Socioliguitics: William Labov


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This presentation attempts to introduce William labov's contribution to linguistics.

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Socioliguitics: William Labov

  1. 1. Prepared by Elhassan Rouijel
  2. 2. Outline <ul><li>Introduction </li></ul><ul><li>The Historical Context of Labov. </li></ul><ul><li>Labov: Background, Assumptions and Methodology </li></ul><ul><li>Labov’s Contribution to Dialectolgy </li></ul><ul><li>Labov’s Contribution to Stylistics </li></ul><ul><li>Conclusion </li></ul>
  3. 3. Labov: Background and Assumption <ul><li>Background </li></ul><ul><li>He studied at Harvard(1948). </li></ul><ul><li>He worked as an industrial chemist (1949-61). </li></ul><ul><li>For his MA thesis (1963) he submitted a study of change in the dialect of Martha's Vineyard . </li></ul><ul><li>He took his PhD (1964) at Columbia University studying under Uriel Weinreich. </li></ul><ul><li>Assumptions </li></ul><ul><li>« I have resisted the term sociolinguistics for many years, since it implies that there can be a successful linguistic theory or practice which is not social .» (Labov, 1982: xiii) </li></ul>
  4. 4. Characteristics of the Labovian Approach.
  5. 5. Labov in His Historical Context <ul><li>Ferdinand de Saussure </li></ul><ul><li>(1857- 1913) </li></ul>William Dwight Whitney (1827- 1894) Antoine Meillet (1866- 1936) André Martinet (1908- 1999) Uriel Weinreich 1926- 1967 William Labov 1927 Among others, he reacted against the view that linguistics was to be ranked among the natural, not the social, siences. « Speech is not a personal possession, but a social; it belongs, not to the individual, but to the member of the society » (Saussure quoting Witney) During his years in Paris, Saussure’s most distinguished student was Antoine Meillet . Meillet had Martinet as his student. In USA, Martinet had Weinreich as his student (1948- 1955) Labov was much indebted and influenced by his teacher Weinreich
  6. 6. <ul><li>Labov frequently acknowledged his debt to his teacher Uriel Weinreich and his references to the works of Meillet, Saussure, Hermann Paul, and others. (Koerner 2002: 264) </li></ul><ul><li>Sociolinguistics’ seeds saw light much earlier than the appearance of Labov. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Labov’s Contribution to Dialectology <ul><li>Labov has enriched dialectology with his two influencial studies of </li></ul><ul><li>The dialects of Martha’s Vineyard </li></ul><ul><li>New York City. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Martha’s Vineyard Case Study <ul><li>It is an island off the south of Cape Cod in New England. </li></ul><ul><li>It has a land area of 87.48 square miles (231.75 km²). </li></ul><ul><li>It is located in the state of Massachusetts. </li></ul><ul><li>It is islolated; accessible only by boat and by air. </li></ul><ul><li>It is a touristic island, about 56% of the Vineyard’s 14,621 homes are seasonally occupied. The summer population is five times the winter population, about 75,000 compared to about 15,000. </li></ul>
  9. 9. M. V. Case Study
  10. 10. <ul><li>“ For this island, the rapidly changing social scene allowed social divisions to drive differentiation of sociolinguistic variants. The native up-islanders resented the outsiders for overshadowing the traditional industry of fishing, in contrast to the down-islanders who supported the tourists. Labov implemented the apparent-time construct, assessing the percentage of raised, centralized variants against age groups.» </li></ul><ul><li>(Bayley 2007: 73) </li></ul>
  11. 11. Social Stratification of /r/ in N.Y.C <ul><li>Hypothesis : “salespeople in the highest ranked store will have the highest values of (r); those in the middle ranked store will have intermediate values of (r); and those in the lowest ranked store will show the lowest values ”. (Labov 2006: 42). </li></ul><ul><li>Method : He decided to do his studies in three New York department stores which could be easily differentiated by their different social status and social stratification of their clients: </li></ul><ul><li>Highest-ranking: Saks Fifth Avenue </li></ul><ul><li>Middle-ranking: Macy’s </li></ul><ul><li>Lowest-ranking: Klein </li></ul><ul><li>He elicited the answer: « the fourth floor ». He conducted 264 interviews; 68 in Saks, 125 in Macy’s and 71 in Kleins. The interviewing time was about 6.5 hours. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Labov 2006: 48 Casual Speech Emphatic Speech Highest-ranking: Saks Fifth Avenue Middle-ranking: Macy’s Lowest-ranking: Klein <ul><li>Results: The results verified Labov’ s hypothesis: </li></ul><ul><li>Use of [r] corresponded to higher class of store. </li></ul><ul><li>use of [r] increases in careful speech. </li></ul><ul><li>Explanation: </li></ul><ul><li>There is a social component in the /r/ restriction in New York City. </li></ul><ul><li>In spite of their low income, Saks people consider themselves upper-middles class. </li></ul><ul><li>New Yorkers didn’ like the way they speak; « linguistic self-hatred ». </li></ul>
