Linguistic And Social Inequality

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Linguistic And Social Inequality

  1. 1. Assignment on Linghuistic and Social Inequality Subject: Sociolinguistics Submitted To:Sohail Falaksher Submitted By: Waseem Azhar Gilany Class: M.Phil Linguistics Semester 2nd Session: 2007-09 Department of English The Islamia University of Bahawalpur
  2. 2. Linguistic and Social Inequality Introduction Use of different linguistic items by a speaker for communicating the same message with in different social situation gave birth to the idea of linguistic and social inequality. When a speaker makes a choice with in the vast range of linguistic choices, the selection made by the speaker shows a degree of preference for any choice. All this depends on the social and educational status of the speaker. Means to say people have different levels of linguistic competence and linguistic performance which provide basis for the notion of linguistic inequality. In the same way people with different social and cultural background shows the levels of social inequality as well as different social status. In the twentieth century, linguistic commonalities have been given more importance than the linguistic differences. The linguists have been trying to find similarities among all the languages of the world. This century presented the idea that no variety of language is better than other but that all the varieties of languages or dialects have common features has been developed among the linguists. Infact the layman have different belief in this regard but the idea presented by linguists seems sound. In the same way as linguistic differences show no variety of language, the grammar of the different languages can not identically represent any language. Of course, there is no shortage of differences between grammars, whether of individuals or the whole communities. But there is no purely linguistic ground for ranking any of the grammars higher than others. Inspite these notions based on linguistic equality, it is acknowledged that linguistic and social inequality affects the language and its use to a great extent. Types of Linguistic Inequality (i) Subjective Inequality (ii) Linguistic Inequality (iii) Communicative Inequality 1. Subjective Inequality It concerns what people think about each other’s speech. Linguistic Prejudice is a product of subjective inequality. In this discussion this concept of linguistic prejudice is going to be explored to prove that linguistic prejudice in the basic cause for delimiting the idea of linguistic and social inequality. It is a very common notion that people are thought more or less intelligent or friendly according to the way they speak. But this is not a reliable yard stick to judge the social inequality among the people. This is a common thinking that right way of speaking conveys
  3. 3. that the speaker is much valuable than the one who uses wrong way of speaking. So language is a source of social inequality. 2. Linguistic Inequality It is typically a different concept than which runs through the whole chapter as general idea of the linguistic inequality. It relates to the linguistic items that a person knows. The linguistic items one knows show the experience of the person. Vocabulary is the field where this experience can be most obvious where some individual has a rich set of technical terminology for a particular field of life e.g. agriculture, fishing, linguistics etc. In different social situation the people perform differently because of the linguistic items they know. In other words we can say ‘social inequality’ varies situation to situation because of linguistic items used in different social situations. But the social occasion like job interviews, political debates have far reaching effects on social life and social inequality because here interviewee is sketched according to socia and linguistic signals he gives. l 3. Communicative Inequality It is concerned with knowledge of how to use linguistic items to communicate successfully rather than simply with knowledge of linguistic items. In the past the importance of linguistic inequality has been over exaggerated. But communicative inequality refers to the kind of knowledge or skill that is needed when using speech to interact with other people. It refers to themes related to language, culture, thought, and social inequality. So we can conclude that it is the most important type which lined out the boundaries for language culture thought representation and social inequality. Linguistic prejudice is the phenomenon that is the major cause of linguistic inequality and social inequality. It is going to be dealt in detail in the next coming discussion. Linguistic Prejudice A speaker uses speech as a source of social distinction. He always communicates to let the other people know about his position. On the other hand listener is also keen to make value judgments about the speaker’s social status. A speaker sent social signals to show his position in the multidimensional social space. The habit of using signals as a source of information about the speaker is called linguistic prejudice. The judgments based on speech can be called instances of prejudice. These judgments can be better called value-judgments based on speech.
