Role of Stress and Intonation in Class Stratification in a Society
If at all class division in a society is marked by
certain linguistic features
How can we account for the linguistic difference
that exists among the classes of Pakistani society?
Course title: - Sociolinguistics
Resource person: - Nazir Ahmad Malik Sb.
Submitted by: - Maqsood Ahmad
ID # 12011084006
Programme: - M. Phil (Applied Linguistics)
University of Management and Technology
Johar Town Lahore, Pakistan
The study investigated the role of stress and intonation on class stratification in a society. The
society was specified the Lahore district Tehsil Lahore cantonment rural area. For this purpose I
collected data from different people of different walk of life through interviews irrespective of
social class distinction, based on monetary system, their living areas and on their educational
status. The data description reflects that the society was divided into three classes. Each class
was showing entirely different stress and intonation patterns in their varieties of languages i.e.
Punjabi, Urdu and English, whereas the two classes were switching and mixing the codes
Key words:- Stress and intonation, Class Stratification, Data description, Code switching
According to Sapir Whorf hypothesis people’s habitual thought patterns and ways of perceiving
the world are conditioned to a certain extent by the categories and distinctions that are available
to them in their native language. Speakers of different languages may therefore have rather
different world-view, depending on how different the languages are from one another
semantically and grammatically.
Pakistan is a multilingual state, which has Urdu as national language, mother tongue of only a
minority (7.6 %) but the official language is English, language of the British, the rulers. Among
more than twenty spoken languages in Pakistan, the most common ones are Punjabi, Sindhi,
Urdu as well as Pashto, Balochi, Shina and Brahui etc.
Pakistan has seen a number of language based ethnic movements (Rahman 1996). The
Bengali Language Movement eventually led to the breakup of Pakistan into Bangladesh and
Pakistan in 1971. There were riots between Urdu speaking Mohajirs and the Sindhi speakers,
which increased the antagonism between the two communities and Mohajirs emerged as
another nationality, Mohajir Qaumi Movement in Pakistan. Other ethnic groups also seek
empowerment in Pakistan by using language as a marker of group identity.
Language is a sensitive issue in Pakistan. Thereare problems of administration, education,
higher commerce, mediaand the domains of power in state and civil society. Use of English
favours the Westernized elite while the use of other languages would bring in other candidates
for power. This may be called the class question, the way in which language relates to socio
economic class in Pakistan, constitutes individual level of empowerment through language,how
individuals seek to empower themselves by learning the languages of the domains of power,
civil and military bureaucracy, judiciary, education, commerce, media etc.
Hymes (1974) has observed that language boundaries between groups are drawn not on the
basis of the use of linguistic items alone, because attitudes and social meanings attached to
those items also count. He says:“Any enduring social relationship or group may come to define
itself by selection or creation of linguistic features, and a difference of accent may be as
important at one boundary as a difference of grammar at another. Part of the creativity,users of
languages, lies in the freedom to determine what and how much linguistic difference matters.”
2.1. Stimulation of the research study: -
A general concept existed that the Pakistani society consists of upper, middle and lower class.
This concept stimulated me that within the society irrespective of economic based division,
people are divided into different classes due to language stress and intonation.
2.2. Significance of the study and the research design: -
The significance of the study was the class marking on the basis of languagestress and
intonation.The second significance was that why different classes in society shifted from one
language to another language in respect of stress and intonation.The research design was
qualitative because the data was collected through interviews and the results were described.
2.3. Statement of the Study: -
If at all class division in a society is marked by certain linguistic features.
How can we account for the linguistic difference that exists among the classes of Pakistani
2.4. Research Questions: -
How much do the socio-economic, residential and educational factors influence the
stress and intonation on the language of the people of Lahore district Tehsil Lahore cantt
Which group in the region uses language without any code switching?
Which group in the region uses language with code switching?
3. Literature Review
The variations and connotations of prestige, is a concept that many sociolinguistics find worthy
of examining. Within a speech community, identifiable dialects and practices are allocated a
positive or negative assessment which impinges on the speaker. In order to understand the
comprehensive notions of linguistic prestige we have to appreciate the different variables that
are directly linked to language, as well as the resulting assessments that are attributed with the
speaker. Given that prestige draws on both linguistic and social elements, social stratification
and societal classes are two dynamics that are taken into account while attending to the above.
Every society has a diverse configuration of communal layering, which is known as social
stratification. Stratification is the social partitioning of people into different hierarchies by
evaluating their finances, rank and influence. In '' Class Structuration and class Consciousness'',
British socialist, Anthony Giddens breaks down the act of structuration further.
