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March, 15th 2017

Linguistics and Languages
Sociolinguistics I Notes


LANGUAGE is one of the most powerful emblems of social behavior. We use language to send vital social
messages about who we are, where we come from, and who we associate with.

SOCIOLINGUISTICS has become an important and popular field of study. It has an underlying basic
notion: “language use symbolically represents fundamental dimensions of social behavior and human
interaction”. It is interested in investigate about the relationship between language and society:

⇒ Language attitudes, national and vernacular languages, besides in considering language as a

social institution this field often uses sociological techniques such as questionnaires and
⇒ The effect of particular kinds of social situations on language structure: language contact (it is
focused on the origin and the composition of pidgin and creole languages), and bilingualism.
⇒ The Situations and uses of language as an activity: the relationship and social position of the
speaker and addressee, the use if sentence alternative (the choice involves cultural values and
norms of politeness, deference, and status)
⇒ Language as a social activity, it is interested in discovering the specific patterns or social rules
or conducting conversation and discourse.
⇒ How people manage their language in relation to their cultural backgrounds and their goals of
interaction. Sociolinguistics uses ethnographic methods.

There are two trends in the development of sociolinguistics:

1. Social and political issues: the focus on themes such as language and nationalism, language and
ethnicity, and language and gender.
2. Applying the results of the studies (the role of language and society) to the social, educational,
and political problems.


SOCIOLINGUISTICS is a field which includes the aspects of linguistics applied toward the connections
between language and society, and the way we use it in different social situations.It codes the social
function of language.It is the study of language as it affects and is affected by social
relations.Sociolinguistics encompasses a broad range of concerns: Bilingualism, Pidgin and creole
languages, Dialects, Accents, Levels of diction, registers (modulation of vocabulary and level of diction
according to social context)

DIALECTS can be identified by the accent of its speaker, also by distinctive words, usages, idiomatic
expressions, and grammatical features. Dialects reflect andmay reinforce class, ethnic, or regional
differences among speakers of the same language. Sometimes people change their dialect as a means of
improving their social status.


CULTUREis a shared background resulting from common language and communication style, customs,
beliefs, attitudes and values. In sociolinguistics culture refers to the informal andoften hidden patters of
human interactions, expressions, and viewpoints that people that in one culture share. Much of the
influence of culture on an individual cannot be seen. The hidden aspects of culture have significant
effects on behavior and on interaction with others.

COMMUNICATION is the process of sharing meaning through verbal and non-verbal behavior.

CROSS-CULTURAL COMMUNICATIONis communication between people from different cultures;

communication that is influenced by cultural values, attitudes, and behavior, the influence of culture on
people´s reactions and responses to each other.


1. Culture is not comprised of fixed rules that apply to all members of one culture. Cultural
generalizations are descriptions of commonly observed patterns; they may not hold true for
every member of a given culture.
2. Cultural generalizations are different from stereotypes. Stereotypes are applied to all members
of a particular culture and tend to limit, rather than broaden, one´s views of other cultural
groups. They are exaggerated imagesand beliefs.
3. There are no absolute rights or wrongs only cultural differences. What is appropriate in one
culture may be inappropriate in another culture.
4. Cultural patterns could be observed above two levels of observation: a) all cultures have values
and ideals that they members say are true; and b) people´s behavior may not always reflect
those values.
5. Culture does not explain all behavior. It influences behavior as individual´s personality, age,
gender, economic and educational levels, life experiences, among others do.
6. It is best no to overemphasize either cultural differences or cultural similarities.
7. Learning about culture is enriching. By learning about contrasts, we can better understand how
culture influences individuals and their communication with others.


LANGUAGE does not develop in a vacuum. It is a part of the culture of a people and the chief means by
which the members of a society communicate.Differences in cultural meanings cross language are a
problem in learning a second language.

CULTURE AND ANTHROPOLOGY: A person can identify some characteristics of behavior that are
different from his culture, so he identifies them as members of a different society. So people can do a
superficial recognition but sometimes they can miss the subtle differences between cultures and they
tend to assume that these differences do not exist.

ANTHROPOLOGY is the field that studies the human being.

CULTURAL ANTROPOLOGY is a branch of anthropology which seeks to describe the structure of a

culture as completely and neatly as possible.

LANGUAGE TEACHER teachers a language and the cultural content that is necessary if one is to know
and use the language. He must decide how the cultural content is to be learned, the order of
presentation, and what content is going to be learned.

THE GOAL IN LEARNING A FOREIGN LANGUAGEis the ability to use it, understanding its meanings and
connotations in terms of the target language and culture, and the ability to understand the speech and
writing of natives if the target culture.

There are three streams of influence that affect the cultural content involved in language learning:

1. The romantic clichés and prejudicial distortions that often constitute the students´ image of the
target culture.
2. The literature and great achievements of the target culture.
3. The study of a culture as a structures system of patterned behavior, that is, as characteristic
ways of people.

CULTURAL PATTERNS AND THE INDIVIDUAL There are two types of variations within a culture:
subcultural variations and individual variations, the latter makes a reference when individuals within
a culture may follow, approve, and support some or all of tits patterns, or may not follow, may
disapprove, and even resist them.

CULTURAL RELATIVITY AND ETHICAL VALUES In describing a culture scientifically, one avoids value
judgment form without because of the danger of calling bad what is merely different, or calling good
what is merely pleasing to the outside observer.

If we must judge the individual of another culture, this must be done within the framework of that
culture. This broader framework is recognized in international law and international courts of justice.

LEARNING CULTURAL CONTENT The native-culture experience will facilitate learning those
patternsthat are sufficiently similar to function satisfactorily when transferred. The native-culture
experiences will interfere with those cultural patterns and meanings that are not equitable with similar
ones or that are partly similar but function differently in the target culture.