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Meeting II Language and Society

Siti Mukminatun


Study the relationship between language and society. 1. explaining why we speak differently in different social contexts 2. identifying the social functions of language and the ways it is used to convey social meaning.
An attempt to find correlations between social structure and linguistic structure and to observe any changes that occur (Gumpers, 1971: 223) Language and society intertwined impossible to understand one without the other.

The language used by the participants is influenced by a number of social factors.

Sociolinguistics vs. the Sociology of language

Sociolinguistics investigating the relationships between language and society with the goal of a better understanding of the structure of language and of how languages function in communication Sociology of language to discover how social structure can be better understood through the study of language, e.g. how certain linguistic features serve to characterize particular social arrangement

Sociolinguistics vs. the Sociology of language

Hudson, 1980: 4-5 a. Sociolinguistics is the study of language in relation to society, b. Sociology of language: the study of society in relation to language Similarity: a. Both require systematic study of language.

The relationship between language and society

(wardaugh, : 10)

1. Social

structure linguistic structure and/or behavior a. age-grading phenomenon young children speak differently from older children and in turn, children speak differently from mature adults. b. studies the varieties of language that speakers use reflect such matters; their regional, social, or ethnic origin and possible sex. c. other studies particular ways of speaking, choices of words, and rules for conversing are determined by social requirement

The relationship between language and society

(wardaugh, : 10)

2. Linguistic structure and/or behavior may either influence or determine social structure (behind Whorfian hypothesis)

3. The influence is bi-directional; language and society may influence each other. 4. There is no relationship at all.

Social factors

The participants Who is talking to whom (wife-husband, customer-shopkeeper, boss-worker) The social setting and function of interaction e.g. home, work, school The aim or purpose of the interaction (informative, social)
The topic; What is being talked about?

Example I
Ray : Hi mum. Mum: Hi. Youre late. Ray : Yeah, that bastard Sootbucket kept us in again. Mum: Nanas here. Ray : Oh sorry. Where is she?

Analysis I

Language serves a range of functions; to ask for and give people information, to express indignation and annoyance, as well as admiration and express feelings.

Example II
Ray : Good afternoon, sir. Principle : What are you doing here at this time? Ray : Mr. Sutton kept us in, sir. For the analysis, see Holmes, 1995: 2-3

Example III

Every afternoon my friend packs her bag and leaves her Cardiff office at about 5 oclock. As she leaves, her business partner says goodbye Margaret, (she replies goodbye Mike) her secretary says goodbye Ms Walker, (she replies goodbye Jill) and the caretaker says Bye Mrs. Walker (to which she responds goodbye Andy). As she arrives home she is greeted by Hi mum from her son, Jamie, hello dear, have a good day?, from her mother, and simply youre late again! from her husband.

Example III

Later in the evening the president of the local flower club calls to ask if she would like to join. Good evening, is that Mrs. Billington? she asks. No, its Ms Walker, but my husbands name is David Billington, she answers. What can I do for you? Finally a friend calls Boradar Meg, hows thing?

Example IV
Sam : You seen our enrys new ouse yet? Its in alton you know. Jim : I have indeed. I could hardly miss it Sam. Your Henry now owns the biggest house in Halton. It illustrated a range of social influences on language choice.

Social dimensions
A Social distance scale concerned with participant relationship A status scale concerned with participant relationship A formality scale relating to the setting or type of interaction Two functional scales relating to the purposes or topic of interaction

The solidarity social distance scale

High solidarity

Low solidarity

The scale is useful in emphasizing that how well we know someone is a relevant factor in linguistic choice. e.g. meg vs. Mrs. Belington

The status scale

Superior high status


low status

e.g. 1. The use of sir, Mrs., to the lecturer by the students 2. The [h]-dropping reflect someones lower social group

The formality scale

Formal High formality


Low Formality


Useful in assessing the influence of social setting or type of interaction on language choice. Often degrees of formality are largely determined by solidarity and status relationship. But not always.

The referential and affective function scales

Referential High Information Content affective Low Affective Content high affective content low information content

The referential and affective function scales

1. The more referentially oriented an interaction is, the less it tends to express the feelings of the speaker.

Chaika ( 1988, 10) the context determines meaning, 1. the social status of speakers 2. the speech event and social conventions governing it; 3. the social-cultural and physical environment 4. previous discourse between the speakers or known to them 5. the intent of the speaker.

Our word choices depend on who we are talking to. Language choices convey information about the social relationships between people as well as about the topic of discussion. Linguistic variation occurs at other levels of linguistic analysis: sounds, wordstructure, grammar as well as vocabulary.