Riassunto esame Linguistica Inglese II, prof Dore, libro consigliato: Understanding Language Structure, Interaction and Variation, Brown, Attardo, S, Vigliotti, (2014) 3rd edition, The University of Michigan Press"
V N (noun phrase)
One of the ways we can express complex ideas and sets of relations is to use sentences containing the major
(Mary) (kissed) (John) (passionately)
N V N ADV (clause) (clause) (clause) (clause)
(Quickly) (Mary) (became) (amorous)
ADV N V N (clause) (clause) (clause) (clause)
However, in spoken language, can be even more complex since can be filled by groups of two
or more which are called (but they function exactly the same way as single words):
woman) kissed) man) passionately)
(The beautiful (has (the hopeful (very
NOUN PHRASE (NP) + (clause)
VERB PHRASE (VP) + NOUN PHRASE (NP) + ADVERB PHRASE (AdvP) (clause) (clause) (clause)
girl) becoming) amorous)
(the (was (extremely
(Very PHRASE (AdvP) + NOUN PHRASE (NP) + VERB PHRASE (VP) + ADJECTIVE
Note that the words in bold are defined as HEAD WORDS (they must be always present while the rest is
HOW SENTENCES ARE FORMED
We have learned that phrases are groups of words that go together and which are focused on a headword that the
rest of the words in the phrase (beautiful woman) or (very small indeed) in some way.
Remember: possessive is a postmodifier.
NOUN PHRASE head
1. (NP) = a group of words that has a NOUN as its (as its most important word)
and which functions together as a noun:a student, the charming student, that little Linguistics student
with dark hair. A NP may be very simple or have a fairly complex structure (Mary, the woman, the
smart woman). It can be modified by a PP, as in "the woman at work"
2. (VP) = a group of words that has a VERB as its head and which functions together as
a verb: worked, had worked, had been working, might have been working. We traditionally distinguish
different types of verbs and corresponding types of sentences. In English verbs must always have a
subject, but some verbs do not take a direct object (intransitive verbs: Mary laughs, sleeps..). Verbs that
have a direct object are called (Mary won the race, Mary kissed John). Some verbs have two
objects, a direct and an indirect object (ditransitive verbs: Mary gave John a book, Mary sent Ann a
letter). Other types of sentences do not have a NP as their direct object, rather an adjective is their
complement: a complement is anything that follows the verb and this usually happens with copular verbs
(such as to be, to seem, to look): Mary is tired, seem happy. We can add all sorts of adverbs or adverbial
clauses in various positions to modify the sentence or some of its parts (Mary won the race yesterday,
easily won the race) AUXILIARY MAIN VERBS
3. Remember to point out (AUX) verbs and (m.v.). Can be added also
negative particles and adverbs. Verb phrases can be either simple (only one verb in tem), complex (at
least 2 verb forms), finite, or non finite.If the verb in the verb phrase has tense, then the verb phrase is
said to be finite: these verbs agree in person and number with the subject noun phrase. The most
significant features of finite verbs are tense and voice. Not all verb phrases have tense or person/number
agreement.Finite verbs are more common and can stand alone, whereas non-finite verb phrases usually
have to be accompanied by a finite verb phrase.
4. (AdjP) = a group of words that has an ADJECTIVE as its head and which
functions together as an adjective:• despicable, absolutely despicable, as despicable as possible
5. (AdvP) = a group of words that has an ADVERB as its head and which functions
together as an adverb: quickly, too quickly, much too quickly
Remember: there is also a word class preposition to define the fifth kind of phrase, PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE
(PP) = A group of words that consists of a preposition followed by a Noun Phrase:in the basket up the road,
down his throat.
THE TREE DIAGRAM
It is traditional to represent the structure of the sentence with a tree diagram that shows with branches and nodes
the process of breaking down the sentence given above it.
TYPES OF SENTENCES
TYPES OF SENTENCE TRANSFORMATION
Transformations can be used to move parts of a sentence into different positions or to insert phrases or clauses in
a sentence, as in "a good student he is not".
In the case of SUBORDINATION, a clause is called a subordinate if it is placed "inside" another clause: a
higher-order sentence has as one of its components another sentence (the subordinate clause): for example, a
sentence may have its direct object replaced by a subordinate clause, which will appear under the comp
(complementizer) nod or a word that introduces a complement/ subordinate clause.
In the case of COORDINATION, the 2 sentences, or phrases, are on the same level.
Other examples of transformation:
• Mary stood up John -> Mary stood John up: NP+ V+part+NP -> NP+V+NP+part
(detachment of the particle of the phrasal verb)
• Mary stood up John -> Did Mary stand John up?: NP+ V+NP -> Aux+ NP+V+NP
• Mary stood up John -> Mary did not stand John up: NP+ V+NP -> Aux+ Neg+V+NP
• Mary stood up John -> John was stood up by Mary: NP1+ V+ NP2 -> NP2 +BE+V-en+ by+NP (-en
indicates the past participle form of the main verb)
• Mary gave a book to John -> Mary gave John a book: NP1+ V+NP2 + Prep+NP3 ->
NP1+V+NP3+NP2 (John is called an "indirect object")
Another way of asking question is the so called wh-question: questions are formed by taking the complement
phrase and moving it to the beginning of the sentence, in the empty node nder the "comp" node.
SYNTAX, UNIVERSAL GRAMMAR AND THE CHOMSKIAN PROGRAM
Most of what we have now studied in syntax has been influenced deeply by the work of Noam Chomsky, whose
grammatical theory has a very significant and controversial psychological and biological underpinning.
Chomsky claims that the rules of grammar are governed by principles
(syntax, morphology and phonology)
that are universal (all languages of the world obey them). He also claimed that principles that govern grammar
are genetically programmed in human beings: these principles are called universal grammar (UG).
Each individual specification toward the nature of universal grammar is called a parameter: for example, "piove"
in Italian is correct while "rains" is incorrect: what we have here is a parameter that says roughly that in a given
language one either can or cannot have an empty subject position. Parameters can be thought or as yes-no
switches: a parameter allows either one option or the other.
BEYOND THE SENTENCE
Sentences do not occur in isolation but they may occur in paragraphs or as part of a conversation: the disciplines
text linguistics discourse
of linguistics that look at these units larger than the individual sentence are called and
We distinguish between:
1- textual cohesion, which happens at the level of the surface of the text
2- coherence, which happens at the level of the meaning of the text.
Cohesion is the property of the surface structure of the text to "hold together":
Peter is the most handsome boy in town. He is also a celebrity (Peter= antecedent; “He” = anaphoric item, a
linguistic item that refers to another part of a text).
The relationship between any anaphoric item and its antecedent is a cohesive relationship.
Other cohesive devices are articles, adverbials, discourse markers ("on the one hand.. on the other hand",
"however"), lists, parallelisms, explicit markers (chapters, section titles, tables of contents).
Contrast Addition Reason and cause Opinion Modify or explaining
However, Moreover, Because (of), As, In my opinion, In my To a certain extent, More
Nevertheless, On the Furthermore, Since, Seeing that, view, From my point or less, At least, Basically,
Especially, In particular,
one hand... On the In addition, Therefore, As a of view, Personally, As
other hand, result / consequence far as I’m concerned Above all, That is (to
Although, Though, What's more, of, Consequently, say), In other words,
In spite of, Despite, On top of that, Hence, In order to, Essentially, In general, On
Whereas, While, Yet As well as So as to the whole
, Unlike, In fact
Read the newspaper article below and find all markers of cohesion (pronouns, repetitions, synonyms,
conjunctions, linkers, etc.)
