What is the relationship between variation and sociolinguistics?
Variation in English language and it's impact on sociolinguistics
* The Sociolinguistics * • Language does not exist in a vacuum. • Since language is a social phenomenon it is natural to assume that the structure of a society has some impact on the language of the speakers of that society. • The study of this relationship and of other extralinguistic factors is the subfield of sociolinguistics.
* The Factors Enter into Language Variation * • It’s clear that there are many systematic differences between different languages. (English and Japanese, for example). • By “systematic” we mean describable by rules. But what is not as obvious is that languages also contain many levels of internal variation, related to such variables as age, region, socioeconomic status, group identification, and others. • These various dimensions of variation are systematic in the same way as the variation between different languages is.
* Kinds of Variation Are There in Language * Languages exhibit internal variation at almost all levels of structure. • Phonetic: 1. [t,d,n,s,z] are dental in some New York City dialects. 2. Scottish people and some British people have trilled [r]. • Phonological: 1. difference between caught and cot for some Americans, not others. 2. Standard British English and Bostonian English do not allow V-r-C or V-r-# (park the car) • Morphological: 1. some rural British English dialects have no genitive marking for nouns.
Language Variation and Change
A recent advertisement for Lockheed products claimed that if William the Conqueror had not had technological superiority when he invaded England in 1066, "this very ad might have been written in Anglo-Saxon". What's wrong with this picture? Two things: First, all living languages are always changing, so the Old English spoken by William's adversaries would be greatly different from Modern English even if there had been no Norman conquest. (Just try to read the 14th-century Middle English of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales without special training and you'll see how ordinary wear and tear can transform a language even when there are no dramatic military reversals to complicate things.) And second, although the aftereffects of William's adventure did bring a flood of French loanwords into English, English remained, and remains, a Germanic language: The bulk of the basic vocabulary and the bulk of the grammar are as Germanic as they ever were. The English population never did switch to French, the language of the conquerors; instead, the Norman French eventually switched to English.
Language Families Other Germanic languages include Dutch, German, Icelandic, Swedish, and more. All of them arose from a single language, called Proto-Germanic by linguists, which was spoken over 2500 years ago. Proto-Germanic was never written down, but its existence and much of its vocabulary and structure can be confidently inferred from the many systematic correspondences in words and grammatical structures shared by its descendants.
The break-up of Proto-Germanic happened when subgroups of the original speech community became separated: 500 to 1000 years of independent changes first produced divergent dialects, and then these became separate languages. The same thing happened to Latin after the Romans spread it over large parts of Europe; it split into dialects that turned into the modern Romance languages, among them French, Spanish, and Italian. Latin and Proto-Germanic were also related. Their ancestor, and the ancestor of many other languages of Europe, India, and points in between, was Proto-Indo-European, the parent of one of the world's most widespread language families.
There are dozens or even hundreds of other language families around the world, ranging from huge families like Niger-Congo in Africa and Indo-European to one-language families like Basque, which has no known linguistic relatives. Linguists still hope to connect many of these families, but the chances for reducing the number of separate language families to a handful are slim. Although most historical linguists believe that human language probably arose just once, in a single place at a particular time, most of them also believe that language change is too rapid and too sweeping to permit the verification of family relationships older than about ten thousand years. (This very rough estimate is based on the estimated time depths of well-established families and on the amounts of change over thousand-year periods.)
Language Variation Everyone speaks at least one language, and probably most people in the world speak more than one. Even Americans, most of whom speak only English ... (more)
Asked: 2015-12-08 18:03:58 -0400
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Last updated: Dec 08 '15