The structuration of class relationships occurs through two different kinds of structuration,
mediate and proximate.
Mediate structuration is defined as the factors which intervene between the existence of
certain given market capacities and the formation of identifiable social classes (Giddens).
A person's possession of property, their educational merits and their efficacy constitute their
market capacity. These factors generally tend to be consistent with their class.
"Proximate structuration is defined as the localized factors which condition or shape the class
There are three sources of proximate structuration.
1. The division of labor with in productive organizations (enterprises).
2. The authority relationships with in the enterprise.
3. The influence of the ''distributive group'', defined roughly as the consumptive mechanism
which allocates and distributes good in the larger society (Giddens).
Merging both the mediate and proximate structuration of individuals has a propensity to both
erect and underpin the configuration of class.
Different societies emphasize different characteristics then place the significance of the
designated characteristics to individual members of the society. Stratification systems are
structured from the top to the bottom and contain layers that are comprised of the social
clusters. Examples of some of the characteristics that may be used in ranking are age, gender,
race, ethnicity, education level, occupation and income.
The term social class is defined as "a group of people within a society who possess the same
socioeconomic status. Besides being important in social theory, the concept of class as a
collection of individuals sharing similar economic circumstances has been widely used in
censuses and in studies of social mobility. The U.S. social class system is comprised of 3 main
groups; the upper class, the middle class and the lower class. Each individual set is further
divided into subcategories of upper, middle and lower. Davis and Moore comment on the
complex variations in stratification systems; "Any stratification system is a composite of its
status with reference to the following internal and external conditions.
The internal conditions are comprised of:
The degree of specialization determines the fineness between and multiplicity of ranks in power
- The nature of functional emphasis (e.g. familistic, authoritarian, theocratic, totalitarian, and
capitalistic, etc.) determines who has rank over whom.
- The amount of social distance between positions reflects whether a society emphasizes
egalitarian principles or not.
- The amount of mobility in a system is determined by its degree of opportunity.
- The degree of class solidarity is determined by the presence and strength of specific
organizations to promote class interests.
Whereas the external conditions factor in:
- A society's stage of cultural development will determine its degree of specialization, its degree
of opportunity, and its functional emphasis.
- A society's situation with respect to other societies, such as constant warfare, free trade,
isolation, etc., will affect is functional emphasis.
- The size of a society will affect its degree of specialization and its degree of class solidarity
("Some Principles of Stratification").
Class interests as ''objective'' interests subsuming the members of a class under a general force
not only can differ from individual, personal interests, but can conflict with these interests. Two
particular interests are increasingly articulated: the revolutionary interests of the working class
and the conservative interests of the bourgeois. On the basis of these class interests, in fighting
to realize them or defend them, the groups determined by the distribution of property in
production, and by the distribution of political power flowing form it, organize themselves into
classes (Dahrendorf)." It is held in place by "a system of beliefs and cultural attitudes that ranks
people according to economic status, family lineage, job status, level of education, and other
divisions. Classism is the systematic oppression of subordinated class groups to advantage and
strengthen the dominant class groups." Language plays a central role within social classes as
valuation is placed on the speaker. Linguists such as William Labov and Walt Wolfram have
studied the compelling influence that social class has on language variation.
Sociolects are group dependent similarities in language (Louwerse) and distinctive speech
characteristics of the people belonging to assorted social groups. The attributes of their speech
can alter, based on the addressees. The characteristics of speech can be either solely
prestigious or stigmatized, or contain aspects of both. Although the correspondence between
linguistic variables and class exist subjectively, linguistic variation has a propensity to be
habituated by class. "Persons have attitudes toward language which are especially salient and
influential in initial interactions. Various linguistic features trigger in message recipients' beliefs
and evaluations regarding message senders, and that these beliefs and evaluations are most
likely to affect recipients' behaviors toward senders in contexts of low familiarity (Bradac)."
The variance in social class appears to be centered upon ones societal standing and power,
where the nuance of "status" in particular, seems to suggest the quantity of reverence.
Linguistic practices exemplify the associations amid local characteristics and social
configurations. That being said, we can see how members of a specific social group employ
linguistic variants to establish their role in the group. "The relationship between local identity
practices and social structures istheorized to some extent. Yet the subjective details are not
generally modeled, possibly becauseBourdieu's theory posits individual variation in mental
representations of the social world. The very concept of practice as mediator between habitus
and social structure demands this sort of internal investigation (Dodsworth)." Linguistic variables
that attempt to link a speaker to his or her class are subjective; as they alter within different
perspective and environments.
