Language in Society: An Introduction to Sociolinguistics

Language in Society: An Introduction to Sociolinguistics

Language in Society: An Introduction to Sociolinguistics

Language in Society: An Introduction to Sociolinguistics

Synopsis

"Why have 1500 separate languages developed in the Pacific islands of Melanesia? Why do Danes understand Norwegian better than Norwegians understand Danish? Why is a Cornish accent rated higher than Cockney speech but lower than Oxford English? Are British and American English different languages?" "Linguistics tends to ignore the relationship between languages and the societies in which they are spoken, while sociology generally overlooks the role of language in the constitution of society. Suzanne Romaine provides a clear, lively, and accessible introduction to the field of sociolinguistics, emphasizing the constant interaction between society and language. She discusses both traditional and more recent issues such as language and social class, language and gender, language in education, pidgins and creoles, and language change. She shows how our linguistic choices are motivated by social factors, and how certain ways of speaking come to be vested with symbolic value. In her examples she draws on studies of cultures all over the world, including her own extensive field work in Papua New Guinea, Hawaii, and Britain." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

Modern linguistics has generally taken for granted that grammars are unrelated to the social lives of their speakers. Thus, linguists have usually treated language as an abstract object which can be accounted for without reference to social concerns of any kind. Sociologists, for their part, have tended to treat society as if it could be constituted without language. I have called this book Language in Society, which is what sociolinguistics is all about. The term 'sociolinguistics' was coined in the 1950s to try to bring together the perspectives of linguists and sociologists to bear on issues concerning the place of language in society, and to address, in particular, the social context of linguistic diversity. Although it is still a young field of research, it gathered momentum in the 1960s and 1970s and continues to do so today. Educational and social policies played a role in the turning of linguists' attention to some of these questions, as did dissatisfaction with prevailing models of linguistics. Since the late 1950s mainstream linguistics has been conceived of as a largely formal enterprise increasingly divorced from the study of languages as they are actually used in everyday life.

Sociolinguistics has close connections with the social sciences, in particular, sociology, anthropology, social psychology, and education. It encompasses the study of multilingualism, social dialects, conversational interaction, attitudes to language, language change, and much more. It is impossible to put all the different approaches to the topic into neat pigeon-holes, each of which is distinct in terms of methodology, goals, etc. There is considerable overlap, so that, for instance, while dialectologists have studied speech varieties and language change, subjects of paramount interest to many sociolinguists, they have generally employed quite different methods of data collection and concentrated on rural rather than urban speech (see Chapter 5).

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