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Sunday, September 26, 2010

On Sociolinguistics/ Anil Pinto

Lecture notes: 25th sept,'10

Notes by: Sneha Sharon Mammen

Socioloinguistics is a study of language in relation to societies that is language that functions within a society. Mr Pinto says that sociolinguistics is all about the power game where language always finds something superior to its standards, unlike Phonetics which takes a neutral stand.

Within Sociolinguistics we study three broad categories :

1) Language Variety encompassing

a) Dialect

b) Accent

c) Register

d) Jargon

e) Style

f) Gender

g) Ideolect and

h) Taboo words

2) Language Change, encompassing the followings contexts of change:

a) Bilingualism

b) Multilingualism

c) Code Switching

d) Code mixing

e) Pidgin/ Creole

3) Saphir- Whorf Hypothesis

The question as of now is what exactly is the difference between Linguistics and Sociolinguistics? While the former deals with the form and structure of language like Morphology, Phonology, Syntax, the latter studies language within its societal context and largely in the domain of the spoken language.

However, in a society there is no one language. For example, you might be acquainted with the 44 sounds of English (UK) but in reality who knows it might far exceed this number. Even if one looks at the Daniel Jones book of pronunciations, at the back of your mind you know that it is just referring to the pronunciations which people majorly follows, it doesn’t at any point mean that it is the fixed form of pronouncing words. BBC opts for readers educated from the Oxford or Cambridge Universities, but even these are but simply a minority.

Language therefore keeps changing with respect to time, gender, area, sex and so. We ourselves are not speakers of either chaste Hindi or English.

Under the former categories, we study the following divisions:

a) DIALECT: is a variety of language distinguished according to region and social class.

Region---------) All languages have regional varieties.

Social class-------) 1) on the basis of literacy (educated or not)

2) language of the rustic. ( as also caste structures and special varieties.

In Karnataka itself you could identify people on their geographical grounds in terms of the kind of language variation that they speak.

b) ACCENT: variation in pronunciations that might either be because off regional differences or cultural. Even in England, there is the existing difference between the Received Pronunciations and the language of the working class- cockneyed.

c) REGISTER: is the topic oriented varieties of language, commonly occupational varieties such as that of lawyers, medicine, in educational systems (the terms of Literary Theory is specific: mimesis, catharsis etc). It is also important to note that the registeral variety uses a lot of jargons.

d) JARGONS: As mentioned above, registeral language also uses a lot of jargons that is technicalities with respect to activities. It aids to decide who is an outsider and insider of a trade. The terms ‘subject’ or ‘subjectivity’ or other jargons like that used among the naxals, lawyers, journalists, psychology students and the like.

e) STYLE: is the individual usage of language depending on situations and role relations. Martin Joos in 1962 had propounded the five styles used in the English language.

a) Frozen- “ Visitors should make their way straight upstairs”

b) Formal- “ Visitors should …… at once”

c) Consultative- “ Would you mind taking the way upstairs..”

d) Casual- “ Its time you go upstairs”

e) Intimate- “Up you go chaps”

The style varies according to the relations, official relations, parent-child relations etc. Style could be morphological, lexical and the like where the structure changes but the verb order remains the same.

f) GENDER: According to researches, women use more prestigious, formal language when compared to men.

The men and women ,Amer- Indians in Alaska speak nearly different languages altogether. ( Reason: less contact between men and women, even today we have the concept of men and womens schools and colleges in the country where the elite used to send their children, areas which catered to a particular gender.

In research again, it was noticed that men and women discuss varied topics during a conversation. While women gave vent to their personal feelings, men took to talking about news, politics, sports etc. Interestingly, it was also seen that if a third person talked of his/her problems to a man and a woman at the same time, the man would rationally try to advise while the woman took to recalling situations of the same kind which might have happened to her or heard in the past.

Also, hidge words (‘a kind of’, ‘a sort of’) and tags (isn’t it) were used more by women.

g) IDEOLECT: personal dialect of an individual speaker, (the I-DIALECT that is). It consists of gestures, words, pronunciations and voice quality.

h) TABOO WORDS: words which are forbidden in the socal context.

