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LINGUISTICS

LANGUAGE
AND
REGIONAL
VARIATION
Chapter 18 – study of the
language
George YULE

Carlos Lara
Language and regional variation
The standard language
 Thisis actually an idealized variety, because it has
no specific region. It is the variety associated with
administrative, commercial and educational
centers, regardless of region.

 Ifwe are thinking of that general variety used in


public broadcasting in the United States, we can
refer more specifically to Standard American
English or, in Britain, to Standard British English. In
other parts of the world, we can talk about other
recognized varieties such as Standard Australian
English, Standard Canadian English or Standard
Indian English.
Language and regional variation
Accent and dialect

 Accent It is amyth that some speakers have


accents while others do not.Wemight feel that
some speakers have very distinct or easily
recognized types of accent while others may have
more subtle or less noticeable accents, but every
language-user speaks with an accent.

 termdialect, which is used to describe features of


grammar and vocabulary as well as aspects of
pronunciation.

 We recognize that the sentence You don’t know


what you’re talking about will generally “look” the
same whether spoken with an American accent or
a Scottish accent.
Language and regional variation

 A: How long are youse here?


 B: Till after Easter.
 (Speaker A looks puzzled.)
 C: We came on Sunday.
 A: Ah. Youse’re here a while then.

 It seems that the construction How long are youse


here?, in speaker A’s dialect, is used with a meaning
close to the structure “How long have you been here?”
referring to past time. Speaker B, however, answers as if
the question was referring to future time (“How long are
you going to be here?”). When speaker C answers with
a past time response (We came on Sunday), speaker A
acknowledges it and repeats his use of a present tense
(Youse’re here) to refer to past time. Note that the
dialect form youse (= “you” plural) seems to be
understood by the visitors though it is unlikely to be part
of their own dialect.
Language and regional variation
Dialectology
 dialectology,to distinguish between two different
dialects of the same language (whose speakers
can usually understand each other) and two
different languages (whose speakers can’t usually
understand each other).

 Regional dialects
 Going beyond stereotypes, those involved in the
serious investigation of regional dialects have
devoted a lot of survey research to the
identification of consistent features of speech
found in one geographical area compared to
another.
Language and regional variation

 theinformants in the major dialect surveys of the


twentieth century tended to be NORMS or “non-
mobile, older, rural, male speakers.” Such speakers
were selected because it was believed that they
were less likely to have influences from outside the
region in their speech.

 One unfortunate consequence of using such


criteria is that the resulting dialect description
tends to be more accurate of a period well before
the time of investigation. Nevertheless, the
detailed information obtained has provided the
basis for a number of Linguistic Atlases of whole
countries (e.g. England) and regions (e.g. the
Upper Midwest area of the United States).
Isoglosses and Language and regional variation

dialect boundaries
 Thisline is called an
isogloss and represents
a boundary between
the areas with regard to
that one particular
linguistic item.
 Ifa very similar distribution is found for another two
items, such as a preference for pail to the north
and bucket to the south, then another isogloss,
probably overlapping the first, can be drawn on
the map. When a number of isoglosses come
together in this way, a more solid line, indicating a
dialect boundary, can be drawn.
Language and regional variation

 Using this dialect boundary information, we find


that in the Upper Midwest of the USA there is a
Northern dialect area that includes Minnesota,
North Dakota, most of South Dakota and Northern
Iowa.

 (“taught”) (“roof”) (“creek”) (“greasy”)


 Northern: [ɔ][ʊ][ɪ][s]
 Midland: [ɑ] [u] [i] [z]
 Northern: paper bag pail kerosene slippery get sick
 Midland: paper sack bucket coal oil slick take sick
Language and regional variation
The dialect continuum
 The drawing of isoglosses and dialect boundaries is
quite useful in establishing a broad view of regional
dialects, but it tends to obscure the fact that, at most
dialect boundary areas, one dialect or language
variety merges into another. Keeping this in mind, we
can view regional variation as existing along a dialect
continuum rather than as having sharp breaks from
one region to the next.

 Speakers who move back and forth across this border


area, using different varieties with some ease, may be
described as bidialectal (i.e. “speaking two
dialects”).Most of us grow up with some form of
bidialectalism, speaking one dialect “in the street”
among family and friends, and having to learn another
dialect “in school.
Language and regional variation
Bilingualism and diglossia
 In many countries, regional variation is not simply a
matter of two (or more) dialects of a single language,
but can involve two (or more) quite distinct and
different languages. Canada, for example, is an
officially bilingual country, with both French and English
as official languages.

 In such a situation, bilingualism at the level of the


individual tends to be a feature of the minority group.
In this form of bilingualism, a member of a minority
group grows up in one linguistic community, mainly
speaking one language (e.g. Welsh in Britain or Spanish
in the United States), but learns another language (e.g.
English) in order to take part in the larger dominant
linguistic community.
Language and regional variation

 Many henoed never


expected to see their first
language on public signs in
Wales, as illustrated in the
accompanying photograph,
though they may wonder
why everyone is being
warned about them.

