Ch. 16: “What language do you use to your grandmother?”
• •We’re talking code-switching or code-mixing here; common in multilingual communities.
o we choose our language depending on the context; nice example on p.170: the local language is used between a
brother and sister in friendly discourse, but the brother switches to the
• lingua franca (Swahili, in this case) when it’s a matter of business.
• Code-switching is common within sentences, too.
o conveys identity, atitudes, values … powerful stuff!
o sometimes whole separate languages exist to be used only when talking to certain groups, e.g., the famous
• speech in some Australian Aboriginal languages
• Stylistic shiths, too. You don’t talk to granny about modern music or use current slang. You avoid marks of in-group
o in some languages, e.g., Japanese, you must select the proper style of speech that has been ratithed by cultural
• Something to ponder: Code-switching is relevant to the formation of racist and strongly exclusionary stands in those
who feel shut out from the code. Consider in this regard the recent election in the Netherlands. More in lecture.
Ch. 17: Why can’t people in Birmingham talk right?
• Useful distinction between accents (related to departures from a target pronunciation only) anddialects (a bigger term
embracing pronunciation, grammar, lexis …).
• The claim is that accent judgments are founded on atitudes toward the speakers who possess them and not on the sounds
o note the references to RP - “received pronunciation”. Do we have arbiters of the “proper” way to speak here in
o context governs everything: “r-less” speech in New York has been considered “low class”; but in the UK, it’s
the desired form!
• American English is replacing (probably has replaced) British English as the de facto “standard” form.
• But we live in an age of World Englishes: consider Singapore English and Indian English. These varieties are spoken in
countries of the so called outer circle.
• It is misleading of your textbook authors to blithely say that claims of unintelligibility are just a mater of bias and the
perceived low status of speakers.
o Some speakers ARE unintelligible to listeners outside their local community.
o Consider the blowback suffered by Dell when the company outsourced its backroom telephone service centres to
India. Customers in North America couldn’t understand the technicians. Result? Dell closed most of those call
centres and brought them back to North America.
¾ so accent certainly affected the “life chances” of some of those folks in India!
• A sidenote to BHW’s discussion of NZ university instructors beingdowngraded because of accent: similar thing at SFU
in the early 90s.
• Students in the sciences complained loudly that they couldn’t understand their TAs.
o Is it realistic to expect those students to be forgiving?
o Result: the International Teaching Assistant seminar to upgrade TAs’ English. In some departments if TAs don’t
take that seminar, they’re ineligib