Diversity Within English Essay

1338 words - 5 pages

In order to understand how language variation descriptors are used, we first must understand what languagevariation is. We can say that the U.S. is linguistically diverse because of the multitude of languages spoken here,but we can also find diversity within these languages. All languages have both dialectical variations and registralvariations. These variations, or dialects, can differ in lexicon, phonology, and/or syntax from the StandardLanguage that we often think of as Oecorrect' Language, although they are not necessarily less proper than, say,Standard English. It depends on where, by whom, and in what situation the dialect is used as to whether or not itis appropriate.Most people are familiar with regional dialects, such as Boston, Brooklyn, or Southern. These types ofvariations usually occur because of immigration and settlement patterns. People tend to seek out others likethemselves. Regional variations tend to become more pronounced as the speech community is more isolated byphysical geography, i.e. mountain ranges, rivers. Linguists have done extensive studies on regional dialects,producing detailed Linguistic Atlases. Many linguists can tell where a person is from just by knowing whether aperson carries groceries home from the supermarket in a paper bag or from the grocery store in a paper sack (Yule184). And the person who comes home from the supermarket with a paper sack serves to remind us thatlanguage variation is not a discrete, but rather a continuous variable. Characteristics of the dialect are morepronounced in the center of the speech community and tend to be less discernible at the outer boundaries, wherethey often overlap other regional dialects.Within, and between, these regional variations we find the social dialects. The primary social factors thatinfluence dialects are class, education, occupation, ethnicity, sex, and age (Ferguson 52, Yule 191). And socialdialects can vary on any or all three descriptor levels; syntax or grammar, lexicon or vocabulary, and phonetics orpronunciation. Social dialects are also where the described differences are often defined as stigmatized ornonstigmatized (Ferguson 52). Stigmatized items include use of the double negative (grammar), substituting the dsound for the leading th and losing sounds like the middle r and the final g in ing (pronunciation), and stylisticchoices such as puke for vomit (vocabulary).There are three main types of reactions to these socially significant items.1. Social indicators - the speaker, and often the listener, is not aware that these items are sociallysignificant in revealing one's social status, so the speaker makes no attempt to avoid them when speaking in amore formal style. This would be someone who wants to take your picture, rather than your photograph.2. Social markers - the speaker is sensitive to these items and will avoid them in a more formal style ofspeech, although the speaker may not be fully aware of why. Examples would be avoiding...

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