The Study of Language

Topics: Sociology, Language, Variety Pages: 7 (1836 words) Published: January 1, 2013
The study of language

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✓ Introduction.

✓ Varieties of language.

✓ Language, culture and thought.

✓ Speech as social interaction.

✓ The quantitative study of speech.


   Sociolinguistics is a term including the aspects of linguistics applied toward the connections between language and society, and the way we use it in different social situations. It ranges from the study of the wide variety of dialects across a given region down to the analysis between the way men and women speak to one another. Sociolinguistics often shows us the humorous realities of human speech and how a dialect of a given language can often describe the age, sex, and social class of the speaker; it codes the social function of a language.

Any discussion of relationship between language and society, or of the various functions of language in society, should begin with some attempt to define each of these terms. Let us say that a society is any group of people who are drawn together for a certain purpose or purposes. The language is what the members of a particular society speak. Sometimes a society may be plurilingual; that is, many speakers may use more than language, however we define a language.

Varieties of language:

In sociolinguistics a variety, also called lect, is a specific form of language or language cluster. This may include languages, dialects, accents, registers, styles or other sociolinguistic variation, as well as the standard variety itself. “Variety” avoids the terms language, which many people associate only with the standard language, and dialect, which is associated with non-standard varieties thought of as less prestigious or “correct” than the standard. Linguists speak of both standard and non-standard varieties. “Lect” avoids the problem in ambiguous cases of deciding whether or not two varieties are distinct languages or dialects of a single language.

Variation at the level of the lexicon, such as slang and argot, is often considered in relation to particular styles or levels of formality (also called registers), but such uses are sometimes discussed as varieties themselves.

Dialect is defined as, “A regional or social variety of a language characterized by its own phonological, syntactic, and lexical properties”. A variety spoken in a particular region is called a regional dialect; some regional varieties are called topolects, especially when discussing varieties of Chinese. In addition, there are dialect varieties associated with particular ethnic groups (sometimes called ethnolects), socioeconomic classes (sometimes called sociolects), other social or cultural groups, or even the variety spoken language specific to one individual (called an idiolect).

Dialectology is the study of dialects and their geographic or social distribution. Traditionally, dialectologists study the variety of language used within a particular speech community, a group of people who share a set of norms or conventions for language use. More recently, sociolinguists have adopted the concept of community of practice, a group of people who develop shared knowledge and shared norms of interaction, as the social group within which dialects develop and change.

Although the words dialect and accent are sometimes used interchangeably in everyday speech, linguists and scholars define the two terms differently. Accent, in technical usage, refers only to differences in pronunciation, especially those associated with geographic or social differences....
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