A 15-year old boy was pistol-whipped in his home at Golders Green, North London, yesterday by two robbers to
make him reveal where his family’s money and valuables were hidden.
The robbers, who posed as delivery men, fled empty handed after hearing the boy’s father making a 999 call
from the library where he had been locked. The family have asked police not to reveal their identity.
Exercise 1- Keys
boy his yesterday robbers
A 15-year old was pistol-whipped in home at Golders Green, North London, by two
him where and
to make reveal his family’s money valuables were hidden.
robbers, who after boy’s
The posed as delivery men, fled empty handed hearing the father making a 999 call
from the library had been locked.
The family their
have asked police not to reveal identity
COHERENCE overall meaning of the text
Coherence is the (main point, idea, etc.) that happens at semantic level. Besides by
cohesion, coherence may be established by any of the following means:
1- The setting and fulfilment of expectations in the text; e.g. Harry Potter Cooperative principle by implicature
2- Reasoning by inference; e.g. cause and effect -> Can I have a glass of water? (s/he is thirsty)
3- Activation of our knowledge of a common situation: discussing food since we are going to the restaurant
4- The cooperative principle, by implicature: one asks for walking directions to a given address, only to be told
that that address is 5miles away. The answer assumes the implicature that the question is being asked with the
purpose of going to the address
REMEMBER: a non-cohesive text can be coherent and a cohesive text can still be incoherent (although usually
coherence and cohesion go together)!
Cohesion is neither a sufficient nor a necessary component of coherence:
"john likes to swim. Mary is fond of skydiving. Ann is a pro golfer. What athletic children I have": there are no
cohesive ties and coherence is easily achieved by invoking the frame for "family", which tells us that one may
have 3 children
"john likes to swim. It is a very good sport, from an exercising point of view. Exercise is a good way to lose
weight": there are cohesive ties between each sentence and the following one, yet the paragraph fails to be
coherent because there is no unifying theme or no one thought that is expressed by the text.
CONVERSATION ANALYSIS (CA)
A speaker may choose not to complete the adjency pair immediately but instead delay it by introducing another
adjacency pair (A: When are you going on vacation? B: Why do you want to know?A: I have to write a report
for the boss. B: Ah. The second week of July.")
One of the central issues in the analysis of conversation is how to regulate turn taking: in general, people tend to
avoid overlapping turn because it is fairly complex to follow what someone is saying while someone else is
speaking too. During conversation people are continuously negotiating the floor, sometimes with funny results
depending on the culture under scrutiny.
People have developed strategies to ensure that speakers who have the floor, or are speaking, will not be
In middle class American culture the conviction is that whoever is speaking is entitled to keep the floor until he
or she arrives at a transition-relevance place (the end of a sentence, a pause in speech). Then, unless the speaker
signals with appropriate means that he or she is not done speaking (e.g. by making a hesitating sound), the floor
is up for grabs. The speaker also has the option of selecting the next speaker, for example, by asking a question.
This is not to say that speakers never interrupt but however, interruptions are viewed as "rude" and disruptive
(not every: speakers may interrupt to agree or to express interest and these kind of overlapping turns are called
Conversation Openers in American Pop Language
What’s up, dude? / What’s up?/ ‘Sup, Bro?/ Hey/ What’s happening’?
Conversation Closers in American Pop Language
It is what is it/ so?/ no way/ way/ it could happen/ whatever/ make my day
THE MEANING OF WORDS
Meaning is the mental representation of a word (morpheme): e.g. the English word dog (which is a sign); try and
The Referent is the object, living being or concept a word refers to: in the real world there is a dog, the animal
we can see, touch, hear or smell
The sign is the word that allows us to connect the meaning and the referent ("dog"), which would be otherwise
completely unrelated, as they belong to different spheres (thoughts and real objects).
SIGNIFIER AND SIGNIFIED
The Signifier is the sequence of sounds that wake up a word (d+o+g = dog).
The Signified is the meaning (mental representation) of a word (or sign).
The signifier and the signified are unrelated because there is no special reason for a dog to be called"dog": it is a
matter of convention. The fact that the connection between a word's phonological shape and its meaning is
arbitrary is called the principle of the arbitrariness of the linguistic sign.
REMEMBER: sign is ALWAYS arbitrary!
FEATURES OF WORDS
Words can be distinguished according to their specific features (what they are and what they are not).
man woman boy girl rooster hen boar sow
[female] - + - + - + - +
[animal] - - - - + + + +
Ideally, we could continue until we described the entire meaning of each word by breaking it into semantic
features, or meaning components. In reality, things do not work out entirely this way because the lexicon, or all
the words of a language, is a very complex part of how a language works. When one tries to apply this system to
the lexicon, one soon realizes it would need as many features as there are words, such as father, that indicates
relationships more than simple meanings.
Words may change their meaning:
1- (figurative use of meaning): "bob is a pig"
2- (shift of meaning from the container to the contained, from a part to the whole)
In other cases words may have similar or almost identical meanings: pair of words that have similar, if not
identical, meanings are called synonyms (freedom/liberty)
Other pairs of words have opposite meanings and are called antonyms (hot/cold).
An important distinction that underlies the problem of defining meaning is the one between the denotation of a
sign and its connotation:
1- Denotation is the commonly assumed sense or intention of a sign.
2- Connotations are all the aspects of meaning that go beyond the sense of a word.
For example the words bachelor and spinster can be both analyzed as : +adult, - married, + - female.
The connotations are radically different: a bachelor is commonly defined as someone who chooses not to marry
and who lives a life full of entertainment, whereas a spinster is commonly defined as someone who cannot get
married and lives an unpleasant life as a result. We can distinguish between a CORE MEANING (the
denotation/ intention) and an OUTSIDE MEANING (the connotations).
The situation is complicated by the fact that connotations cover a broad and indefinite range of meanings that
cover such disparate areas as those listed in the next station.
THE SOURCES OF CONNOTATIVE MEANING
1. depend on the feeling and attitudes of the speaker(s): (Resistance fighter or
2. pertain to the linguistic environment in which an expression usually occurs
(cease and liberal commonly evoke desist and bleeding heart, respectively)
3. are words, synctactic turns of phrase, intonation and other linguistic features
encoded according to different levels of formality
Who may be involved in these exchanges?
The door! -> a sister to a brother, a flat mate to another;
Shut the door! -> a parent to her/ his child;
Please shut the door. -> A teacher to her/his students;
Would you shut the door? -> A lecturer to her/his students;
Could you shut the door? -> A lecturer to her/his students
Would you mind shutting the door? -> a doctor to a patient
Would you be it inconvenient to shut the door? -> two people who do not know each other.
4. meaning activated even when irrelevant in the situation (even if the word
"cock" has several innocent meanings, speakers avoid the word because of its well-known sexual
Individual or restricted connotations
5. are associations that an individual speaker or a small group of
speakers may develop, as a result of their everyday experiences. For example, if your cousin Bob is an
unpleasant person, you may come to associate his name to the idea of unpleasantness.
The significant issue is that these connotations are valid only for the individual or the small group of people
who are exposed to the conditioning environment.
