Language Variation

Topics: Middle class, Working class, Social class Pages: 7 (2439 words) Published: March 18, 2011



ABSTRACT We must realize that language as a "thing" to be studied is necessarily a kind of simplification, because language isn't a "thing" external to human beings, but rather, something that makes up a part of who we are.
KEY WORDS>Dialect variation,Sociolect, Register The life of language intermingles with the life of society.

Language must also be profitably studied in its social context,in so doing, we learn both about language and about ourselves, the people who use it, live with it, and live in it. Sociolinguistics, then, as the name implies, is the study of language in human society. I'll focus here on a major aspect of sociolinguistic research in the past decades, an area generally referred to as language variation. As its own name implies, language variation focuses on how language varies in different contexts, where context refers to things like ethnicity, social class, sex, geography, age, and a number of other factors. when we are looking at variation, we have to constantly bear all of these factors in mind as potential extra-linguistic factors. In fact, we also need to factor in such things as age and sex, which also play important roles in understanding language variation. Language use varies in many dimensions. Three major dimensions are the following: 1. Regional: Dialect Variation. 2. Social: Sociolect 3. Functional: Register or Functional Style Variation. The term `lect', a back-formation from `dialect', is sometimes used to cover the notion of language variant. Language users move around in the `variety space' defined by these three dimensions, and the `territory' in variety space which is covered by a single user is kknown as his `idiolect'.The movement of language users along the dimensions of regional and dialect variation is relatively restricted. Few speakers command more than a couple of dialoects or languages. But, in contrast, the variation of language with different functional contexts of use is startlingly varied - formal and informal, public and private, written and spoken, professional and trade languages.The dimension of functional variation is quite dominant, though speakers are often quite unaware of it, and respond more immediately to dialectal and sociolectal variation. Speakers tend have a language, a dialect and a sociolect which is associated with the circumstances of their birth and upbringing. But switches in language and dialect or sociolect tend to correlate closely with switches in functional context, in addition to the basic indexical function of social classification. At the level of languages, an instructive example is English in the late 20th century. English is used by a large community of native speakers in well-to-do Western societies, who accept that they fundamentally speak the same language, though different areas are associated with different dialects, and some of these dialects have become accepted as standard languages (south-eastern educated British; mid-West American; Canadian; Australian; South African. English is also used as a native language, and non-native...
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