Sociolinguistics Free Essays

What is Sociolinguistics?
Is the field which studies the relationship between language and society, including cultural norms, expectations and context on the way language is used.

What is Language?
Language is a means of communication, it is used to communicate meaning, as it is also used to maintain and establish social relationships.

What do Sociolinguistics study?
Sociolinguistics study the following:

1- They study the relationship between language and society. 2- They are interested in explaining why we speak differently in different social contexts. 3- They examine the way people use language in different social contexts.

What is the primary task of Sociolinguistics? And what are the types of variations used? Their primary task is to map linguistic variations on to social conditions.

Types of variations used are as follows:

1- Synchronic Variation: is a variation used at a single point of time. 2- Dialectic Variation: is a change in a language over time. The existence of patterned variations makes it possible to identify ourselves and others as belonging to a certain group. What are the aspects of language behavior from a social point of view? 1- The function of language in establishing social relationships. 2- The role played by language in conveying information about the speaker. – What are the two factors which language variation is based on? 1- Geographic Factors.

2- Social Factors.

Autonomy: Independence.
Heteronomy: Dependence.

Varieties of language are often referred to as “dialects”

What is Clue-bearing role?
Clue-bearing role helps people in the use of language, as it formulates an opinion about us, not so much from what we say , but actually from how we say things.

Clue-bearing role is a social function of language.
– What is the definition of dialect?
Is a kind of language which is distinguishable to a degree from other kinds of the same language, in vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation.
What is dialectal diversity?
Dialectal diversity develops when people are separated geographically (oceans, mountains) and socially (religion, politics, class)

What is dialect leveling?
Dialect leveling is a movement towards greater uniformity and less variation among dialects.

What is regional dialect?
Regional dialect is a dialect which spreads in one region and does not spread to other regions in language community. The language used has its character.
What is Idiolect?
Idiolect is the individual’s unique way of speaking; it contains idiosyntric characteristics of an individual’s speech.

What is the definition of accent?
Accent is the individual’s phonological pronunciation of language.

What do we mean by continuum?
Continuum is anything that goes through a gradual transition from one condition to another without any sudden changes.

In certain cases, when is dialect or language continuum applied? It is applied when people stop speaking one dialect or language, and start speaking another.

What is mutual intelligibility?
If two speakers can understand each other, then they are speaking the same dialect of the same language. And if they don’t understand each other, then they are speaking different languages.

In what case do we choose social and political factors over linguistic factors? At some places along the German Dutch border, the dialects spoken on both sides are extremely similar. If we chose to say that people on both sides of the border speak German and those on the other Dutch, our choice will be based on social and political factors over linguistic factors.

When did Sociolinguistic appear? And who founded Sociolinguistics? Sociolinguistics appeared in the 1960’s and was pioneered by William Labov in the United States and United Kingdom.

What is standard language/English?
Standard language/English is used with/by the following:

1- In printing, such as newspapers.
2- To teach non-native speakers.
3- In news broadcasts.
4- It is used by educated people.
5- It is used in social conditions.

What is the definition of the word Taboo?
Taboo is a strong prohibition relating to any area of human activity or social custom that is sacred and forbidden based on moral judgment and religious beliefs. In language, taboo is associated with things which are
not said and in particular with words and expressions which are not used.

Why is Arabic not a dialect?
Because Arabic is not used as a native spoken variety of a group of people. And Arabic language is diglossic, which means there are two levels of the language:

1- High (classical, standard, written and formal)
2- Low (Informal, vernacular and spoken)

What is the definition of sociolect?
Sociolect is the variety of language used by a particular social class.

What is social stratification?
It is the social differentiation in terms of power, wealth and status.

The more heterogeneous a society the more heterogeneous is its language.

Western type social-class stratification is not universal.

In India, unlike western societies, traditional society is stratified into different castes, different castes speak different varieties of language.

Because of the rigid separation between different castes, castes dialects tend to be relatively clear-cut. Thus, castes dialects are easier to study and describe over social class dialect.

Since all language varieties are subject to variation and change, it turned out that “pure” homogeneous dialect is a myth, which paved the way for urban dialectology which then became “Sociolinguistics”

What is the definition of ethnicity?
Having an identity with a particular racial, national or cultural group.

What is the definition of pidgin?
Is a language created, usually naturally out of mixture of others languages as a means of communication between speakers of different tongue.

What is the definition of creole?
Creole is when a pidgin comes to be adopted by a community as its native tongue, and children learn it as first language.

How is it possible to identify members of a community?
By language or variety of language they speak.

When does code-switching occur?
Code-switching occurs when there are groups of bilinguals who speak the same two languages.

What is the definition of register?
Register is a specialized variety of language. When we speak we automatically locate ourselves on a specific stylistic level.

What is the definition of slang?
Slang is a vocabulary which is at the extremely informal end of the continuum.

Slang also means colloquial.

What is the meaning of diglossia?
Diglossia is a situation where in a given society, there are two closely-related languages, one of high prestige which is used by the government and formal texts, and one of low prestige which is used usually the spoken vernacular tongue.

What is the definition of style?
Style refers to different ways of speaking a language, a speaker may use a different way of speech according to the situation he is in.