6. are the aspects of meaning evoked by cultural and literary codes (elephants evoke
These categories are not clear-cut distinctions: connotative meaning for example is notoriously very difficult to
identify so a good working approach is to consider connotative meaning as a cloud of associative and evocative
meaning that surrounds the denotative core of the more stable meaning of a word. Furthermore, all words,
syntactic turns of phrase, pronunciations and all aspects of a linguistic expression have some connotation ("dog":
non childish, mature language, "doggie" a child talk).
Ambiguity is an inherent feature of language since words may have more than one meaning (polysemy).
1- Words may be used to mean something else (metaphor): Mark is a pig (he is not literally a pig but he
behaves as such)
2- Words may be used to refer to a whole by using just a part of it (metonymy): I drank a glass of water
(the contained, not the container)
In some cases words have meanings that are entirely unrelated, such as bank (cash checks or the place where you
fish by the river): they are called
The fact that the word is being used in the context of a sentence makes it easy to get rid of the ambiguity and this
fact is called disambiguation, the process whereby the various meanings of a word are discarded under pressure
from the other meanings of the words in a sentence and its context.
Context helps us choose the correct meaning (disambiguation process): In Hollywood you can see many stars/
With a telescope you can see many stars in the sky
The disambiguation process is also possible thanks to your encyclopedic knowledge about the word itself that is
stored in your brain -> or
Once words have been disambiguated and a sentence has a clear meaning, the sentence acquires a truth value.
POINTERS TO CONTEXT
Deixes (or diectics) are words that depend on the context for large parts of their meaning (I am here, now).
Deixis is the branch of pragmatics that studies deictic words.
Other deictics are concerned with the social status of the speaker.
Deictics are the most obvious influence of the context, or the situation in which a sentence is uttered, on that
1- the context participates actively in the entire process of disambiguation: In Hollywood you can see many stars
/ With a telescope you can see many stars in the sky
2- the context is also very important in determining how we understand sentences: John stacked the beer in the
The sentence is anomalous because of our knowledge of the world around us (encyclopedic knowledge) that in
this case tells us that beer often comes in stackable containers.
THE MEANING OF A SENTENCE
Remember: a sentence in context is called an utterance, this means that you can (fully) understand it only if you
are aware of the real-life factors of the speech event. You must consider the speaker, the time, the place and the
speaker's opinion or belief on that topic (i.g. the speaker's intonation). Semantics is often done "in isolation" that
is outside of context, even if the context is important: in fact, in some situations, context is all-important in
determining what we mean (i.g. irony)
Look at the following example:
“I’ll take the kids and leave you alone” (a promise or a threat?)
A speech act is any utterance produced by a speaker: however, the speaker is not free to utter just anything, there
are conditions necessary for speech acts (for example one can't promise to do something that would have
happened without the speaker's intervention or that one has no power to accomplish, as in "I promise the sun will
Speech act theory's primary interest is to distinguish three different acts in each utterance:
1. what you say literally: It’s a beautiful day today!
2. when you say something you commit to it (promise, bet, swear): I promise I will
come to your lecture tomorrow
3. the effect the utterance has on its audience (result of the speech act): I have a love-
hate relationship with technology: I love it, it hates me
CATEGORIES OF SPEECH ACTS
1. Representatives assertions, claims, reports etc.
2. Directives requests, suggestions, commands, etc.
3. Expressives thanks, apologies, complaints, etc.
4. Commissives promises, refusals
5. Performatives (or declaratives) performing an act by saying it (Promises and threats are good examples)
Every speech act has a set of realization patterns: for requests, that set may include phrases such as the
door!" "Please shut the door." "Would you shut the door?"
To decide which speech act is it, you have to know the preconditions of the act and the interactional goals of the
speaker: for example, an apology would take place if the speaker believes some wrong has been done that
affected another person and who deserves an apology. The apologizer must also believe he or she is responsible:
the interactional goal is to make amends or smooth out the relationship.
COOPERATION AND IMPLICATURES
There are some special preconditions that are common to all sentences of all languages and not just to speech
acts: one is that we assume that other speakers are telling the truth and if we didn't, communicating would be
impossible, since we could not trust anything said by the other speakers.
Another assumption is that speakers are sticking to the point of what is being said.
These assumptions have been codified as maxims that govern conversations: these are general rules or principles
that all speakers follow unconsciously and taken together they form Grice's principle of cooperation, which
states that a speaker's conversation should be as effective and cooperative as possible.
GRICE’S COOPERATIVE PRINCIPLE
Grice says that when we communicate we assume, without realising it, that we, and the people we are talking to,
will be conversationally cooperative - we will cooperate to achieve mutual conversational ends. The Principle is
based on four maxims:
Maxim of quality (quality of information):
1. do not say what you believe to be false/ do not say that for
which you lack adequate evidence
Maxim of relevance:
2. be relevant
Maxim of quantity (quantity of information):
3. make your contribution as informative as is required/
do not make your contribution more informative than is required
Maxim of manner:
4. avoid obscurity of expression/ avoid ambiguity/ be brief/ be orderly
When we do not follow the principle of cooperation, we either lie, joke or playact. Not following the CP can also
result in awkward or failed communication: for example, a speaker who is obscure, unclear or ambiguous runs
the risk of being misunderstood.
VIOLATING THE MAXIMS
We can BREAK them
This means that we break the maxims covertly, so that other people do not know. If we violate the maxim of
quality, we lie. We violate the maxim of quantity by not giving enough information; if someone finds out, we
can be accused of ‘being economical with the truth’, another deceit. If you like, violating the maxims amounts to
breaking them ‘illegally’, just as people who steal are guilty of laws concerning theft. As with laws, some maxim
violations can be more despicable than others. Lying in a court of law is disapproved, but ‘white lies’, small lies
to keep the social peace, are often thought as acceptable.
We can FLOUT them
A special case of not following the CP is flouting one of the maxims: one violates a maxim but does so openly
and salvages the commitment to the CP by following another maxim.
If we FLOUT a maxim, we break it in a FLAGRANT (and often foregrounded) way, so that it is obvious to all
concerned that it has been broken. If this happens, then it is clear that the speaker is intending the hearer to infer
some extra meaning over and above what is said (evidence for this is that people of say things like ‘He said he
was happy, but the way he said it implied he wasn’t really’.
Grice distinguishes what he calls ‘sentence meaning’ from ‘utterer’s meaning’ and he refers to an utterer’s
meaning indicated through a flout as an So the implicature is the extra meaning that we
derive from flouting.
Flouting is very important in figurative language, such as metaphors, as in "joe is a stick"
Let’s look at the example below:
A: What do you think of the play?B: The costumes were very impressive.
The maxim of RELAVANCE is broken in the response to the question as it is not a straightforward answer to
the question. This lack of a straightforward relation between the question and answer is obvious to all. So the
maxim-break is a FLOUT and the extra meaning (I didn't think much of the play) is an IMPLICATURE,
intended by the speaker which the hearer can work out.
Two students, A and B are talking about two other students:
A: Do you like John and Kate? B: Kate is fun.
What Gricean maxim does B flout, and what is the implicature that follows from the flout?
Exercise 1 - KEY
B flouts the maxim of quantity by answering a question about two people as if it were a question about just one
of them. Because she says Kate is nice, but says nothing about John, we can infer that B is implicating that John
is not fun.
