WHAT IS SOCIOLINGUISTICS?
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.
Examples and Observations:
* "There are several possible relationships between language and society. One is that social structure may either influence or determine linguistic structure and/or behavior. . . .
"A second possible relationship is directly opposed to the first: linguistic structure and/or behavior may either influence or determine social structure. . . . A third possible relationship is that the influence is bi-directional: language and society may influence each other. . . .
"Whatever sociolinguistics is, it must be oriented toward both data and theory: that is, any conclusions we come to must be solidly based on evidence."
(Ronald Wardhaugh, An Introduction to Sociolinguistics, Wiley, 2005)
* "Sociolinguistic competence enables speakers to distinguish among possibilities such as the following. To get someone's attention in English, each of the utterances
2. 'Excuse me!', and
3. 'Sir!' or 'Ma'am!'
is grammatical and a fully meaningful contribution to the discourse of the moment, but only one of them may satisfy societal expectations and the speaker's preferred presentation of self. 'Hey!' addressed to one's mother or father, for example, often expresses either a bad attitude or surprising misunderstanding of the usually recognized social proprieties, and saying 'Sir!' to a 12-year-old probably expresses inappropriate deference.
"Every language accommodates such differences as a non-discrete scale or continuum of recognizably different linguistic 'levels' or styles, termed registers, and every socially mature speaker, as part of learning the language, has learned to distinguish and choose among places on the scale of register."
(Grover Hudson, Essential Introductory Linguistics, Blackwell, 2000)
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