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Chapter 5

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McGill University
LING 320
Charles Boberg

Chapter 5: Speech Communities Definitions are problematic: Sociolinguistics = study of language use within or among groups of speakers Group = 2+ people, but no upper limit to membership o 1+ reasons to group (social, religious, political, etc) o Temporary or quasi-permanent o Purposes can change (raison d’etre) o More than its members (people come and go) o May not meet face to face o Individual identity related with group identity Groups are useless and necessary constructs created for our purposes of research o Must be careful about drawing conclusions about individuals o Careful not to stereotype: to say a member of a group will always exhibit certain characteristic behavior Speech community = type of group sociolinguists study Chomsky: completely homogeneous o Useless - theoretical construct for a narrow purpose All the people who use the same language (Lyons) o Must define “language” and “dialect” o Same language can be spoken in a wide variety of ways (even in communities isolated from one another) IE: English spoken in South Africa and by expatriates in China o A single “speech community” can employ more than one language IE: Canada, Switzerland, NYC, many African states, over 300 languages are spoken in London relationship between linguistic characteristics A, B and C and speech community X Speakers use linguistic characteristics and speech markers (other characteristics) to achieve group identity, and group differentiation with other speakers o Speech markers: discriminate functionally important social categorizations, which have important implications for social organization. Social categories of age, sex, ethnicity, social class and situation can be clearly marked on the basis of speech Marked by participation in a set of shared norms (Labov 1972) o Definition shifts emphasis from linguistic criteria o Consequence: norms may not be exclusively linguistic in nature: 1) All NYC speakers = a single speech community a. Views presence of a postvocalic [r] as prestigious (and a large number of social values of other linguistic elements.) 2) Southern British English speakers do not belong in the same speech community as NYC speakers a. Don’t attach the same social meanings to (r) b. Highest prestige accent in Southern England (RP) is non-rhotic 3) However, southern British speakers = single speech community a. View of variable (h); h-dropping is stigmatized in Southern England (but this is irrelevant in NY, Montreal, etc) o Linguistic norms may vary considerably among small sub-groups - Speakers of Hindi separate themselves entirely from speakers of Urdu - Most Ukrainians separate themselves from most Russians - Chinese see themselves as members of the same speech community even though speakers of Mandarin and Cantonese may not be able to express this except through a shared writing system Linguistic community: monolingual or multilingual, held together by frequency of social interaction and set off from surrounding area of weaknesses in the lines of communication (Gumperez) - Cannot define it solely based on their relationships with other communities o Defining it through what it is not: the cut-off criterion (similar to defining it as those who speak the same language) Members of a speech community must: 1) Share a set of grammatical rules and; 2) There must be regular relationships between language use and social structure Shared sets of social norms may overlap with language boundaries: In Eastern Europe, speakers of Czech, Austrian, German and Hungarian share rules about the proper forms of greeting, suitable topics for conversation, and how to pursue these, but no common language. Speech area: community defined in some way by speech (not speech community) The way people view the language they speak is important o Evaluation of accents, establishing which language to speak (over another) and maintenance of language boundaries. o The rules for using a language are important as the feelings towards the language. Ngoni of Africa no longer speak their ancestral language but use the language of the people they conquered in Malawi. However, they use the language in ways they have carried over from Ngoni, which they consider to be essential to their identity. Analogous situation with North American natives who use English in a special way within the dominant English-speaking community. Participation and membership within a speech community is different o Limits definition in terms of knowledge and interaction Accent may provide a barrier in participation Membership does not include language or speaking as it is considered indelible. Groups are relative concepts, depends on what you are comparing to o A man who lives in Montreal, territorial identification is: Montreal when contrasted with Quebec City Quebec when contrasted with Ontario Canada when contrasted with US o Similar with ‘speech community’ English speech community, Quebec speech community, Montreal speech community, McGill speech community, etc An individual belongs to various speech communities at the same time o On any particular occasion will identify with only one of them (depending on what is especially important or contrastive in the circumstances) **For any speech community, the concept reflects what people do and know when they interact with one another. It assumes that when people come together through discursive practices, they behave as though they operate within a shared set of norms, local knowledge, beliefs, and values. It means that they are aware of these things and capable of knowing when they are being adhered to and when the values of the community are being ignored. It is fundamental in understanding identity and representation of ideology** Problem of defining speech community: participant-observer creates a different community (chapter 10) Intersecting Communities Cities cannot be treated as a patchwork of linguistic maps because 1) Languages and dialects have no simple geographical distribution and 2) Interaction between them blurs whatever bound
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