, Аязбекова С.Ш.

Шатилова Елена Сергеевна

The article is well structured. The author knows the methodology of the study. The scientist knows many fundamental scientific works. Information filed a brief, but in full. Overall, the study carried out at a high scientific level.
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