Linguistic Cues for Children

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How does linguistic variation cue representations of a speaker’s social identity and, presumably, stereotypes about relevant social groups? Although studies have indicated that phonetic variation in speech may activate social stereotypes (Purnell, Idsardi & Baugh, 1999), research on the mechanisms of this process has been scant. The term “stereotype” was introduced into the variations of sociolinguistic literature in Labov’s (1973) taxonomy of language forms charged with broad social meaning, reprised in Labov (2001). The first element in this classification, “indicators”, are variables whose use is restricted to certain social groups, but whose use “shows zero degree of social awareness and are difficult to detect for both linguists and native speakers” (Labov 2001, p. 196). “Markers”, the second category, occur when “indicators” rise to the level of social consciousness. They exhibit “social recognition usually in the form of social stigma…” (Labov 2001, p. 197) The third linguistic element is that of “stereotypes”. Labov (1973, p. 314) defines these as “socially marked forms, prominently labeled by society.” Labov (1973) elaborates, stating: “stereotypes are referred to and talked about by members of the speech community; they may have a general label, and a characteristic phrase which serves equally well to identify them” As they grow, children learn to become members of the cultures into which they are born, it is from here that they get their cognitive understanding of the physical and more importantly the social world. The following assignment explores the influences that different language styles have on the cultural outlook that children grow up to have, especially in context of stereotypes or prejudices that they might carry. When children babble, very often the first words that they say are to serve some social purpose. (for example – ‘hi’ or waving their hand to show greeting. In the Indian context, they are taught to touch feet of elder people.) We...
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