A couple of friends are married and they both work. They are talking about who is going to get the children from
A: Who is picking up the children today? B: I've got a meeting at 3.30.
What maxim does B flout and what implicature follows from it?
Exercise 2 - KEY
B flouts the maxim of relevance by not giving the identity of the person asked about in in A’s question. The
implicature is that B can’t pick up the children because of the work commitment, and is therefore suggesting, by
extension, that A should.
A friend has just split up with his boyfriend. She comes to see you and says:
My heart is breaking!!!
What maxim is flouted in this line and what implicature follows?
Exercise 3 - KEY
‘My heart is breaking’ flouts the maxim of quality. Hearts can’t literally break. The implicature that the girl is
declaring a painful feeling caused by the end of her relationship.
You ask a friend what he thinks of a lecturer who has a reputation for being sarcastic. Your friend says:
He’s not the politest person I’ve ever met.
What maxim is flouted, and what implicature is produced in this reply?
Exercise 4 - KEY
This response flouts the maxim of manner because of the use of negation here. Your friend could have expressed
roughly the same content by using a positive expression like 'He’s rude'. The implicature is that your friend
thinks the person is rude but doesn’t want to say so directly for some reason (perhaps because he does not like
being impolite about others, perhaps because he is worried that someone may overhear him etc.).
MORE ON GRICE’S MAXIMS
1. The examples we have looked at so far have tended to be short sentences/utterances. But the domain
over which a maxim might operate can be shorter than a sentence/utterance and sometimes longer than a
2. One utterance or stretch of text might break more than one maxim at the same time.
3. One maxim might be broken in order to preserve another (for example you might break the manner
maxim to avoid saying something you think is untrue, and so uphold the quality maxim).
4. Similarly, a maxim might be broken in order to preserve politeness (indeed, Grice himself suggested
politeness as another possible candidate for being a conversational maxim).
5. When an implicature that follows from the flouting of a maxim is spelled out, there is bound to be some
variation between one person's account and another's because different people are bound to choose
different words and grammatical structures. This is bound to result in some interpretative variability. But
it is also important to note that the variability will usually be within a rather narrow range.
PRESUPPOSITION, INFERENCE AND IMPLICATURE
1- Implicatures are highly likely but never 100% certain conclusions (the conclusion follows only
probabilistically): Mary won the game (she might be better than her opponent or just lucky!). It is an interference
that does not come strictly from the meaning of the sentence but from what we know about the world and how
we communicate: from "john and Mary are married" we can draw the implicature that they are living together or
that they like one another.
2- are conclusions that depends entirely from the sentence to be true (the conclusion follows
necessarily from a sentence pending its truth): Mary won the game (so Mary did not lose the game). It is what
can be deduced from the sentence's literal meaning: if we say "john is a bachelor" it follows that he is not
3- are conclusions that do not depend on the sentence to be true or false (they resist negation)
(the conclusion follows from a sentence regardless of whether it is true or false): Mary won the game (there was
a game). A presupposition is the set of sentences that must be true for the sentence to be true or false. The
sentence "john is married" presupposes that John exists, that John is above the legal age for contracting marriage
and that John meets all other requirements for contracting marriage in his society.
Lawyer: “Have you stopped beating up your wife?” (the presupposition is embedded in the sentence in such a
way as to make it undeniable or not-negotiable).
Q: Does the Prime Minister not regret making this blatant U-turn over the tobacco advertising?
Blair: The right honourable member will recall what I
said in my speech in Maastricht...
(British Parliament’s “Question Time”; Blair avoided answering yes/no by changing the direction of the
Absurdist Drama 1/3
1. Peter: Miss Rigby! Stella, my love! Would you send in the next auditioner, please. Mr Spiggott I believe it is.
[Enter Dudley, hopping energetically on one leg.]2. Peter: Mr Spiggott, I believe?
3. Dudley: Yes - Spiggott by name, Spiggott by nature. [Keeps hopping]4. Peter: Yes...if you’d like to remain
motionless for a moment, Mr Spiggott. Please be stood. Now, Mr Spiggott, you are, I believe, auditioning for the
role of Tarzan.5. Dudley: Right.6. Peter: Now, Mr Spiggott, I couldn’t help noticing almost at once that you are
a one-legged person.7. Dudley: You noticed that?8. Peter: I noticed that, Mr Spiggott. When you have been in
the business as long as I have you come to notice these little things almost instinctively. Now, Mr Spiggott, you,
a one-legged man, are applying for the role of Tarzan – a role which traditionally involves the use of a two-
legged actor.9. Dudley: Correct.10. Peter: And yet you, a unidexter, are applying for the role.11. Dudley: Right.
12. Peter: A role for which two legs would seem to be the minimum requirement. 13. Dudley: Very true. 14.
Peter: Well, Mr Spiggott, need I point out to you where your deficiency lies as regards landing the role?
15. Dudley: Yes, I think you ought to.16. Peter: Need I say with over much emphasis that it is in the leg division
that you are deficient.17. Dudley: The leg division?18. Peter: Yes, the leg division, Mr Spiggott. You are
deficient in it - to the tune of one. Your right leg I like. I like your right leg. A lovely leg for the role. That’s
what I said when I saw you come in. I said, ‘A lovely leg for the role.’ I’ve got nothing against your right leg.
The trouble is - neither have you. You fall down on your left.19. Dudley: You mean it’s inadequate.20. Peter:
Yes, it’s inadequate, Mr Spiggott. And, to my mind, the British public is just not ready for the sight of a one-
legged ape-man swinging through the jungly tendrils.21. Dudley: I see.
22. Peter: However, don’t despair. After all, you score over a man with no legs at all. Should a legless man come
in here demanding the role, I should have no hesitation in saying, ‘Get out, run away.’23. Dudley: So there’s still
24. Peter: There is still a very good chance. If we get no two-legged actors in here within the next two months,
there is still a very good chance that you will land this vital role. Failing two-legged actors, you, a unidexter, are
just the sort of person we shall be attempting to contact telephonically.
25. Dudley: Well...thank you very much.26. Peter: So, my advice is, to hop on a bus, go home, and sit by your
telephone in the hope that we will be getting in touch with you. [Showing Dudley out] I’m really sorry I can’t be
more definite, but as you realise, it’s a two-legged man we’re after. Good morning, Mr Spiggott. [Dudley goes
When interacting linguistically, in order to fully comprehend what happens in language we need to know:
WHO IS SPEAKING TO WHOM ABOUT WHAT (= we need to take into account the conditions of
performance of speech and this is called communicative competence.)
There are many rules that we follow without being aware of them: 2 of the pioneers of sociolinguistics, Gumperz
and Hymes, spent much time describing some of the communicative "rules" we know as native speakers of a
language and these rules are rules of interaction in continuous speech or "discourse".
We need to learn/ know the communicative rules of speech and discourse in a language.
Contextualization clues and presuppositions depend on the culture you belong to and they may lead to
misunderstandings. That’s why we need to acquire adequate communicative competence.
Interactional sociolinguistics centres on the interplay among speakers (interlocutors). Notions:
1- an adjacency pair consists of two utterances that cannot be interpreted without each other
2- turn taking is the process by which speakers negotiate who is to speak next
3- having the floor is a concept used to describe who is controlling the conversation: this tends to be the person
who is doing the talking at any given time, but there can be several floors going on at once and a person can have
the floor without speaking (for example if you influence the choice of topic of conversation).