It could be categorized under filthy and clean or pure usage of words. For example while ‘fuck’ is the filthy usage, ‘intercourse’ remains the clean way. Interestingly, English being a Germanic language credited to have emerged from the Anglo Saxons, many of the raw and filthy words we hear today were the actual English version of the euphemisms we currently have been using. For example, the terms ‘cunt’, ‘cock’, ‘prick’, ‘tits’ or ‘shit’ today have been modestly replaced by ‘vagina’, ‘penis’, ‘nipples’ and ‘faeces’, however it does not sideline the real origins of the original words.

It has much to do with the social hegemony and the power of language to push the ‘other’ ‘low standard’ usage aside and therefore even the terms filthy and clean are quite regionally decide. Swear words in themselves are not pan Indian which is a result of our differences in cultural experiences.

Another reason why taboo words were forbidden was because many a times it was considered inauspicious to use it. For example, a tribe in Mangalore does not call a cobra by its name, rather they think it wise to call it ‘the good one’ so that it helps prevent unfortunate incidents and mishaps/ calling it a good one in their belief ascertains that it might not harm anyone.

Similarly, the hindi usage of the term ‘woh’ as in ‘pati, patni aur woh is generally used for a mistress and is sometimes carefully avoided so as not to appear disrespectful.

‘Babe’ ‘Chick’ have social taboo orientations while the usage of ‘They’ or ‘them’ corresponding to ‘woh log’ to discriminate between people of another sect or religion are religious taboo words.

Again, in some parts of the country people do not call certaion illnesses like chicken pox, small pox or measles by names. They generally find it favourable to call it by terms like ‘mataji’ perhaps to seek her blessings and escape the threat of suffering.

We now come under the second broad category: LANGUAGE IN CONTEXT/ LANGUAGE CHANGE OR LANGUAGE VARIATIONS. Under this head we study the following:

a) Bilingualism/ Multilingualism- When people with different cultural linguistic backgrounds reside in the same geographical space sharing the same socio-economic and political activities, bring in the functioning of bilingualism and multilingualism. For example, Bengaluru today is a multilingual state with Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi, English, Bengali and Kannada speaking people residing here in large numbers. Canada too has French and English, so is the case with Brazil or even Singapore where people talk Malay, English, Tamil etc. The question is: who speaks what language and to whom. Whereas at home we might use our mother tongues, in official and institutional circles, we tend to use the official language of communication.

b) Code Switching/ Code mixing: Individual switching from one

language to another in a conversation. While code mixing means using words from another language, code switching means usage of an entire sentence in a different language. Example: “You are right. Unlogo ki angrezi achi ho jati hain, lekin ye jo subjects hain, science, mathematics, they become very weak”

c) Pidgin/ Creole: simplified link languages which arise due to

contact between the ruler and the ruled or when languages of two groups of people come in contact for reasons of trade and commerce. Schuchardt in 1891 in his reading talked of :

1) The Butler English of Madras

2) Pidgin English of Bombay

3) Boxwallah English of Upper India

4) Chee Chee English

5) Babu English.

Later in the 1980’s even Priya Hosani talks of the varieties of Butler English.

If a large number of people talk Pigin, it becomes Creole. Amitav

Ghosh in his ‘Sea of Poppies’ also mentions about the Lashkari

Language which was again a language used for trade purposes.

The last broad category is the Saphir-Whorf Hypothesis where Edward Saphir and Benjamin Whorf come together to highlight a proposition that language shapes a person’s worldview. For example, certain communities have every word in its language designed either to be an animate or an inanimate. As in Hindi yu have either masculine or feminine, English takes into consideration even the neutar gender and has terms like ‘it’. Talking of this community, the inanimate are those that do not have life and hence could be hurt. The animate whereas are supposed to have life and should not be inflicted with pain. For this reason, they might even consider a stone as animate and hence not use it in an uncaring fashion.

Therefore, it is the construction of language in a certain way and the cultural understanding of language that frames our thought. Even to this date, the Christians believe that the Eucharist is animate and hence you should take the bread and wine, the supposed flesh and blood of Christ in a manner that projects reverence.

Worship of images of Gods and Godesses could also fall under this category.

Pinto, Anil. Lecture notes. Christ University. Bangalore.


Deepti Kumar said...

this is amazing Anil, how in such a short period of time you could manage to pull in all these concepts. It was also a success as students enjoyed the class so much...Thanks a ton, and nobody could have done a better job than you....Not even me.

Anil Pinto said...

Deepti, you are being extremely kind to me. Thank you for the opportunity and trust.