Dr. S. Prema, Asst. Professor, Dept. of Linguistics
University of Kerala
Two aspects of language
1.Language always changes
2.Language always varies
Even then, we can use
language……..is it a wonder?
Why can we use a system which is
always changing and varies?
Language has two systems
1. An abstract mental system of the
language which all the speakers share
2.The concrete realizations of languages
by each speaker and hearer (parole).
The abstract system and the concrete
realization interacts each
other…..therefore language change……
Why language changes?
Why language varies?
1. Language is the
2. Language exists
Society always changes and varies
Therefore, languages also varies
and changes with society
Sociolinguistics studies language in relation
Sociolinguistics is the study of the complex relationship
between language and society.
1. explaining why do we speak differently in different social
2. identifying the social functions of language and the ways it is
used to convey social meaning.
“The study of language in relation to society”
Basics of sociolinguistics
Idiolect, dialect and language
Restricted and elaborated code
Variables in sociolinguistics
Described variation in a language at any level.
Variation in society like class, caste, gender and
Linguistic variable + Social variable =
Explained variation in languages based on the
What is this?
Differences in the pronunciation of
‘fan’ is a linguistic variable.
Labio dental f and bilabial f are the linguistic variables
/fæn/ labio dental
Tell the color by men and women separately
There is a gender
difference in the
knowing of the
name of the colure.
Woman can remember
more color terms……..
Linguistic variation according to whom
Malayalam second person pronoun
nī paṛa ‘You tell’
niŋŋaḷ paṛayū ‘You tell’
tāŋŋkaḷ paṛayū ‘You tell’
aŋŋə paṛayū/ paṛaññālum ‘You tell’
There is differences in society
based on class, caste, gender, age,
education, economic status
religion and region.
These differences reflects on the
languages we speak.
Variation is based on who speak to
whom in which situation
Socio linguistic variable
Once we proves that a linguistic variation is
depended up on social variation, that variation in
the language can be called sociolinguistic
This phenomena is called co-variation
A linguistic variable is described variable (HOW)
A sociolinguistic variable is explained variable
The language used by the participants is influenced by a number of social
factors. The social variables affecting language: ethnicity, religion, status,
gender, level of education, age, and so on;
The Participants: e.g. age, ranks, relationships;
The Setting: e.g. at home, in a formal meeting, etc.
The Topic: e.g. my tennis skills, cooking, exams, family matters etc;
The Function: e.g. getting a loan, hiring a maid, asking permission to leave
the room, etc
How to identify sociolinguistic variable
1. Observe a minor variation in the language.
2. Identify who makes that variation (his or her
3. Check all other speakers in the same category
makes the same variant.
4. Collect the systematic data.
5. Describe the linguistic variation.
6. Quantify and correlate with social variable.
7. Describe the correlation.
8. Establish at as the sociolinguistic variation
9. Try to explain the motivation of that variation.
a group of people sharing a common language
Mutual intelligibility between
Malayalam speech community
Kannada speech community
English speech community
Idiolect, dialect and languages
Idiolect: individual variety of a language.
Dialect/ sociolect: Regional or social variety
Language: An abstraction of many
IDIOLECT > DIALECT/SOCIOLECT> LANGUAGE
Elaborated vs. Restricted code
The elaborated code is used in relatively
formal, educated situations, permitting people
to be reasonably creative in their expression
and to use a range of linguistic alternatives.
The restricted code is used in relatively
informal situations, stressing the speaker's
membership of a group, relying on context for
its meaningfulness, and lacking stylistic range.
Two question to teachers?
Which code we use in the text book?
Which code we use to teach?
Elaborated OR Restricted code
How many of your students are master in the
How this affects their educational attainment?
How sociolinguistics is
useful for language