  4. 4. Types of Linguistic Prejudice i. Cognitive Uncertainty ii. Linguistic Insecurity iii. Prestige 1. Cognitive Uncertainty People use speech as a source of information about he speaker in order to plan their behavior. Speech gives us information about speaker’s value, reactions, morals etc. this basic need for information about the other person has been called Cognitive Uncertainty (Berger Calabrese 1975, Berger 1979). This theory can be explained on the base of the basic concept of prototype. Example 1 When a person is given a plate of food to eat, he is in the state of cognitive uncertainty, then he made guesses on the base of his experience of prototypes among the eatable. Then he could conclude what kind of dish, he is going to eat. There is always a need to reduce cognitive uncertainty in social interaction. The social signals help to reduce cognitive uncertainty and help the listener to plan his behavior accordingly. But one must be careful in drawing conclusions about other people’s non-linguistic characteristics on the basic of linguistic characteristic of their speech. Speech determines the value system of society. The characteristics that are highly valued can vary from society to society. Example 2 Toughness in speech can be valued negatively as well as positively in different societies.(for roughness/ bravery) People use their speech to identify the particular social group to which they belong or would like to be thought to belong. Here speaker tries to become a symbol of group membership. Here membership shows the prototype-member of the group. So a person’s speech pattern is a permanent aspect of his social identity. The claim that people like to think they belong to a valuable group has a direct relation to the question of linguistic prejudices. It is a way in which people consider themselves a better group than others. Multidimensional nature of linguist variants can place an individual to some extent with a number of different groups at the sametime. Example 1
  5. 5. Keeping a working class accent while adopting middle class syntax and vocabulary. Example 2 If parents tell children that their own way of speaking is the ‘Right One’ then they will automatically follow that other groups speak less well. 2. Linguistic Insecurity Some groups of people in Britain and Untied States do not believe that they speak bet er t than others but on the contrary think that they speak badly. This phenomenon is known as Linguistic Insecurity (Labov 1972). Schools and the media can be channels for creating such kind of linguistic prejudices. 3. Prestige Degree of preference for any set of linguistic items determines the prestige given to any language. Example A child who adopts the language of the upper class may lose the respect and affection of his friend’s respect and even that of his family. So he cannot give up all the forms of his local group. He will use a mixture of both the forms of language. He will select positive images of both the classes. But he gives preferences to upper-class (it is known as overt prestige) and the use of selected local forms (covert prestige). We can argue that linguistic prejudice makes language a yard stick to measure the social in equality in the society. Another factor involved in determing the notion of social inequality is the study of Stereo Types which we are going to discuss here. Stereo Types For people speech is a clue to non-linguistic information about the speaker’s social background and personality traits like toughness or intelligence etc. People use informations in term of prototype. There is a characteristic of speech A And a characteristic of personality B A will be used both as a characteristic of speech through which the characteristic of personality B can be identified. Here B is harder to be observe directly other than the A. Here
  6. 6. former A will be used as a clue to B. This kind of prototype (A) is generally referred to as a stereotype. A (speech) B (Personally) A define (A)  and b A (stereotype) performs two functions at a time which is a subjective connection between the two prototypes. For the analysis of stereotype, we can assume that here A can be referred as ling variable and B  non-linguistic variable. Most of the people are not consciously aware of the connections between specific linguistic variable and non-ling variable, so there is little point in asking people directly about these connections. Subjective Reaction Test is the method forthe analysis of stereo type. Subjective Reaction Test We will use Subjective Reaction Test (Lambert Montreal) to analyze the stereotypes. Here the investigator prepares a tape-recording (recording of a series of people reading the same content or passage). Listener whose stereotypes are going to be investigated might be asked to make ten to twenty judgments about the owner of the speech and to fill a questionnaire. His judgments can then be compared from one voice to another. The listener for example would be asked to locate the speaker somewhere on a particular scale such as toughness, intelligence, friendliness or geographical area. Seven point scale can be used for this purpose let say: i. very tough ii. tough iii. somewhat tough iv. neutral v. somewhat gentle vi. gentle vii. very gentle We can take for an example which of the following jobs do you think the speaker might hold……? (Lobov 1972) The Results of Subjective Reaction Test show clear differences both between voices and between subjects e.g. different voices evoke different stereotype in the mind of the same persons, whilst the same voice may suggest different stereotypes to different people. To conclude we can say that Stereotypes (speech)are sources to identify stereotypes (personality). Linguistic Prejudice Working in Educational System
  7. 7. Now again we will explore the notion of linguistic prejudice in order to have better view about linguistic and social inequality. Here linguistic prejudices on the behalf of members of educational institutions are going to be discussed. Prejudice of Teachers: Through educational system upper class prejudices prevail in society. School teachers and their pupils both have fixed speech stereotypes and we can identify a number of ways in which teacher’s prejudice may present problems for their pupils. Concluded by (Giles & Powerland 1925) there can be certain evidences that most of the teacher base their impressions of pupils on speech forms in preference to other sources of information Example 1 Giles and Powerland compare three types of information; a photograph, a recorded example of speech and an example of school work and found that speech is given more weightage. Example 2 It is also significant that, intelligence test and formal tests of ability used by the educational system put much emphasis on language. Giles & Powerland (1925), describes that teachers are of two kinds i. Those who evaluate on the basic ofstandardness of language ii. Those who pay more attention to fluency (confidence & eagerness) Assuming that teachers form their first impressions of a pupil on the base of their speech there is a problem for a child whose speech leads to a negative impressions in teachers mind. The negative expectations by the teacher will lead to negative performance by the pupils. There are many teachers who believe that one of their main roles is to point out children’s non-standard dialects or accents that their speech in imperfect, in the hope that it will mend their ways. One the whole, such kind of criticism may affect child negatively or it can strengthen his determination not to conform with society as a result of his negative reaction. Even the teachers especially at primacy level do not speak standard British English, then how can teacher expect the student to speak standard British English. If teacher because of linguistic prejudice is not ready to speak standard British English, how can we expect a child to overlook his linguist prejudices in order to speak Standard British English.