Another example of conversational rules is contextualization cues that we give each other in speech: these are
signals using intonation, word choice or speed of speech (a certain rising intonation signals means we are
disagreeing and we know this as a part of our background knowledge or contextual presuppositions). When
groups do not share contextual presuppositions, there may be understandings and this frequently happen in
schools when children from other cultures come with one set of contextualization cues and presuppositions and
the teacher has another.
Contextualization cues and presuppositions are aspects of our communicative competence: we use our
communicative competence within our speech community.
A speech community is defined as a community that shares the rules with which a language is produced and
interpreted, in at least one variety of language, and it may have more than one language and people may be part
of more than one speech community.
THE CONCEPT OF FACE
Face is the image of oneself that a speaker presents to others (to lose face, meaning that your social image is
damaged) and it is an important part of interaction. We distinguish between:
1. our desire to be left alone, to act as we please, no impositions. Some aspects are
apologies and deference: we know people do not want to be imposed upon, so we apologize
2. our desired to be liked (e.g. compliments). Some aspects are compliments and
Universal Theory of Politeness (Brown and Levinson): Politeness as a tool to save face, both for the speaker and
for the hearer. “I know you are a busy woman, but could you please find a minute to look at this proposal?”: you
allow the hearer a chance to refuse the favour without having to lose face. In the example, the speaker provides
the hearer with an excuse to refuse the favour (you are busy), but the speaker minimizes the imposition (find a
Impoliteness (cf. esp. Culpeper) is a tool to make you lose face: You have s**t for brains!
FORMS OF ADDRESS AND SOCIAL CONVENTIONS
Forms of address are important and very frequent form of social deixis. They are normally governed by
familiarity, solidarity, respect as well as age, occupation, power, gender and class.
Two main patterns:
FN: first name -> Anne, Karl, Luigi, etc.
TLN: title + last name -> Dr. Dore, Professor Smith, etc.
Some examples:Normally, a parent address her/his child by FN, unless the former is very upset with the latter
Occupational status: a higher racked person is likely to use an FN while a lower ranked person is likely to
address his/her boss by TLN.
The choice of form of address is governed by a number of factors: among young people there is a tendency to
use only FN.
In the United States the patterns that govern the use of FN and TLN are usually based on age, occupation, power,
gender and class. Generally, the younger person will address the older person by TLN and will be called by FN
Occupational status operates in a similar manner: the person with the higher occupational status is addressed by
TLN and addresses the person with the lower occupational status by FN (but it is not always age related).
In business situations in which the boss is younger than many of the employees, the boss will still be referred to
by TLN and he will address the employees by FN.
Gender is no longer a socially acceptable determinant for forms of address, but men are in fact called by TLN
more often than women (women often receive FN in return).
Class status plays a part in how people are addressed.
An interesting fact is that 2 persons may use different forms of address depending on the situation: for example
colleagues in offices or schools are often on an FN basis among each other but will switch to TLN in public
when other people are involved.
Some languages, such as French, Spanish, Italian and German have different pronouns to indicate familiar or
respectful address. English has one pronoun only (you) whereas French has “tu” and “vous”.
In many languages there are several ways to address one’s interlocutor: the choice of form of address is
regulated by complex rules and the acceptability of these forms, called honorifics, will vary drastically with the
LANGUAGE AND THOUGHT
Psychologists make a distinction between rational or propositional thought and emotions, which are a kind of
mental operation: we feel a response to a work of art or a piece of music and this is clearly a kind of thought
Psychologists also talk about 2 kinds of knowledge: declarative knowledge and procedural knowledge.
The rules of driving is declarative knowledge while the actual process of driving, an automatic process in
experienced drivers, is procedural knowledge.
If thinking and language can be separated, which happen first?
For many scholars in the middle of the 20th century it was taken as a given that language determines the way we
The Sapi-Whorf hypothesis had two parts:
1- the idea that a people’s language dictated the way they saw the world.
2- the idea that translating ideas from one language to another was extremely
difficult and perhaps impossible
Those who believed the Sapir- Whorf hypothesis went further and said that members of a culture can see the
world in no way other than their language allows and this became known as the strong version of the Sapir-
Whorf hypothesis or the linguistic relativity hypothesis.
Language determines thought. People think a certain way and can think only that way because of their language.
Most people seem to accept what is called the weak version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis: language and culture
influence each other.
Most people agree that there in an interaction between language and culture, that language influences, but not
Culture is also reflected in the language.
LANGUAGE AND DIALECT
Language defines us even if we think it does not! Language attitudes are powerful things.
We tend to think that the way we speak is perfectly normal and natural while others talk funny!
Examples: U.S. White male Bubba -> slang for a white, uneducated and assertive man from the southern United
States (Urban Dictionary)
Everyone has a dialect, despite the language he or she speaks.
The Languages are mutually intelligible: speakers of Swedish Danis and Norwegian can understand each other
(but are considered separate languages because each group has its own country and history). On the other hand,
in China many people probably grew up speaking different languages depending on the city.
Even if dialects are often powerless, dialects are sometimes elevated lo languages, as in the case of the northern
Chinese dialect and many regional dialects of Italy that have a literary tradition and in some cases were used in
legal and political transaction (even if after the reunification of Italy at the end of 19th Century, Italian, the
dialect of Tuscany, was chosen for political reasons and for literary prestige as the standard language.
A standard language is the agreed-upon model taught in schools and used in the media.
Variation tends to lie along a continuum (a gradual passage from one dialect to another or from one language to
another) and this is called dialect continuum.
When we hear someone using a different pronunciation but saying the same words we would have used, we say
that person has an accent. Accent is the phonological part and aspect of a dialect.
Dialect is a regional or social variety of language that can be defined by its phonology, vocabulary, or syntax and
it includes accent (but it may also be defined through its vocabulary). For example: sofa/couch/davenport/divan.
Grammar is another aspect of dialect: the y'all of the South, the "youse" of the Bronx, and the "yunz" of
Pittsburgh are attempts to give English the second person plural pronoun it doesn't have.
LANGUAGE AND DIALECT
There are many different varieties of standard English (for example English Standard English is different from
American and Australian Standard English), and within the UK linguists often distinguish between Northern and
Southern varieties of Standard English (mainly, but not exclusively, in terms of accent).
Many non-linguists assume that Standard English (the English typically spoken, for example, by BBC
newscasters and university lecturers) is not a dialect, but is 'proper English'.
However, linguists would argue that Standard English, the language of the educated, is also a dialect related to
class and educational background which just happens to have a higher status and more widespread use than the
The study of dialects is called dialectology.
DIALECTS IN THE UK
Dialects are semi-permanent language varieties of language which vary mainly according to geographical region
and social class: Yorkshire dialect, Lancashire dialect, London Cockney, but also working class dialect, middle
As for English, many people equate dialects with accents, but accents only account for dialect variation in
relation to pronunciation (phonetics).
Dialects also vary in terms of other linguistic levels, particularly lexis and grammar.