A rather special situation involving two distinct


varieties of a language, called diglossia, exists in
some countries. In diglossia, there is a “low” variety,
acquired locally and used for everyday affairs, and
a “high” or special variety, learned in school and
used for important matters.
Language and regional variation
Language planning
 monolingual: having, or being able to use, only
one language, in contrast to bilingual
 For many of those residents who are only capable
of speaking one language (English), the United
States would indeed seem to be a monolingual
country.

 Questions of this type require answers on the basis


of some type of language planning.
 In Israel, despite the fact that it was not the most
widely used language among the population,
Hebrew was chosen as the official government
language. In India, the choice was Hindi, yet in
many non-Hindi-speaking regions, there were riots
against this decision.
Language and regional variation

 The process of “selection” (choosing an official


language) is followed by “codification,” in which
basic grammars, dictionaries and written models
are used to establish the standard variety.
 The process of “elaboration” follows, with the
standard variety being developed for use in all
aspects of social life and the appearance of a
body of literary work written in the standard.
 The process of “implementation” is largely a matter
of government attempts to encourage use of the
standard, and “acceptance” is the final stage
when a substantial majority of the population have
come to use the standard and to think of it as the
national language, playing a part in not only social,
but also national identity.
Language and regional variation
Pidgins and creoles
A pidgin is a variety of a language that developed
for some practical purpose, such as trading,
among groups of people who had a lot of
contact, but who did not know each other’s
languages. As such, it would have no native
speakers.

A pidgin is described as an “English pidgin” if


English is the lexifier language, that is, the main
source of words in the pidgin. It doesn’t mean that
those words will have the same pronunciation or
meaning as in the source. For example, the word
gras has its origins in the Englishword “grass,” but in
Tok Pisin it also came to be used for “hair.” It is part
of mausgras (“moustache”) and gras bilong fes
(“beard”).
Language and regional variation

 When a pidgin develops beyond its role as a trade or


contact language and becomes the first language of
a social community, it is described as a creole.

 A creole initially develops as the first language of


children growing up in a pidgin-using community and
becomes more complex as it serves more
communicative purposes.

 The separate vocabulary elements of a pidgin can


become grammatical elements in a creole. The form
baimbai yu go (“by and by you go”) in early Tok Pisin
gradually shortened to bai yu go, and finally to yu
bigo, with a grammatical structure not unlike that of its
English translation equivalent, “you will go.”
Language and regional variation
The post-creole continuum
 In many contemporary situations where creoles
evolved, there is usually evidence of another
process at work. Just as there was development
from a pidgin to a creole, known as creolization,
there is now often a retreat from the use of the
creole by those who have greater contact with a
standard variety of the language.

 Where education and greater social prestige are


associated with a “higher” variety (e.g. British
English in Jamaica), a number of speakers will tend
to use fewer creole forms and structures. This
process, known as decreolization.
Language and regional variation

 Thisrange of varieties, evolving after (= “post”) the


creole has come into existence, is called the post-
creole continuum.

 So, in Jamaica, one speaker may say a fi mi buk


dat, using the basic creole variety, another may
put it as iz mi buk, using a variety with fewer creole
features, and yet another may choose it’s my
book, using a variety with only some pronunciation
features of the creole, or a “creole accent.”

 We would predict that these differences would be


tied very much to social values and social identity.
Language and regional variation
Study questions
1 Which variety of English would you say is being used in
the introductory quotation from Lee Tonouchi?
Hawai’i Creole English or (in Hawai’i) Pidgin

 2 What is the difference between an accent and a


dialect?
The term “accent” is used to refer to pronunciation
features only, whereas “dialect” covers features of
grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation.

 3 What is one disadvantage of using NORMS in dialect


surveys?
By using “non-mobile, older, rural, male speakers,” the
dialect description may be more accurate of a period
well before the time of investigation, and hence not an
accurate reflection of contemporary usage.
Language and regional variation

 4 What does an isogloss represent in a linguistic atlas?


An isogloss represents the limit of an area in which a
particular linguistic feature is found among the majority of
speakers

 5 What are the first two stages of language planning in


the process of adopting a national language?
The first two stages are “selection” (choosing an official
language) and “codification” (creating grammars and
dictionaries).

 6 In what specific way is a creole different from a


pidgin?
A creole has native speakers, a pidgin has none.
Language and regional variation
Tasks
A In which areas of the British Isles would we find a
Brummie accent, a Geordie accent, a speaker of
Scouse, the use of bairns (= “children”), boyo
(=“man”), fink (=“think”) and Would you be after
wanting some tea? (= “Do you want some tea?”)?

 Brummie, Geordie, Scouse, etc.


A Brummie accent is associated with speakers in the
city of Birmingham in the Midlands area, a Geordie
accent is from Newcastle or the surrounding area in
north east England and Scouse is the dialect spoken
by people in Liverpool in the north west.
Language and regional variation

 B Two pioneers of dialectology were Georg Wenker and


Jules Gillie ´ron. In what ways were their methods
different and which method became the model for later
dialect studies?

