An Introduction to Sociolinguistics
A fully revised new edition of Ronald Wardhaugh's popular introduction to sociolinguistics, which now includes over 150 new and updated references and new study features throughout Features new "Explorations" sections in each chapter incorporating suggested readings, discussion sections, and exercises - all designed to encourage students to develop their own skills and ideas Reflects new developments in the field, providing greater focus on ideas such as identity, solidarity, and markedness Provides balanced coverage of a range of topics, including: language dialects, pidgins and Creoles, codes, bilingualism, speech communities, variation, words and culture, ethnographies, solidarity and politeness, talk and action, gender, disadvantage, and planning Comprehensive and accessible, it is the ideal introduction for students coming to sociolinguistics for the first time Ronald Wardhaugh is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Toronto. He is the author of a number of books, including Proper English (1998) and Understanding English Grammar (second edition, 2003), both published by Wiley-Blackwell.
An Introduction to Sociolinguistics
2 Languages, Dialects, and Varieties
I stated in the introductory chapter that all languages exhibit internal variation, that is, each language exists in a number of varieties and is in one sense the sum of those varieties. But what do we mean by variety? Hudson (1996, p. 22) defines a variety of language as 'a set of linguistic items with similar distribution, ' a definition that allows us to say that all of the following are varieties: Canadian English, London English, the English of football commentaries, and so on. According to Hudson, this definition also allows us 'to treat all the languages of some multilingual speaker, or community, as a single variety, since all the linguistic items concerned have a similar social distribution.' A variety can therefore be something greater than a single language as well as something less, less even than something traditionally referred to as a dialect. Ferguson (1972, p. 30) offers another definition of variety: 'any body of human speech patterns which is sufficiently homogeneous to be analyzed by available techniques of synchronic description and which has a sufficiently large repertory of elements and their arrangements or processes with broad enough semantic scope to function in all formal contexts of communication.' Note the words 'sufficiently homogeneous' in this last quotation. Complete homogeneity is not required; there is always some variation whether we consider a language as a whole, a dialect of that language, the speech of a group within that dialect, or, ultimately, each individual in that group. Such variation is a basic fact of linguistic life.
Hudson and Ferguson agree in defining variety in terms of a specific set of 'linguistic items' or 'human speech patterns' (presumably, sounds, words, grammatical features, etc.) which we can uniquely associate with some external factor (presumably, a geographical area or a social group). Consequently, if we can identify such a unique set of items or patterns for each group in question, it might be possible to say there are such varieties as Standard English, Cockney, lower-class New York City speech, Oxford English, legalese, cocktail party talk, and so on. One important task, then, in sociolinguistics is to determine if such unique sets of items or patterns actually do exist. As we proceed we will encounter certain difficulties, but it is unlikely that we will easily abandon the concept of 'variety,' no matter how serious these difficulties prove to be.
Language or Dialect?
For many people there can be no confusion at all about what language they speak. For example, they are Chinese, Japanese, or Korean and they speak Chinese, Japanese, and Korean respectively. It is as simple as that; language and ethnicity are virtually synonymous (Coulmas, 1999). A Chinese may be surprised to find that another person who appears to be Chinese does not speak Chinese, and some Japanese have gone so far as to claim not to be able to understand Caucasians who speak fluent Japanese. Just as such a strong connection between language and ethnicity may prove to be invaluable in nation-building, it can also be fraught with problems when individuals and groups seek to realize some other identity, e.g., to be both Chinese and American, or to be Canadian rather than Korean-Canadian. As we will see (p. 391), many Americans seem particularly reluctant to equate language with ethnicity in their own case: although they regard English as the 'natural' language of Americans, they do not consider American to be an ethnic label. The results may be the same; only the reasons differ.
Most speakers can give a name to whatever it is they speak. On occasion, some of these names may appear to be strange to those who take a scientific interest in languages, but we should remember that human naming practi