Dialect in literature 1
Way a wee screwed up protestant face an' a head of black hair a was born, in a state of original sin. Me ma didn't
like me, but who's te blame the poor woman, sure a didn't look like a catholic wain atall. The state of original sin
didn't last long. That's wan good thing about me ma, she maybe didn't like me but by god she done hir duty by
me an' didn't lave me lyin' there in the clutches of the divil. That very day a was took te the chapel at the tap of
the town be me godmother, that me ma didn't like either, an' hir husband who could have been me uncle if me
ma hada married hes brother who was handsome an' beautiful an' iverythin' me da wasn't. But me ma, on a point
of principle, jilted him, an' he went te England way a broken heart an' married an oul' woman an' made a lot of
money. (Frances Molloy, No Mate for the Magpie, p. 1)
Dialect in literature - Key
With a small screwed up protestant face and I head of blackhair I was born, in a state of original sin. My mother
didn'tlike me, but who's to blame the poor woman, because I didn't look like a catholic child at all. The state of
original sin didn't last long. That's one good thing about my mother, maybe she didn't like me but by god she did
her duty by me and didn't lave me lying there in the clutches of the devil. That very day a was taken to the chapel
at the top of the town by my godmother, who my mother didn't like either, and her husband who could have been
my uncle if my mother had married his brother who was handsome and beautiful and everything my dad wasn't.
(6) But my mother, on a point of principle, jilted him, and he went to England with a broken heart and married
an old woman and made a lot of money.
(Frances Molloy, No Mate for the Magpie, p. 1)
What dialect do you think is being represented?
The novel is set in Belfast and the dialect is working class Catholic Northern Irish.
Why is Standard English not being used?
The novel is a first-person narration and the character is of a woman who comes from a working class, Northern
Irish background. Therefore, the author probably felt it right she needed to be narrated in this marked dialectal
MORE ON DIALECTS - USA
1. Dialect is a regional and social variety of language and can be defined by phonology, vocabulary or
2. Dialect is defined through vocabulary:sofa (North America), couch (UK), davenport (elder person, the
name of a company who used to make them), chesterfield (UK in the 1900s) or divan (UK, Turkish
3. Dialect is defined through grammar:y’all (South), youse (Bronx), yunz (Pittsburgh) for the second
Code-switching is the alternation of 2 languages varieties within a conversation. The reasons people code-switch
are complex but it is often the case that people use a particular language or dialect to announce their identity (for
example a regional or social dialect may be considered friendlier than another language). It occurs when
speakers are bilingual or bidialectal, so changing from one language into another (from Italian into English) one
dialect into another (from Yorkshire to Cockney) one language into a dialect (and vice versa) (from Standard
English into Cockney)
Brooklynese: a mix of English and dialect within the Italian American communities. However, Brooklynese is
now referred as they way people in New York and Greater New York speak.
E.g. “Are you married or what?” “Yo, come here!”
“What ya’do?” novels
Catarella, the humorous characters in Andrea Camilleri’s featuring the famous and charming Inspector
(or Detective) Montalbano, has been translated using Brooklynese
Each speaker has his or her own individual variety of language, called an idiolect.
ISOGLOSSES IN THE US
Isoglosses are imaginary lines that define the areas where particular forms are used by speakers. It includes all
1- phonological variation: [aw] and [ay] become [a] in western Pennsylvania (towel is pronounced like to tile)
2- morphological variation: y’all (South), youse (Bronx), yunz (Pittsburgh)
3- syntactic variation: “My car needs washed” (eastern Ohio and western Pensylvania) versus “My car needs
washing” (Standard English)
4- semantic variation: pop (Midwest, western US), soda (eastern US) etc.
An isogloss represents only a single item.
A given isogloss alone does not mark a dialect boundary, but when many isoglosses surround or separate the
same group of people, this indicated that the speech of that group is different in a number of ways from the other
group near it. A bundle of isoglosses may mark a dialect/language boundary, for example the bundle of
isoglosses that separates France into 2 major distinct dialects, called in medieval times Langue d'oc and Langue
Remember: one isogloss represents one single linguistic item!
Remember: bundles of isoglosses that are shared by the same group of people may mark a dialect or language
Dialectology in the US
In the US, it started in the 1930s with projects that led to "The Linguistic Atlas of the United States and Canada".
Research in dialectology continues to present date. In the early days scholars focused mainly on vocabulary and
pronunciation and subsequently on sounds.
There was an early consensus that the US fell into 3 broad dialect areas: North, Midland, and South and they
continued to the Pacific coast. Actually many people thought that dialect differences disappeared west of the
Rocky Mountains because the area was settled by a mix of people from all parts of the country. Scholars
understood that there were several types of Southern English and the most recent major survey of American
dialects confirmed the traditional division of The US into 3 dialects area but also recognized the West as a
Since the days of radio, the general assumption is that eventually American English would become
In 2012 Labov has argued, and the "Atlas of North American English shows, that far from becoming
homogenous, North American English has experienced a fairly rapid evolution of sound changes in the urban
areas of the US and Canada. Principally the changes are centered on vowels.
There are both Souther and Northern Vowel Shifts:
1- the Southern shifts includes several sound changes, the best known of which is probably the
monophtongization of diphtongs, such as becoming o that a word like fight would be pronounced
ay a fat
2- the Northern shift has taken place in and around the big industrial cities of Chicago, Detroit etc. In the
Northern vowel shift, block becomes blak.
Another way to think about dialects is as a way that people assert their identities: the enregisterment is the
process by which a particular linguistic feature becomes a locally recognized register, a form of language that
marks membership in a group.
WHY DO DIALECTS PERSIST?
Dialects are part of our (regional) identity: keeping and accent means solidarity and a feeling of belonging.
Covert prestige in speaking in a different and non standard way: there is covert prestige when forms that
normally are considered non-standard are valued: for example, use of profanity makes one sound "tough" and
toughness may be valued in certain groups.
Accommodation theory –> speakers adapt their speech to their conversation pattern (however, this does not
happen ALL the time). Their speech may converge to minimize distance or diverge to show distance.
In some cases people simply maintain their speech style and this may be seen as a form of divergence, depending
on the interlocutor. Accommodation theory is based on a number of theories from social psychology, such as
similarity attraction theory, social exchange theory (we tend to weigh the costs and benefits of any behaviour)
and intergroup distinctiveness theory (people make comparisons across groups, look at socially valued factors
and may try to set themselves or their group apart through language or other means).
Many languages are shaped by the presence of national academies that codify the language, make up new words
when necessary, rule on dictionary entries and so on. However, both the US and the UK have resisted the calls
for national language academies but despite this, the status of English as a national language has not been
questioned in either country.
Standard languages rose in Europe between the 15th and 19th centuries for a number of reasons, such as the
standardization, helped by the invention of printing, the rise of mass education and the sociological and
geographic mobility associated with industrialization and urbanization.
Standard English and Word Englishes
Standard English RECEIVED
mostly derived from the East Midlands dialect. It became to be known as
PRONUNCIATION (RP) unmarked marked
and nowadays it is divided into (normal pronunciation) and (the
way Queen Elisabeth and the aristocracy speak).
Braj Kachru noted that there are a number of Englishes in the world, which fall into 3 circles:
1- Great Britain The Unites States Canada New Zealand Australia
2- Bangladesh Ghana, India, Kenya, Malaysia Nigeria, Pakistan, The Philippines, Singapore, Sri
Lanka Tanzania, Zambia
3- China, Egypt Indonesia Israel, Japan Korea, Nepal Russia Saudi Arabia Taiwan Zimbabwe
what is correct in English?
