Class and status
Social class involves grouping people together according to
their status within society and according to the groups they
Different social classes can be distinguished by inequalities
in such areas as power, authority, wealth, working and living
conditions, life-styles, life-span, education, religion, and
status: Social positions that society assigns to its members,
or the differences between social groups, in terms of the
prestige associated with them by others.
Class and status
Sociolinguistics started with frischer’s 1958 study of schoolchildren
in New England.
He found that g-drooping wasn't random as some linguist had
assumed most variation to be. because there were no categorical
rules when it happened, there were clear probabilistic constrains
that is (g-drooping) was more likely in some context.
Frischer found linguistic constrains which means, linguistic factors
that govern the use of particular variant) on (g-drooping) in his data:
1. It was less common with formal verbs rather than informal verbs.
2. He found clear social constrains,(social factors like sex or age that
govern the use of particular variant),he found that boys g-drooping
more than girls, working class students g-drooping more than
middle- class students.
Sociolinguistics have expanded on ever since:
Most societies divided into groups with different status.
Some linguistic functions are variable–that is , they can be
expressed in two or more ways called variants.
Sometimes linguistic variation seems to have no meaning at all,
e.g.: Give her the book and Give the book to her
But often one of the variants becomes associated with higherstatus and acquires prestige.
Or, more likely another one becomes associated with lower-status
groups & acquires stigma.
Determining social class or
Karl Marx(Marx &Engels1848), he identified two antagonistic
Capitalists: who owned the means of production.
Proletariat: who worked for Capitalists.
Frischer’s idea elaborated and turned into a sub discipline with
Labov’s work in New York city,& Trudgil in Norwich often
determine a speaker’s class membership through a complex
scorecard involving type of home , neighbourhood, income, &
Labov’s famous department store study (2006/1966)
introduced the idea of borrowing prestige that is speaker’s
setting &the role that they're playing can affect their use of
language features associated with a particular class.
Jack Chambers(1995-2009) suggests that: People often try to
talk like who they want to be, so we might want to identify
people by their aspirations, not their current status.
when Labov plotted rates of use of variable by social class &
formality of speech context, he found clear parallel lines, with
classes staked above each other & increasing use of prestige
variants with increased formality.
There was one exception: a crossover with the second highest
group, when this group was speaking very formally, they used
prestige variants even more often than the group above them,
the people they were presumably trying to emulate.
In another words they showed social hypercorrection,
overdoing what they saw as the linguistic requirements of the
Linguistic insecurity: the force hypothesized to drive people to
use a variant that is thought to be prestigious or correct and
that is not part of their own casual speech.
Bourdieu &Boltanski(1975)suggested that we should assign
speakers to social categories on the basis of where they fit
into the linguistic market which means the importance of
standard language in the social & economic life of the
some features are Salient recognized within the community
as having a particular social meaning.
Salient: usually refers to a noticeable variant –one that stands
out due to physiological, social,&/or psychological factors.
Note: a variable that is socially marked , very noticeable &
often discussed, called stereotype.
More about Linguistic features:
sociolinguistic markers : if they are just barely noticed, but
speakers control how often they use them in different styles.
sociolinguistic indicators: they are below the radar but can
be shown by large- scale study to be associated with particular
Indicator: a variable that can show differences by age or social
group and often associated with particular characteristics but is
not subject to style shifting.
Note: a speech community’s norms affect both markers and
Social mobility :refers to the ability to move between social
classes, often determined by how defined class roles are in a
Social mobility plays a large role in how class and language
influence each other. So it can be defined as movement from
one class/status position to another.
In societies where mobility is more difficult and linguistic
boundaries are more rigid, we use the term caste to describe a
social group like this, one that’s very hard if not impossible, to
move out of.
"Caste" is the term used to describe the complex system of social
divisions that pervades life in India.
Note: Caste determines whom a person
can marry, specifies what kind of work
he can do, and even controls what he
can eat or touch.
British class system was in the distant past fairly closed to a
caste system, with extremely limited social mobility. Marx
described there in the 1840s was then a fairly recent
development associated with industrialization. And increasing
social mobility during that time period increased the
importance of language as a way of identifying somebody’s
As a result a whole industry grew up around teaching nonstandard speakers how to linguistically pass for members of
Authors competed to introduce (prescriptive rules), this is
where we get things like the math analogy (2 negatives make
positive) to forbid sentence like(I don't want nothing).
Prescriptive: an approach to language that is focused on rules of
correctness, that is how language should be used.
The result was middle class that again shows hypercorrection
hypercorrection: When people go beyond the highest - status
group in using new prestige features, often a sign of linguistic
insecurity , typically when someone middle - class uses a higher class variant reflecting their desire for upward mobility (cf. Labov
1972b). Forms like ain’t and g-dropping were used by working
classes & the nobility , but rarely by people in between.
An article from 1954by British linguist Alan Ross identified
linguistic features especially vocabulary were then associated
with the Upper (U) and non Upper(non-U) classes.
These ideas popularized by the author Nancy Mitford setting
off debate about class consciousness and snobbery.
Mitford provided a glossary of terms used by the upper classes
(some appear in the table 4.3 p52).
Note:- A snob is a person who believes in the existence of an
equation between status and human worth.
It is a subset of language used by a particular social group or
class, & also called social dialect.
standard: The codified variety of a language , that is, the
language taught in school, used in formal writing, and often
heard from newscasters and other media figures who are trying
to project authority or ability. standard gets much of its power
from being seen as socially & linguistically unmarked.
unmarked: The opposite of marked , that is, a linguistic feature
that does not get noticed.
Peter Trudgill suggested that there were two kinds of prestige:
Overt prestige: Positive or negative assessments of variants
that are in line with the dominant norms associated with
sounding “proper” and that people are aware of, often coinciding
with the norms of the media, educational institutions, or higher
socio - economic classes .
covert prestige: A norm or target that speakers
unconsciously orient to, with a sort of hidden positive evaluation
that speakers give to (usually non-standard ) forms. The linguistic
equivalent of street credibility.
Sociolinguist Basil Bernstein(1961)wrote that we could think of two kinds
A restricted code: which all children use.
Elaborate code: which only some children get, and which better
prepares them for the type of language and reasoning used in school.
The following seem to be ideas that can translate across a range of
Prestige:Variants associated with higher-status groups are considered
Stigma: A negative association, something viewed pejoratively.
•Power: An unequal or non- reciprocal relationship between two or more
speakers, predicting who (or whose norms) will dominate an interaction.
• status: Social positions that society assigns to its members, or the
differences between social groups, in terms of the prestige associated
with them by others