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Language and social class

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Language and social class
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Language and social class

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A quick overview of some of the key theories that look at whether our language use is influenced by our social class.

A quick overview of some of the key theories that look at whether our language use is influenced by our social class.

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Language and social class

  1. 1. Language Variation Language and Social Class
  2. 2. The Royle Family
  3. 3. Keeping up appearances
  4. 4. So what is social class?
  5. 5. Basil Bernstein <ul><li>British sociologist </li></ul><ul><li>Person / position oriented families </li></ul><ul><li>The deficit hypothesis </li></ul><ul><li>Restricted and elaborated speech codes </li></ul>
  6. 6. Position-oriented families <ul><li>Also called closed families (The Royle Family) </li></ul><ul><li>Working class </li></ul><ul><li>Personal (close physical contact) </li></ul><ul><li>Context bound (shared surroundings) </li></ul><ul><li>Likely to share common assumptions </li></ul><ul><li>Inclined to imply rather than spell out meanings </li></ul>
  7. 7. Person-oriented families <ul><li>Also called open families </li></ul><ul><li>Middle class </li></ul><ul><li>More impersonal </li></ul><ul><li>Context free (less dependent on surroundings) </li></ul><ul><li>Less likely to assume shared attitudes </li></ul>
  8. 8. Task <ul><li>Write a brief story using the following four pictures as your source. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Picture 1
  10. 10. Picture 2
  11. 11. Picture 3
  12. 12. Picture 4
  13. 13. A possible story Comments? They're playing football and he kicks it and it goes through there and it breaks it and they're looking at it and he comes out and shouts at them and they run off.
  14. 14. A second version Three boys are playing football and one boy kicks the ball and it goes through the window. The ball breaks the window and the boys are looking at it. A man comes out and shouts at them because they've broken the window so they run away.
  15. 15. The Restricted Code <ul><li>Characteristic of working class speech </li></ul><ul><li>Short, simple sentences </li></ul><ul><li>Limited vocabulary </li></ul><ul><li>Frequent use of ‘you know’, etc </li></ul><ul><li>Teachers speak in an elaborated code and this accounts for the poor performance of the working class in education. </li></ul>
  16. 16. The Elaborated Code <ul><li>Characteristic of middle class speech </li></ul><ul><li>Complex sentences, including subordination </li></ul><ul><li>Extended vocabulary </li></ul><ul><li>Use of the first person ‘I’ </li></ul><ul><li>Teachers use of the elaborated code means that middle class children do well in education </li></ul>
  17. 17. Bernstein’s Influence <ul><li>Caused enormous political outcry in the 1960s </li></ul><ul><li>Language enrichment and remedial programmes set up for working class children to overcome ‘deficiency’ </li></ul>
  18. 18. A Criticism of Bernstein <ul><li>Everyone uses both the elaborated and restricted code </li></ul><ul><li>Everyone experiences position and person oriented family situations. </li></ul><ul><li>Language is not as fixed as implied. </li></ul><ul><li>Language is on a linguistic and social continuum. </li></ul>
  19. 19. William Labov (1966) <ul><li>American sociolinguist </li></ul><ul><li>Challenged Bernstein’s deficit model </li></ul><ul><li>Studied the vernacular of Black American youths ( Language and the Inner City : 1966) </li></ul>
  20. 20. Is there a God? You know, like some people say if you’re good an’ shit, your spirit goin’ to heaven, n if you bad, your spirit goin’ to hell. Well bullshit! Your spirit goin’ to hell anyway, good or bad. ‘Cause, you see, doesn’t nobody really know that it’s a God, y’know, ‘cause I mean I’ve seen black gods, pink gods, white gods, all colour gods, and don’t nobody know it’s really a God. An’ when they be sayin’ if you good, you goin’ to heaven, that’s bullshit, ‘cause you ain’t goin’ to heaven, ‘cause it ain’t no heaven for you to go to. Recorded in New York 1969
  21. 21. Malcolm Petyt (1985) <ul><li>Based in Bradford </li></ul><ul><li>Study of the phonological variable /h/ in word initial position </li></ul><ul><li>Concluded that the omission of /h/ was a major characteristic of West Yorkshire speech and that class was a significant factor in usage. </li></ul>Conclusions…..
  22. 22. Petyt’s study Bradford
  23. 23. Petyt’s findings… Socio-economic group h-dropping UMC 12% LMC 28% UWC 67% MWC 89% LWC 93%
  24. 24. Line chart of Petyt’s findings