  8. 8. Prejudice of Pupils First of all the questions arise whether linguistic prejudice exists in school children or not. Different researches as Howard Giles (1925) show that; The children below secondary school would be unaware of difference between the local accent and accent of teacher. In the secondary school career they were found aware of difference of accent and dialects. There are also other researches as done by Schneidman 1976, Edward Caisns & Barbra Duriez 1976, Wallace Lambert (1967) Giles & Powerland 1975. The results given by the above experiments can be interpreted as; Perhaps the children paid more attention to the message when it was in their accent a Perhaps they were more inclined to trust the opinion of someone who sounded like one of themselves. It seems that the ling prejudice of both teachers and pupils are potential sources of serious problem in Education process. Here Hudson suggests no solution to these problems. His only purpose is to prove that linguistic prejudice can create Educational Problems on the behalf of both teachers and pupils. Reason for Linguistic Prejudice Linguistic Incompetence Competence, defined by Chomsky, is person’s specific linguistic knowledge, and the notion of linguistic incompetence concerns the lack of linguistic knowledge of any language. Ling incompetence can be a feature of language of babies and L2 learners and if some one forgot his/her L1. Deficit Theory The claim that linguistic incompetence is found in the children from lower-class houses is known as Deficit Theory. This theory can be a dangerous nonsense that many school systems put the blame of their educational failure on the inadequacies of the child. Some children rarely give anything more than a single word in his answer to a teacher and some teachers conclude that the child is incompetent. But it is possible that fault lies not in
  9. 9. child’s linguistic competence but in the situation. He might be a very good speaker in his family or friends. The student underestimated in this way faces a lot of problems during his educational career. Bernsten (1960’s) claimed that there are two ways of using language. i. Restricted Codes ii. Elaborated Codes 1. Elaborated Code It is a kind of speech which is relatively explicit and is a kind of speech required to be used in a formal context or situarion. 2. Restricted Code This is a kind of speech used between the people who know each other well. It is claimed that people from lower working class use only restricted code. Whereas most of the members of higher class use both restricted and elaborated ode according to circumstances. The Scale of Vocabulary On the scale of vocabulary we can say that there are no significant differences in overall size of vocabulary of lower and upper class children. The above statement is about quantity of vocabulary. But when we come to the quality we can say there is remarkable difference in the use of vocabulary between the working class children with low proficiency and upper class with high proficiency in language use. This discussion rejects the notion of deficit theory that verbally deprived children have no language at all. The question is to seek out ways to solve the problem, caused by such linguistic prejudices. Communicative Incompetence Communicative Competence is knowledge of language needed by a speaker or hearer to grasp the message effectively. It includes our knowledge or ability to use linguistic forms appropriately. Example When to speak? and when not? What to talk? with whom, when, where and in what manner?
  10. 10. There is a clear difference between who have been to school and those who not been to school. Non-schooled uses non-logical thinking. While Schooled are taught logical thinking to solve Traditional Syllogism in order to create communicative competence. Example All people who own houses pay a house tax. Bioma does not pay a have tax. Does Bioma, own a house? The provision of schooling can therefore be seen as only one factor in the development of schemata concerned, and that some children do learn schemata from school and others do not. Some children do not want to learn the school’s schemata because of Subtractive Bilingualism. It creates a difficulty for school in persuading some children to accept some of schemata of school. View of social inequality indicates that different people may be different in the explicitness of their speech in the same circumstance. Bernstein claimed that children from lower class homes are likely to be less explicit under the same circumstances than children from higher class homes; Example During an experiment to show explicitness in a description of pictures, lower class children on average need thrice as many prompts to be explicit than the middle class children. It seems that the difference between codes is a matter of degree and it is a skill specific to a range of situation and not specific to the use of code successfully. The Communicative Competence of Lower-class Children Some people have a deficit (gap) in their communicative competence with respect to certain types of situation. Communicative competence depends more on situation than the individual’s social inequality. Each of us has his/her own particular range of deficits or gaps (Cazden 1970) would a better term for some formal experimental or school situation in which they have lo be explicit. Others may have gaps with respect to situations where they are confronted with an angry client and so on. Having seen what lower-class children do badly, it is only fair to look at some of the things they often do well. Example 1 Picture: A man standing by a broken window and shouting on a boy. Described by Middle class (Implicitly) Working class (Explicitly)
  11. 11. Example 2 Making up a Bed-Time story. Lower class girl: More fluent Lower class boy: Least fluent Middle class children: In between both of them. Conclusion: The main problem of lower-class children at school is a culture-clash between middle- class culture, which controls the teacher’s behavior, and lower-class culture, to which the children are accustomed. It can be suggested that in order to achieve the objectives of the educational system we should make use of communicative competence within the child’s own culture which he brings to school, even if part of the aim of education is precisely to broaden this communicative competence. In the multidimensional social space, speaker always communicate to let the other people know about his position in it. On the other hand listener also tries to draw conclusions about the speaker’s position in this multidimensional social space.A speaker sent social signals to show his position in this multidimensional social space in the form of the choice of linguistic items while communicating in society. It seems very right to say ‘Linguistic inequality breeds social inequality and social inequality breeds linguistic inequality.’ Bibliography: Hudson, R.A. Sociolinguistics .Cambridge: CUP.1980

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