The circles originally reflected a spread of English from a centre, the UK, to other countries through politics and
economics and they underscored the fact that English doesn't belong to any other country. With the steady
influence of English as a world language, the expanding circle has grown to include many more countries.
There are now 3 non-native speakers of English for every one native speaker ant this is an effect on the
One way to mesure attitudes toward language is called the "matched-guise technique": a person who speaks 2 or
more languages or dialects is recorder saying the same thing, once in the first variety and again in the second.
LANGUAGE AND SOCIAL GROUPS
Language use is affected by the social group a person belongs to (we all belong to at least one social group).
Linguistic choices are driven by many factors. Here we will look at:
Register is a variation of language and it is determined by the subject matter (the dialect is instead determined by
geographical and social issues). It is defined as a set of choices among linguistic features, which have to be
recognised (and opposed to another register). A register is identifiable insofar as it opposes itself to another kind
of register. New registers are frequently created.
Examples of different registers can be:
Baby talk, also called motherese or parentese, or child- directed speechitsy-bisty (small); boo-boo (small cut or
bruise), jammies (pyjama), passy (pacifier), nana (grandmother) pee-pee (urination or penis), scrummy (tasty).
Newspaper English, also called Block Language used in headlines. Its features: dropping of the articles,
dropping of the verb “to be” (especially with present the continuous), special tense-system.
It is unusual to find complex forms like“is coming” or “has produced”; generally the simple present form
(“comes”, “produces”) is used, whether the headline isabout something that has happened, something that is
happened, or something that has happened repeatedly; the infinitive is used to refer to future and the participle
(with no auxiliary verb) is used to in passive sentences
Sports announcer/ commentator talk: She shoots! She scores!
FOUR TYPES OF REGISTER
Biber (1999) analysed a corpus of texts to find specific features in different registers. The practical use of his
research, according to which certain features tend to be associated with particular registers, can be seen in the
"Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English" which reports on the grammar of 4 register:
1- (every day interaction)
2- (cf. examples above)
3- (literary texts)
REGISTER AND CONTEXTUAL FACTORS
Parameters that determine register:
1- what the text is about -> chemistry, physics, linguistics, etc.
2- social roles/ situations –> who the speaker is and what s/he does
3- discursive function –> what the speaker uses the text for (insulting/ impoliteness)
FIVE REGISTER STYLES
On the basis of the speaker’s and hearer’s roles, the situation and the purpose of exchange, Joos (1961) identified
the following styles:
1- the speaker gives information and the hearer contributes (public mode) (This lecture seeks to
get your active involvement)
2- speaker may be elliptical and use slang (public mode) (two sport commentators)
3- the speaker may use obscure ellipsis and jargon (in- group style) (teenagers talk, camp talk)
4- the speaker provides background information but the hearer does not participate (marked distance)
(COE’s report to his subordinates)
5- written communication, speaker and hearer are not in contact so there is no feedback, sophisticated
The distinction between registers and register, jargon, slang and argot (exclusive language of a group).
Jargon can be seen as an occupational variety of language. This means that the work that you do shapes the way
It is a specialised variety, e.g. police, postal workers, computer programmers or even linguists talk to each other
in a very technical way, which is however very clear and effective in term of in-group communication
Any occupation, hobby association or organised group is likely to develop its own jargon. It is also used for the
purposes of not letting other understand you to show off or to establish in-group membership.
Jargon has two main functions (both may be accomplished at the same time):
1- It provides speakers of specialised domains with clear, unambiguous terms for their activity
2- it provides members of a subgroup with the means of marking in-groups membership and excluding outsiders
Plastic Surgery Jargon: rhinoplasty for nose job
Business Jargon: The 9-to-5 for a standard work day
Police Jargon: 10-4 for OK or I understand
Political Jargon: Left wing for liberal progressive viewpoint
Slang is a variety of language that is used by a restricted part of the population (often negatively connoted, less
respected than the majority of people).
It is based on very informal and innovative lexicon that replaces standard words. It can be understood by all
It ages quickly: it is now very "uncool" to use words hip, groovy or dough.
Its primary function is to mark speakers as different and unconventional and this is why such disparate groups as
teenagers and criminals are some of the most active creators and users of slang.
It is informal but should not be confused with dialectal varieties such as African-American English, which can
also feature slang words.
The main difference between a dialect and a slang is that slang is used by only a small part of the population.
Slang may use a high number of taboo words (things that violate the standards set by society for proper
Slang in Breaking Bad: breaking Bad -> to challenge conventions, to cook -> to prepare methamphetamines, a1
-> first class, rat patrol -> despicable person, tweaker -> someone addicted to methamphetamines
The primary sources of taboo words in most societies are: sexual and/or reproductive organs and behaviour,
excretory organs, racial, ethnic, gender-based slurs, blasphemy.
To avoid taboo words: euphemisms, child language, medical terms, avoidance (sounds like terms).
The difference between slang and jargon: slang is a public variety and it is meant to be understood by all the
hearers; on the contrary jargon is primarily an in-group variety meant to be understood only by the members of
Exercise (p.134 on your book)
Search the Internet to find at least one slang term for each word
• money = bucks, chedda(r), cash
• Insane = cuckoo, loony, mondo bizarro, nuts
• Home = crib, pad, the compound
• Good/ desirable = sweet, awesome, cool
• Clothes = duds, threads, merch
• Bad/ undesirable = nasty, hideous
• Romantic partner = boo, sweetie,
• Attractive female = babe, hot chick, beauty
• To eat = chow, munch, nosh
• Shoes = kicks, sneakers
• Sex = bang, f**k, lay
• Something disgusting = nasty, gross, foul
• Alcohol = drank, booze, hooch
• To steal = to lift, swipe, jack
• Friend = bud, dog, bro/ girl, mate partner
• Attractive male = hottie, babe, hunk
Social Class is a difficult concept to measure and it is hard to decide on what it depends:
1. Maybe on one’s income? (money)
2. Maybe on one’s occupation? Worker vs CEO
3. Maybe on one’s current situation? Lecturer vs Student
There is considerable social mobility in the US and people have aspirations for advancement: the may seek overt
prestige (people to acknowledge your class) by trying to sound "educated" or of a higher socioeconomic class
(speaking with a marked RP), or they may also seek covert prestige (people to acknowledge your sympathy with
a less prestigious group) by using non standard forms as a marker of membership in or sympathy with a less
William Labov is a linguist and considered the father of sociolinguistics. His pioneering studies of language and
social class have shaped this subfield of Linguistics
For his Department Store Study (1966), he started from the hypothesis that people tend to pronounce postvocalic
and final [r] as a sign of prestige and as a reflection of social class differences, with the upper middle class
producing more [r] because it is a prestige feature (saying [kar] is more prestigious than [ka]).
He checked how clerks in New York would pronounce [r] in Klein’s (lower class), Macy’s (middle class) and
Saks 5th Av. (upper middle class)
Labov asked the same question to a clerk first when distracted and later when more concentrated (answer: forth
floor). In the former instance, the clerk used [r] less than in the latter case.
Labov also showed that clerks in Saks would use more [r] in casual speech (probably because more used to do
so?). In Macy’s, clerks would use less [r] in casual speech (like in Klein’s) but they would use more [r] in
controlled speech than the clerks in Saks. The tendency of middle class speakers to pay a lot of attention to
prestige 8standard) form si called hyper-correction.