Linguistic variables have a significant role in society, as one's socioeconomic status is
strongly language and the consequential perception in relation to language. Particular speech
patterns and habits are bestowed with a positive or negative value. This value is then attributed
to the speaker. A critical concept that sociolinguistics examine, is that of prestige. There are
many varieties and sources of linguistic prestige, some of which are discriminatory. Walt
Wolfram notes how "like sociocultural parameters, linguistic boundaries are permeable,
constructed notions defined more adequately on the basis of sociopolitical and ideological
considerations than on the basis of linguistic structures and sociolinguistic relationships.
There are several different types of linguistic prestige, such as overt, covert, crypto, and schizo.
There have been many documented studies that illustrate the usage and sociological impact of
overt and covert prestige.
Overt prestige is a community's widespread positive social evaluation of the linguistic forms
employed by a high status group (Sterling). Overt prestige is given a positive societal
assessment because of its prevalent identification of social worth. Speakers of standard
English, for example a newscaster or professor, are agents, as they are directly associated with
a prestigious group and acknowledged as belonging to that group.
Covert prestige is the positive valuation of a "socially stigmatized variety at a smaller, more
local level (Sterling)." With covert prestige, linguistic forms are given confirmatory value either
because of or despite their connection with local social groups and their role; as opposed to
what the collective view of that social group may be. The use of the term "covert prestige" refers
to the situation of speakers knowingly and deliberately employing features disfavored by users
of the prestige variety, for the purpose of achieving solidarity, identity, and recognition within a
more specific group, as a choice not to assimilate to the general society (Schneider)." Not
everyone is considered to speak Standard English, as their speech may utilize a variety along
with local prestige. When a speaker applies a stigmatized variety to demonstrate group
cohesion and distinctiveness, the term vernacular bonding is used.
The interaction between social class, style and the correspondence of specific linguistic variants
has been extensively researched by William Labov. He notes that a "speech community is not
defined by any marked agreement in the use of language elements, so much as by participation
in a set of shared norms; these norms may be observed in overt types of evaluative behavior,
and by the uniformity of abstract patterns of variation which are invariant in respect to particular
levels of usage (Labov 1972: 120-121).
The above shows the direct influence of language and social factors. The notions of overt and
covert prestige fluctuate amid speakers of different regions and communal groups. It can also
be modified by the individual speaker, contingent upon sociolinguistic competence. Empirical
data from the study of dialogues thus may contribute to our understanding of some central
issues concerning the nature of language variation (Tottie 219). Wolfram notes how the
methodological challenge of defining linguistic boundaries is every bit as complex as the
challenge of defining social and cultural ones. Additionally we must respect the fact that there
are an extensive array of sociocultural associations, progressions, and characteristics that need
to be taken into account.
Language; an Identity symbol and Empowerment in Pakistan: -
Language has become an identity symbol under modern conditions when different collectivities
compete for power and resources. The possibility of increased communication, facilitate the
manipulation of larger labels for group identities such as religion or language. These labels
supper-cede or push into the background, such pre-modern and smaller labels as kinship, tribal,
class and occupational labels or markers of identity. The term Siraiki is used for the whole
collectivity now. In short, ethnic identity is constructed just as nationalist identities were
constructed in Europe because of the presence of collective symbols, especially uniform and
standardized print languages, as Benedict Anderson (1983) has argued.
A part from the role of language in identity construction, there is the issue of its use in education
and attitudes towards it. Shemeem Abbas has written on the strong presence of English in
education and other domains in Pakistan (Abbas 1993).A survey has carried out of Punjabi
students’ attitude towards languages and comes to the conclusion that they rank English
highest; Urdu comes second and at the bottom is their mother tongue, Punjabi (Mansoor 1993).
Language and Individual Empowerment in Pakistan: -
The demand for learning a language is linked to empowerment. People demand a language
ifthey can enter the domains of power through employment. There are large sections of
population, mostly of the urban population, who derive their powerfrom their ability to manipulate
the written word in English and Urdu, the domains of power in Pakistan. This power is not
directly proportional to one’s competence in the languages but without the ability to read, write
and speak these languages, one cannot enter the elite cadres of the Pakistan.