Styles are considered “situation dialects”

In other language communities, style shifting must take place according to the situation.

A shift is style may occur in the following:

1- From formal situations to informal situations.
2- From informal situations to formal situations.

Introduction to Sociolinguistics

In what way BBI 3204 Introduction to Sociolinguistics has help me to understand society and its relationship with language

The question that you pose to me was what has this course made me aware of society and its relationship with language. I feel that this question is a more of general, application and personal tone. Therefore I am going to write about my experience and my understanding in relation to this course.

First of all, I understand that sociolinguistic is the study about language in connection to society. How do I define language? I see language as a tool. It serves a range of functions. Language is also like a vehicle or a medium in human interaction. Society means a community of people living in a particular country or region and having shared customs, laws, organizations and etc. Then what is the relationship between society and language? In my opinion, when people use language to communicate, the language itself has become part of society. There are many possibilities about the relationship between language and society. The possibilities are society influences language, or language influences society, or society and language influence each other or no influence at all.

As an example, my name reflects that I am a Chinese. But I do not speak a single word of Chinese nor can I even write a single Chinese character. Instead, I speak fluent Bahasa Melayu and English. How can this be? This is because of my upbringing and my interactions with the community I live in. My parents communicate using non-standard Bahasa or Malay that is Peranakan ( Chinese Straits) to their children. When I ask them why they can t speak Chinese, they say that their parents never taught them although I knew my grandparents do speak in one of the chinese dialect. My parents felt comfortable communicating in Peranakan as the surrounding neighbours too are using the language. As for me, I get to learn the language as my mother tongue and the standard Bahasa and English through formal learning. These are my linguistic repertoire.

From here in relation to sociolingusitic, I learnt that there is language shift in my culture. My forefathers are from China. They married the local women and their children were able to communicate in two languages that is Peranakan and a chinese dialect. But the generation after are not able to communicate in the language of their forefathers but have adopted the language of their dominant society that is Peranakan.

However the language now is slowly facing death as the very young generation are not expose to the language in terms of usage. They prefer English instead. It is considered as a more prestige language. I myself had not been using the language Peranakan for quite sometime as I do not have anyone to talk to in Peranakan. I have forgotten some of the terms use in Peranakan. Sometimes I find it difficult to use the correct terms or words. This is when I tend to code-switch in English or standard Malay. I am experiencing language loss here so do most of the younger generation of my culture.

In addition, when I converse with my elders in Peranakan I have to be aware of their status, power and solidarity. When I speak to my grand-aunt, I have to be conscious of her salutation and the manner of my conversation that is extremely politeness. In Peranakan the salutation for grand-aunt (patriarchal) is Ipoh and when we converse I had to be humble and my tone of voice must be soft and lady-like. Unlike when I converse with my peers in Peranakan, I use gua or lu meaning you and I and the manner we converse can be rowdy at times.

Besides, I noticed that there is a difference in Peranakan and the standard malay although both are malay language. Peranakan is considered as non-standard or a colloquial variety. In Malaysia, the high variety is the standard malay that is Bahasa Melayu. For example, the word cup and toilet in standard Malay we call cawan and tandas but in Peranakan we call changkir and chi-wan .

I realized that we can identify a speaker identity, social class and educational background just by listening to their language in terms of pronunciation, grammar, intonation or semantics. There are many dialects in Malay. One can identify their state of origin if they belong to the north, east-coast or southern Malaysia. For example, the dialect from Trengganu, ikan is pronounced as ikang . One can also identify the race of a certain ethnic group. For example, the typical Chinese, unable to roll their tongues will pronounce lari as lali .

In continuation of my story, I became a teacher and I was posted to teach in a chinese school in Klang. When I went to that school, most of the pupils and some teachers (even the Headmaster!) thought that I am a Malay or Muslim just because I cannot speak chinese. It really shows of how much knowledge they have and their thinking.

Initially, I had a tough time adjusting to their culture and comprehending them. Over a period, I manage to understand a little chinese as I hear the same words uttered or verbalized everyday. The pupils took the initiative to speak English with me as I refuse to speak to them in chinese. There are advantage and disadvantage situations I am facing. First, my pupils had to learn English in order to communicate with me. My colleagues, the educated ones will speak in English with me but the low-educated ones will speak in Malay with me. The disadvantages I encountered are at times I am not included in my colleagues conversation as I do not belong there meaning I cannot converse chinese. At times I get stared at by others when they see me conversed in malay with another chinese in public. Anyway I have tolerated their antics for years and now I am furthering my studies in this university.

In conclusion, my discussion above shows that the society somehow influence and sometimes determine the language and dictate behavior of an individual. It also shows that the varieties of language that speakers use reflect their regional, social, or ethnic and maybe gender too. Moreover, ways of speaking, choices of words and rules for conversing are highly determined by certain social requirements. This course has certainly made me reflect and ponder about the society I am in contact with and its relationship with language. I have learnt and understand more now about sociolinguistics.


1. Holmes, J. (1992). An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. London: Longman.

2. Wardhaugh, R. (1986). An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. Oxford: Blackwell

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