  13. 13. Labov and Waletzky’s Model of Narrative <ul><li>Labov and Waletzky (1967) introduced a narrative theory based on the study Labov conducted in Harlem. </li></ul><ul><li>Labov and Waletzky define a narrative as consisting minimally of two temporally ordered clauses, such that reversing the order of the clauses would change the story. </li></ul><ul><li>Labov’s model consists of six parts: </li></ul><ul><li>Abstract. </li></ul><ul><li>Orientation. </li></ul><ul><li>Complicating action. </li></ul><ul><li>Evaluation. </li></ul><ul><li>Resolution. </li></ul><ul><li>Coda. </li></ul>
  14. 14. (Elliott 2005: 42) <ul><li>These elements are not necessarily present in all narratives. </li></ul><ul><li>These elements are not distributed in the same way in all narratives. </li></ul>The Element Explanation Abstract The introductory part of the narrative A brief summary of the event to spark attention. Orientation Description ofthe people or characters who will interact in the story. Complication Action The actual events of the narrative. The occurrences that move it ahead. Evaluation The point, or reason, the narrative is being told. Resolution Conclusion; end of the narrative Coda Relevance of the narrative to every-day life
  15. 15. a . When I was in fourth grade- no , in third grade-This boy he stole my glove. c. He took my glove d. and said that his father found it downtown on the ground. (And you fight him?) e. I told him that it was impossible for him to find downtown ‘cause all those people were walking by and just his father was the only one that found it? f. So he got all (mad). g. Then I fought him. h. I knocked him all out in the street. i. So he say he give. j. and I kept on hitting him. k. Then he started crying l. and ran home to his father. m. And the father told him n. that he ain’t find no glove. Evaluation is present in every line in the narrative. Evaluation= self-aggrandizement. Norris = Good / This boy= bad. (Labov 1972) Evaluation: Self-aggrandizement Resolution
  16. 16. (Labov: 1972)
  17. 17. Evaluation of the Labov’s Contribution <ul><li>Labov suggested studying as it is really used, not how is should be used. </li></ul><ul><li>He appraoched language through a rigorous scientific empirical method, and rejected contemplation and intuition. </li></ul><ul><li>He connected sound changes to the social forces in the community. </li></ul><ul><li>He enriched the literary and stylistic studies with his narrative model; Labov’s scheme offers a useful framework for analysing written texts. (Black 2006: 40). </li></ul>
  18. 18. Criticism of Labov’s Contribution <ul><li>Although Labov’s approach is objective, he couldn’t help being subjective , at least in the explanations he gave to his findings. </li></ul><ul><li>Labov didn’t provide much help to the field of language teaching, he was not preoccupied with language change rather than language acquisition. </li></ul>
  19. 19. Conclusion <ul><li>“ In 1987,… a number of bomb threats were made in repeated telephone calls to the Pan American counter at the Los Angeles airport. Paul Prinzivalli, a cargo handler who was thought by Pan American to be a “disgruntled employee,” was accused of the crime, and he was jailed. The evidence was that his voice sounded like the tape recordings of the bomb threat caller. The defense sent me the tapes because Prinzivalli was a New Yorker, and they thought I might be able to distinguish two different kinds of New York City accents. The moment I heard the recordings I was sure that he was innocent; the man who made the bomb threats plainly did not come from New York at all, but from the Boston area of Eastern New England. .. Afterwards, Prinzivalli sent me a card saying that he had spent fifteen months in jail waiting for someone to separate fact from fiction.” ( </li></ul>Thanks to Labov, linguistics is no longer that useless knowledge; it has become useful enough to save an innocent prisoner.
  20. 20. References <ul><li>Labov, W. (1982). Sociolinguistic Patterns (2 nd ed.) . Philadelphia : Pennsylvania State University Press. </li></ul><ul><li>Labov, W. (2006) The Social Stratification of English in New York City (2 nd ed.). New York: Cambridge University Press. </li></ul><ul><li>Bayley, R., & Lucas, C. (2007). Sociolinguistic Variation: Theories, Methods, and Applications. New York. Cambridge University Press. </li></ul><ul><li>Koerner, E.F.K. (2002). Toward a History of American Linguistics . New Yok: Routledge. </li></ul><ul><li>Black, E. (2006 ). Pragmatic Stylistics . Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. </li></ul><ul><li>Elliott, J. (2005). Using Narrative in Social Research . London: Sage Publications. </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>