Languageis a coin and what it buys in the market is power. If one cannot write Urdu and
English, he cannot get even clerical jobs in Pakistan except in Sindh. If one can write Urdu but
not English, he can get lower jobs in all the provinces of Pakistan. Higher jobsare reserved for
those who can read and write English. This state of affairs is related to the pattern of distribution
of power. When the Mughals ruled India, they used Persian in the domains of power forcing
Hindus to learn this language and become Muslimized in culture (Faruqi 1998).In 1837 when
British did away with the ascendancy of Persian by substituting English in its place in the higher
domains of power, both the Hindu and Muslim elites switched to English and Persian declined
(Faruqi 1998; Rahman 1999c). Later, in Pakistan the Westernized ruling elite, which dominated
the modernized sections of armed forces, civil bureaucracy, media and commercial institutions,
did not allow either Urdu or any other Pakistani language to take the place of English. The
ascendancy of Englishreflects the ascendancy of those who happen to be powerful at the
moment the Western trained cadres of Pakistani elite.
In modern times, the state provides institutions for teaching languages of power but in an
obviously class based and highly discriminatory manner.In Pakistan the mainstream public
education is mainly in Urdufor vernacular poor people.For elite of power, armed forces, and
state functionaries, a parallel education system is created,which have English as medium of
instruction.A chain of highly expensive English medium schools like Froebels, Beaconhouse
and City School System, cater only for the elite of wealth. Even more wealthy people get their
children educated outside the country or in International American School.Facilities provided in
these schools are much better than those provided by the government in its mainstream
system. This is how the Pakistani ruling elite itself infringes its own principle of providing
education through the medium of vernacular. It also creates and maintains a class based
discriminatory system of schooling. In this system the majority of population is either left illiterate
or given vernacular medium schooling which puts them at a disadvantage in the quest for
empowerment via a visceral the elites of power and wealth. Moreover, the ruling elite do not
only lack faith in its own education policy but also subverts it by investing in a parallel model of
education from which it stands to benefit.
Sensing the usefulness of English as a language of power, the people go to great hardships to
provide English medium education for their children. They provide education of so variable a
quality that it defies classification. A number of religious organizations too now run such
schools. They claim to combine Islamic socialization with skills in modern subjects and English.
Modernity as a Domain of Power: -
Modernityincreased the number of people who could be empowered through the manipulation of
the written word.Entry to the large bureaucratic network created by modernity is through literacy
in standard form of language recognized as ‘official’ by the state. Since the British state
recognized only English as the language of elitist domains of power, it took the place of Persian.
The British also recognized certain vernacular languages for official work in lower domains of
power. Among these were Urdu and Sindhi which are now used in Pakistan. Teaching of these
languages in state institutions, development of their standard, written variety and printing in
them are all consequences of modernity.
The reflection of this change as far as language in concerned takes many forms. First, the older
Persian textbooks which reflected a magical, non-rational, pre-modern world view have been
replaced by textbooks which reflect the modern point of view. This ‘modern’ viewis that of the
ruling elites of the state. The British intervention changed these texts making them very
puritanical and nationalistic (Rahman 2001a). This has created an attitude of contempt for the
medieval classics in Pakistan, a contempt which goes hand in hand with the idea that the West
is ‘shameless’ and our own culture is ‘pure’.
I am teaching in Government high school Kahna Nau Lahore cantt, which is situated on Feroz
pur road (Lahore Kasur road) Lahore. Kahna Nau, twenty eighty kilometers away from Lahore
city, was a very small town some twenty years ago. Now it has become a very big town and
spread in near about twenty kilometers radius. There are eighty four villages all around it. I
interviewed twenty of my students; those were belonged to different localities of Kahna Nau
town and villages around it. I also talked about my assignment with my university colleagues of
The nature of the study is qualitative because the data was collected through interviews and the
results were presented descriptively not statistically. For data collection, I restricted myself only
for the Lahore district Tehsil Lahore cantonment rural area. I used the technique of observance
paradox to observe the students during the interview.
5. Data analysis
I observed that all students used entirely different stress, intonation patterns, and
vocabulary items. Their each and every utterance was telling about their social status,
educational level and locality or village, they belong to.
Stress, intonation patterns and vocabulary items of kahna nau town students were
entirely different from those of village side students.
Kahna nau town students were also code mixing of Urdu with their mother tongue
My university colleagues were also mixing and switchingthe codes from Punjabi to Urdu
and Urdu to English languages. Their use of morphological, vocabulary items and
syntactic patterns were quite different from village side students. Their every utterance
was telling about their possession of a higher social status and class.
According to my opinion these students were belonged to three social classes.
One, who belong to villages were using only Punjabi with entirely different stress and
intonation patterns according to their village and locality.
Second, who belong to proper kahna town were using different stress and intonation
patterns and also they were code mixing of Urdu with Punjabi.
Third, who belong to my university were mixing and switching the codes from Punjabi to
Urdu and Urdu to English and using and showing difference in stress and intonation
So I concluded that locality, educational and social-economic levels also play a vital role
in social class marking of an individual.
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