Language and Social Context

Topics: Sociolinguistics, Dialect, Sociology Pages: 2 (615 words) Published: June 18, 2011

Language varies not only according to social class, age and gender but also according to the social context in which we are immersed. Many aspects of the social situation can contribute to decide which linguistic variety is to be employed on a particular occasion. Another way to refer to social contexts is the term, used by Miriam Meyerhoff, "Social Networks": •Social Networks are groupings based on frequency and quality of members' interaction. They are defined by who your friends are, who you live near, who you have dinner or have drinks with and who you work with. •Social networks are at least as important as macro-social-categories, like class, for understanding how changes take hold and spread across a community. The diffussion of linguistic changes may happen in two different ways: through Horizontal Channels or through Vertical Channels: •In HORIZONTAL channels the diffusion of linguistic changes happens relatively fast and very efficiently. These channels are for e.g. within one age group and a social cohort. •VERTICAL channels are channels between generations or across big social divides. These channels are a comparatively slow and inefficient means of transmitting innovation. “Kids talk like their parents, not like their friends.” We can differentiate between DENSE and LOOSE networks:

Dense networks are those which slow down the diffusion of linguistic changes. This happens because these networks are formed by members who have a really close contact. And, due to this, contacts outside their networks are comparatively superficial; there is less chance of being systematically exposed to innovations from outside. •In Loose networks the members are not that close. The ties that the individual members have to other networks provide an opportunity for them to be exposed to and pick up innovations from outside their network. The distinction between loose and dense networks may be important for...
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