 Georg Wenker was a German schoolteacher who


created the first dialect map, published in 1881 as the
Language Atlas of the German Empire. His method of
collecting data involved sending out a set of forty
sentences to every school he could find and asking the
local teacher to rephrase the sentences in local dialect
and then send them back.
 Jules Gilliéron took a different approach to collecting
information about French dialects. He sent his assistant
(Edmond Edmont) to rural areas of France and the
French-speaking areas of Belgium, Italy and Switzerland.
In each location, a single 78 informant (usually male)
was consulted about local speech.
Language and regional variation

 C Consider the following statements about Standard English and try to decide whether
you agree or disagree with them, providing a reason in each case for your decision.
 1 Standard English is not a language.
 2 Standard English is an accent.
 3 Standard English is a speech style.
 4 Standard English is a set of rules for correct usage.
1 Agree. It is considered to be an “idealized variety” and, as a variety of English, it would
be treated more as a dialect than as a separate language.
2 Disagree. Partly because Standard English is tied to a written variety more than a spoken
variety, it doesn’t have a definitive pronunciation. People with different regional accents
can use Standard English, so it is technically not an accent itself.
3 Disagree. Since Standard English doesn’t have a definitive pronunciation, it can’t
represent a speech style. It can have an association with formal situations for many
people, especially post-literate speakers (i.e. those adults whose spoken language is
influenced by having spent a lot of time with the written language),
but it isn’t restricted to one type of social situation. It might be said that Standard English is
the basis of a writing style for many people.
4 Disagree. Because Standard English is a variety of a language that has social prestige, it
may be treated as a “good” variety for social purposes. It may, as a result, represent a
model that many people, especially second language learners, aspire to use, especially in
their writing. But “a set of rules” sounds more like a grammar than a variety. So, we could
rephrase 4 as “A grammar of Standard English is a set of rules for correct usage” and agree
with that.
Language and regional variation

 D In the study of pidgins, what is meant by a “substrate”


and a “superstrate language? Which of the two is likely
to be the source of intonation, syntax and vocabulary?
A Pidgin often develops in situations where there is
contact between one group that is less powerful and
another group that is more powerful. The language of the
less powerful becomes the “substrate” (i.e. the one
below) and that of the more powerful becomes the
“superstrate” (i.e. the one above). In the development of
the pidgin that later became Hawai’i Creole English, the
English language was the superstrate. The substrate
languages were Cantonese, Hawaiian and Portuguese.
Generally speaking, the basic syntax and intonation are
more likely to come from the substrate(s) whereas
vocabulary is more likely to come from the superstrate
(i.e. the lexifier language).
Language and regional variation
Language and regional variation
 E The following examples are based on Romaine (1988),
quoted in Holmes (2008). Using what you learned about
Tok Pisin, can you complete the translations of these
examples with the following English words and phrases:
bird’s feather, bird’s wing, cat’s fur, eyebrow, hair,
weed?
gras antap long ai gras bilong pisin gras nogut
gras bilong hed gras bilong pusi han bilong pisin

Tok Pisin
gras antap long ai “eyebrow”
gras bilong hed “hair”
gras bilong pisin “bird’s feather”
gras bilong pusi “cat’s fur”
gras nogut “weed”
han bilong pisin “bird’s wing”
Language and regional variation

 F The following example of Hawai’i Creole English (from Lum, 1990, quoted in Nichols, 2004)
has some characteristic forms and structures. How would you analyze the use of da, had,
one, stay and wen in this extract?
 250 The Study of Language Had one nudda guy in one tee-shi rt w as sitting at da table
next to us was watching da Bag Man too. He was eating one plate lunch and afterwards,
he wen take his plate ovah to da Bag Man. Still had little bit every ting on top , even had
bar-ba-que meat left .“Bra,” da guy tell, “you like help me finish? I stay full awready.”

According to Sakoda and Siegel (2003), the words da (as in da table, da Bag Man, da guy)
and one, or wan, (as in one nudda guy, one tee-shirt, one plate lunch) function in much
the same way as the definite article the and indefinite article a/an in other English varieties.
The verb form had, used to introduce a statement, functions in a way that is similar to There
was ... (as in Had one nudda guy, Still had little bit everyting, even had bar-ba-que meat), but
with different syntax (“There was still ....”, “there was even ...”). This use of had is described as
an “existential” structure. Here it is the past existential (= “There was/were ...”). The present
existential (= “There is/are ...”) 80 is expressed by get, as in Get plenny time (= “There’s a lot of
time”).
The form stay, or ste, is used for a temporary condition, typically as a result of a recent action,
as in I stay full, where the speaker is describing his state after eating lunch (= “I’m full”). This
form is believed to have come from the Portuguese verb estar, as in está bom (= “it’s okay”)
rather than an English source, though it is often written as if it is the English verb stay. The form
wen is an auxiliary verb, as in he wen take his plate, indicating past action (= “he took his
plate”). Derived from the English verb went (past tense of go), this form has been through a
process of grammaticalization to become a general marker of past time reference when
attached to another verb. (See Task 17D for more examples of grammaticalization.)