Department Store Study

Topics: Social class, Middle class, Sociolinguistics Pages: 6 (4215 words) Published: November 2, 2014

1.Index
1.Index……………………………………………………………………………..1 2.Introduction…..……………………………………………………………….. 2 3.Rhoticity and its relation to social prestige……………………………..……… 3 4. The department store study……………………………………………………… 4 4.1 New York City department stores represent different social environments. 5 4.2The internal stratification in New York City Department stores………..6 5.Sociolinguistic structure of (r)……………………………………………….8 6.Conclusion……………………………………………………………………...11 7.Bibliography……………………………………………………………………...12

2.Introduction
Communication is a very complex process in which a person expresses a lot more than just plain words. While communicating with other people, one expresses feelings and thoughts to the listener that go far beyond simple words. Moreover the communication partner will have a first impression of the speaker’s personality. The language used by the speaker indicates his social as well as his family background. One would believe that the parents have the greatest influence on the development of the child’s native speech, when in fact the parents are only the primary source for the fundamental language pattern that the child develops. In pre-adolescent years, the child’s native speech pattern is determined by the friends and the group of peers the child is surrounded with. The child is guided by the group and attempts to adjust his/her social behavior to the group, in order to be accepted and tolerated. This process brings about inevitable social and linguistic changes. The sociolinguist William Labov, analyzed the change of linguistic behavior according to the prestigious or non-prestigious environment the people are surrounded by. His studies focus on the sound system of New York City, which is a single speech community with many social classes. Especially in the Lower East Side, the city is representative for a high degree of mobility, diversity and complexity in society as well as linguistic patterns. It is extremely important to study sociolinguistic changes in the society as a whole, and not based on the individual. Labov investigated the social stratification in the occupational group of salespeople in the department store study. Whereas people in general try to be accepted by society, salespeople consistently intend to adapt to the customer’s prestige. Labov observed the linguistic behavior of the salespeople and the social stratification of the (r) variable in the Lower East Side. Labov’s studies are the center of this paper as well as the basis for the interpretation about the relation between language and the prestigious part of the society, according to the (r) variable. In order to interpret its prestigious meaning, it is substantial to examine the characteristics of the social stratification of (r), class and style. The respective figures with its reliable data, chosen in the paper, are to confirm the idea of rhoticity as an influential pattern. The aim of this paper is to clarify how the (r) variable carries social prestige. 3.Rhoticity and Its Relation to Prestige

In the beginning it is essential to understand how the /r/ is produced phonetically. The speaker manipulates the airstream while breathing out, in order to produce the consonant /r/. By producing the sound of /r/, the tongue is raised just behind the alveolar ridge. Without friction, the airstream goes through the fairly large gap and is therefore not shaped, but obstructed. Hence, the sound of /r/ is called post- alveolar approximant (see Collins & Mees 2008: 91). The vocal cords vibrate during the production of /r/ which is therefore lenis. The way the sound /r/ is made by the organs of speech is called retroflexion. The American English, for example, exhibits a relatively high degree of retroflexion (see Downes 1998: 137). According to the /r/ distribution, a main aspect of English is the split of accents into two groups. On the one hand the rhotic accent and on the other hand the non-rhotic accent (see Downes 1998:...

Bibliography: Collins, Beverley & Mees, Inger M. (2008) Practical Phonetics and Phonology: A resource book for students. 2nd Edition. New York: Routledge.
Downes, William (1998) Language and Society. 2nd Edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Labov, William (1972) Sociolinguistic Patterns. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Labov, William (2006) The Social Stratification of English in New York City. 2nd Edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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