  25. 25. Peter Trudgill (1974) <ul><li>British sociolinguist </li></ul><ul><li>Study of social class and regional dialect </li></ul><ul><li>Research into both phonological and grammatical variables in Norwich </li></ul><ul><li>Used five social class divisions: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>LWC (Lower Working Class) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>MWC (Middle Working Class) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>UWC (Upper Working Class) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>LMC (Lower Middle Class) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>MMC (Middle Middle Class) </li></ul></ul>
  26. 26. Trudgill’s study Norwich
  27. 27. Trudgill’s findings for /ng/
  28. 28. Phonological Variables <ul><li>Study of the realisation of: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Word final /ng/ as in RP singing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Word medial /t/ as in RP bottle </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Word initial /h/ as in the RP heart </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Related findings to gender </li></ul><ul><li>Related findings to careful and casual usage </li></ul>
  29. 29. Trudgill’s findings… <ul><li>The lower the social class the more frequent the regional pronunciation </li></ul><ul><li>Women tended to be closer to RP than regional pronunciation (insecurity?) </li></ul><ul><li>In casual speech MMC men preferred the regional forms (macho connotations?) </li></ul><ul><li>In careful speech MMC men preferred RP forms </li></ul>
  30. 30. New York Department Stores Study <ul><li>Labov explored link between incidence of /r/ producing and social class </li></ul><ul><li>/r/ production = prestige (in NY) </li></ul><ul><li>Visited: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Sacks (upper class) </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Macy’s (middle class) </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>S. Klein (lower class) </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Studied casual and emphatic use of post vocalic ‘r’ in the response, ‘The fourth floor.’ </li></ul>
  31. 31. Labov’s Findings… 32% 30% 31% 20% 17% 4% Sacks Macy’s S.Klein All ‘r’ producing Some ‘r’ producing
  32. 32. Task <ul><ul><li>Determine social class by asking about family occupation and link to A, B, C1, C2, D and E </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ask questions that will test: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Initial ‘h’ dropping in words like ‘hat’ and ‘house’ </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Word final realisation of ‘ng’ in words like ‘swimming’ </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Use of medial glottals in words like ‘butter’ and ‘batter’ </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Write a conclusion that links your findings to those of Labov (commenting on methodology) </li></ul></ul>Now conduct your own version of Labov’s study:
  33. 33. Cheshire’s study Reading
  34. 34. Peer Groups in Reading (1982) <ul><li>Studying the relationship between grammatical variables and peer group culture </li></ul><ul><li>Long term participant observation </li></ul><ul><li>Based around adventure playground in Reading </li></ul><ul><li>Based on Cheshire’s own definition of social class </li></ul><ul><li>Disapproval (group A) / approval (group B) of minor criminal activity, swearing and fighting </li></ul>
  35. 35. Grammatical variables <ul><li>They calls me names </li></ul><ul><li>You has to do what teachers say </li></ul><ul><li>You was with me </li></ul><ul><li>I ain’t got no pedigree or nothing </li></ul><ul><li>I never went to school today. </li></ul><ul><li>Are you the ones what hit him? </li></ul><ul><li>I come down here yesterday. </li></ul><ul><li>You ain’t no boss. </li></ul>
  36. 36. Cheshire’s findings…
  37. 37. Lesley & James Milroy (1978, 1980, 1987) <ul><li>Studied the language of working class communities in Belfast </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ballymacarrett (Protestant, low male unemployment) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The Hammer (Protestant, substantial male unemployment) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The Clonard (Catholic, substantial male unemployment) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Also studied gender and social networks </li></ul>
  38. 38. The Milroys’ findings… <ul><li>The stronger the social network the greater the use of vernacular forms </li></ul><ul><li>In Protestant Ballymacarrett, women used fewer vernacular forms than men and preferred prestige forms (c.f. Trudgill) </li></ul><ul><li>In the Hammer & Clonard, younger women preferred non-prestige forms as a way of showing social solidarity with their unemployed men </li></ul>
  39. 39. Their conclusions… <ul><li>Social networks within a class influence people’s language use. </li></ul><ul><li>Apparent norms, such as hypercorrection, can be reversed by the need to express something more important. </li></ul>

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