Labov also investigated social stratification, taking New York as a speech community, upon these two
1-the more careful the speech, the more prestige forms would be exhibited
2- depending on social class backgrounds, speakers have different frequency with which they use prestige forms
He used a wide range of data collection devices or tasks to get at attention to style: he asks people to read a
minimal pair word list (in which words would sound the same if people dropped off the final [r]), another word
list and a short passage, he interviewed them and he asked them about emotion-laden events in their lives in
order to get a casual spoken style. He was looking at the frequency of five sounds [(r), (eh), (oh), (th), and (dh)]:
what is interesting is how often sounds are used, in what circumstances and in doing what sorts of tasks.
He found that his hypotheses were correct and that there were more prestige forms in careful speech and social
class had an effect on speech.
The lower middle class participants used both standard and non standard forms: in the careful speech tasks they
use excessive standard forms (hypercorrection), while in casual speech they used non standard forms.
Furthermore they showed the greatest sensitivity to non standard features. Labov saw hypercorrection and
dislike of non prestige forms as examples of linguistic insecurity and hypercorrection leads to the spread of
prestige norms through the speech community.
MATHER'S VS LABOV'S STUDY
In 2009, Mather replicated Labov’s study at Saks, Macy’s and Loehmann’s and Filene’s Basement. Mather
obtained results similar to Labov’s: [r] more in Saks, slightly less in Macy’s and least in L&F (yet, no
hypercorrection in Macy’s). In Labov's study older speakers were more likely to use [r] whereas in Mather it was
the younger speakers who most used [r].
In Labov’s studies, clerks were mostly white people, in Mather’s they were mostly Afro-American or Hispanic
(but apparently irrelevant according to Mather).
A social network defines the group or part of society one lives in. Matter-of-factly, there is a link between
networks and social class.
A. L. Milroys (1980, 1987) analysed 3 communities in Belfast so as to see if lower prestige groups see their
variety of language as a symbol of identity and solidarity. Results:
- these communities were found to be characterised by high-density networks, clusters based on kinship,
occupation, group membership
- these were frequently multiplex networks in which one person served multiple roles (these networks were taken
as the unit of analysis.
Men scored higher than women in term of social networking.
The higher the network strength, the higher the use of vernacular (presence of certain linguistic features like
characteristic pronunciation of /a/).
Many see the Milroys' study as showing that people are constantly constructing their identities.
This theory has remained useful for scholars: for example Milroy's work has been used to describe the
relationship of the television character Buffy the Vampire Slayer to her network, the scoobies.
Penelope Eckert's "jocks and burnouts" study (1989) focuses on the use of language to construct identity: its link
concerns about social class with a focus on a particular age group. Eckert’s (1989) study concentrated on the
distinction and perception of two polarised groups of teenagers in Michigan high school
As in many American high school, middle-class students in the study organized their lives around extracurricular
activities and they were frequently called "soshes"/ "preppies" and at this school "jocks". They were perceived
by burnouts as “competition, hierarchy, elitism and ambition driven (girls perceived as phony, fake)
Other students, those who where not going on to college and who tended to stay with the friends who where not
going on to college and who tended to stay with the friends they grew up with, have often been called
"hoods"/greasers" and in this school "burnouts"/"jellybrains".
For jocks in this study burnouts represented "drugs, trouble, hedonism, lack of ambition" and burnout women
were seen as sexual promiscuous and for burnouts jock represented "competition, hierarchy, elitism, ambition"
What is of interest is Eckert's finding of a correlation between social group and pronunciation, with the burnout
women leading a change in pronunciation. They were beginning to pronounce the /u/ in "fun" like the sound in
"bought". All speakers used both conservative and there innovative pronunciations and it seemed to agree with
what Labov said, that language change starts in the lower middle class and moves upward, with women often in
AN EXAMPLE OF RESTRICTED SOCIAL NETWORK
Tagliamonte and Roberts (2005) investigate the language in Friends. Their analysis attempts to verify whether
the language used on television can influence the way people talk. Interestingly, their study suggests that the
repeated use of intensifiers such as ‘so’, ‘very’ and ‘really’ in Friends has encouraged their everyday use in
English. These intensifiers mark the six main characters of the series as a symbol of their in-group identity in
their social network
COMMUNITIES OF PRACTICE
Communities of practice are defined as people who share participation in an activity, thus having common
beliefs and sharing the same way of behaving and TALKING. It is defined by direct personal contact among its
members, shared social practices included a shared speech style, a shared goal or enterprise. People join this
community through a shared activity but may change the way they mark their linguistic identity as in by
pronouncing words a certain way.
A community of practice approach has been used in studies of language and gender: these studies have shown
that people do not speak in a given way because they are born male or female, but rather that they construct their
identities through talk.
If you are interested in Sociolinguistics, questions are:
1. Who speaks in a give way?
2. What do they say?
3. When do they use a certain type of language?
4. Where do they use it?
5. Why do they do so?
RESTRICTED VS ELABORATED CODES
B. Bernstein’s (1973) study on social class and use of language remains extremely controversial. He postulated 2
cods (varieties of language), one restricted and the other elaborated and he tried to tie these codes to social class
and family type.
1- Restricted codes: since people share a subculture or shared knowledge, their communication does not need to
be explicit. The emphasis is on "we" over "I". Bernstein saw this type of social organization leading to a code
that was inflexible and with fixed syntactic patterns. Language is predictable.
2- Elaborated codes: in families and communities where meaning is not given for granted, language has to be
more explicit. However, elaborated code speakers also use restricted code in situations of intimacy or familiarity.
The large extent to which Bernstein identified restricted codes with the working class and ethnic minorities and
elaborated codes with the middle class led to a deterministic deficit theory of education, a belief that working
class and minority children would not do well in school, which is not necessarily true.
CASTE AND LANGUAGE
The notion of cast is another type of social stratification: society social position is inherited and fixed throughout
life in a caste-based society.
The societies often assign different lexical items and grammatical structures to a given caste (ex: sheep=
brahmin: tungu/ non-brahmin: orangu).
IDENTITY AND STYLE
Sociolinguistics generally agree that identity is fluid.
1- (1985) acts of identity model postulates that we use a given variety of language in order to display
a particular social identity in a particular circumstance (so as to reach a social goal). The focus of Le Page's
model was on the speaker's intent.
2- is one of the researchers who focuses on style rather than identity: he said that speakers vary their
speech style partly based on the attention they are paying to the situation (as in the department store study).
3- (1997) study claims that people tend to adapt their speaking style to their audience (audience design).
Speakers have a model of their audience and project their speech to that perceived audience. He noticed that the
7 mesi fa
Riassunto completo e dettagliato basato su rielaborazione personale e studio autonomo del testo “Brown, S, Attardo, S, Vigliotti, C. (2014) Understanding Language Structure, Interaction and Variation, 3rd edition, The University of Michigan Press", integrato con lo studio delle Slides e gli appunti delle lezioni della Professoressa Dore, università degli Studi La Sapienza - Uniroma1.
I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher giorgia2808 di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di Linguistica inglese II e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università La Sapienza - Uniroma1 o del prof Dore Margherita.
Acquista con carta o conto PayPal
Scarica il file tutte le volte che vuoi
Paga con un conto PayPal per usufruire della garanzia Soddisfatto o rimborsato