Labov study


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Labov study

  1. 1. Assignment 1: Compare Labov’s study with other regional dialect studies. Why is Labov’sstudy more popular than other regional dialect study?Introduction Labov is known to be one of the many sociolinguists in his time to research on dialectsand sociolinguistic which are different than other regional dialect studies. His most famousstudies are the Martha Wineyeard study which he did for his MA in 1963 and New York Cityfocuses on the pronunciation which he compared to that of the English pronunciation spoken inthat area. For Martha Wineyard study, the focus was on the dipthongs of [ay] and [aw] while TheNew York City study was on the [r] sound. These studies brought about the idea that social classwill affect the manner of how English is spoken and pronounced; whether it is for selfconfidence or that of a subconscious societal manner of speaking through the years.Labov’s studies and implications Juchem (2003) points that the important and special method used by Labov in his studiesas compared to other regional dialect studies is because he did not separate language usage formthe social context that he was researching on. As such, his recordings and findings wereauthentic and that they are reliable and valid towards the context given. By collecting the databased on the real context of language being used and spoken to, Labov is able to make validassumptions towards the social behavior on spoken language based on social hierarchy, socialesteem and social class. This is because, unlike other regional dialects studies such as those fromBernstein or Bereiter & Engelmann, Labov had conducted his research through quantitativemethod by coming up with charts and graphs that proves the linguistic variation of a society(Lock & Strong, 2010). Staying true to his objectives for his researches as ‘to avoid the
  2. 2. inevitable obscurity of texts, the self-consciousness of formal elicitations, and the self-deceptionof introspection’ (Labov, 1972), Labov had denounced several studies done by othersociolinguists towards the similar linguistic findings and variations. The main finding from his studies was that Labov was able to prove how varied theindividuals of a social class can use to communicate when they are in a different context or withdifferent interlocutors. During his time, the education system was mapped out according to theviewpoint that lower-class speakers which are influenced by their cultural circumstances arebound to be linguistically deficit whereby they do not have the schemata to improve and learn tospeak the Standard English (Lock & Strong, 2010). This conclusion was based on Bernstein’sstudies towards the African American during the 1960s. Berstein’s study, though has its strengthin understanding sociolinguistic, shows that Berstein has compared what is perceived to be theStandard English and that any cultural usage of English that uses the language without followingthe lexical and syntactically manner of the language is deemed to be not right. Labov’s studies thus have become more popular and widely accepted as he views andstudies the language in the culture of its own. He points out that the standard classroom culture ishighly different from that of the experiences, family values and ways of living among each child.Through the analysis done by Labov, he had even find that lower class speakers tend to‘hypercorrect’ themselves when given the chance and intimidation. As such, it cannot beassumed that these children have inferior mother tongue or language capabilities (Labov, 1972).His recordings on narration of verbal stories became the strong base of how a naturalconversation among people can happen and how the usage of language will thus, be different.
  3. 3. This quantitative method of analyzing conversational data bring about the birth of the notiontowards understanding people (speakers) influencing each other in dialogues and forms ratherthan having the usage of words that has a specified meaning to be used correctly in the supposedcontext. Past researches has focused more towards the appropriateness of words (as to follow theStandard English usage) grammatically which is now viewed as Critical Discourse Analysis(CDA). However, Labov’s notion has help in developing the Conversation Analysis (CA) tostudy cultural language usage although he did assured through his writings that there can be noone definite way to code and analyze the linguistic data as many factors come into play. This isbecause language usage is not only influenced by the nucleus scope that the individual lives inbut of a wider exterior factor such as political stability, economical strength and even the welfaresolidity. As such, to have stratification towards a society or ethnic class is highly deemedinappropriate when it takes into consideration of language use per se.Conclusion Labov’s studies has brought about a new methodology in conducting linguistic researchas he believes in spontaneous interviews and anonymous investigation by going down to the fieldwhere language is authentically used on everyday communication. The linguistic variable thatdenotes the social classes which Labov has found influences many other sociolinguistic studiesfrom then. Focusing on society instead of language, Labov is able to explain a whole newspectrum of the importance of language as a tool of communication in a certain culture. Throughthe popularity and widely accepted studies of his detailed explanation, William Labov isconsidered as the founding father of sociolinguistics.
  4. 4. Reference ListLock, A & Strong, T. (2010). Social constructionism: Sources and stirrings in theory and practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Juchem, M. (2003). W. Labov: Case study martha’s vineyard and new york. Retrieved 24 November, 2011 from