Linguistic and social variables

Types of lingual observation

  • prescriptive
  • descriptive
  • empirical

Correlation between lingual and societal variables

Linguistic variable:

  • H2OversusWashington? Er
  • frequentlyversusof ( T ) nut
  • fishingversusfishin ‘
  • rightraitversusReal Estate Investment Trust
  • 4th floorversusfouth floo
  • thingversusting
  • etc.

Social variable:

  • category
  • gender
  • ethnicity
  • age grouping
  • group individuality

Free fluctuation versus structured heterogeneousness.

  • Free fluctuation:
  • The random usage of surrogate signifiers within a peculiar idiom.
  • Often versus of ( T ) nut
  • Structured heterogeneousness:
  • Language fluctuation is patterned harmonizing to societal category.


  • If you had to make a sociolinguistic survey, what would be some hypotheses
  • Does our society have societal categories?
  • How would you operationalize “ societal category ” as a variable?
  • Do we talk the “ same ” all the clip?
  • Will men/women and people of different cultural groups all be the same?
  • Does everyone desire to talk every bit standard as possible?

Early fluctuations theory

  • Society is stratified in footings of category.
  • Social category = instruction, income, and so on.
  • Linguistic fluctuation correlatives with societal category.
  • Speech manner goes from less formal to more formal.
  • Speech manner variables correlate with societal variables.

Sociolinguist John Fischer conducted the first instance survey, Children in New England, in 1958. Fisher attempted to happen a correlativity between the usage of the two present participials -in and -ing which were used by 21 of the 24 kids he observed. Fisher interviewed the kids in scenes runing from informal to reasonably formal and concluded that the determination to state -in instead than -ing appeared to be related to sex, category, personality and temper. Harmonizing to Fisher, misss are more likely to utilize -ing than male childs are and male childs can be categorised into two groups, the “ ‘ [ m ] odel ‘ male childs ” used -ing and the “ ‘typical ‘ male childs ” were more prone to utilize -in. The 2nd instance survey is set on the island of Martha ‘s Vineyard, a research by linguist William Labov in 1963, where he studied “ the significance of societal forms in understanding linguistic communication fluctuation and alteration ” . The survey focuses on the lingual variable ( a ) in the lexical sets: white, right and sort, which is pronounced [ a ] coinciding with the environing mainland and as the centralizing diphthong. Labov made a centralization index based on 69 taped interviews, which he divided into age groups. The index scores illustrate an addition of the pronunciation of diphthong, which can be explained by defensive attitude towards the visiting tourers and the desire to belong to the community.

The 3rd instance survey, Sociolinguistic Variation in New York City, another research by Labov, consist of two surveies. The first is a pilot study done in three section shops of different societal position where Labov believed that the employees would copy the address of their clients concentrating on the usage of postvocalic [ R ] ; the analysis of informations confirmed that the most prestige section shop employees used the postvocalic [ R ] the most often. Second, the larger New York City survey, to set up a “ more representative sample ” of the metropolis than retail merchants, is divided into the two variables ( Thursday ) and ( R ) . Labov interviewed 158 people, who besides had participated in a former sociological study, and concluded that the people who pronounced [ ? ] were of higher societal position than who pronounced ( Thursday ) as [ t? ] or [ t ] . Furthermore, the higher categories besides used the postvocalic [ R ] more frequently than the lower categories.

When comparing and contrasting, differences are found in the mode of carry oning the interviews and measuring the consequences and similarities in consequences, which coincides with structured heterogeneousness. The method of carry oning the research is diverse in all surveies ; Fischer interviewed the kids briefly in assorted scenes changing from informal to formal, where the most formal entails “ classroom narrative recitation ” . Labov made usage of three different attacks in garnering informations. First, he tape-recorded 69 interviews and the interviewees had fluctuation in “ ethnicity, business and geographical location ” on Martha ‘s Vineyard. Second, Labov pretended to be a client and asked the sales representative something where the reply surely would be ‘fourth floor ‘ , in order to observe the usage of ‘r ‘ , furthermore, he asked the sales representative to reiterate it so that he could obtain “ the items in a careful, stressed manner ” . Finally, Labov conducted interviews with four classs: uninterrupted address, reading a short transition, reading a word list “ containing cases of pertinent variables ” , and reading word-pairs refering “ cardinal variables ” . Additionally, there is a difference in measuring the consequences, John Fischer counted the usage of the two present participials and divided them into three classs: misss, ‘model ‘ male childs, ‘typical male childs ‘ , whereas Labov utilizations in the Martha ‘s Vineyard instance study a marking system runing from nothing to three ; he separated the groups harmonizing to age and calculated the mean per age group. In his New York instance survey, Labov besides uses a marking system and is the group divided into socioeconomic groups such as lower category, working category, lower in-between category, and upper in-between category. Nevertheless, the consequences of all surveies are similar since it coincides with the structured heterogeneousness, which means that linguistic communication fluctuation is patterned harmonizing to societal category and address manner variables correlate with societal variables.

The disadvantages are largely in the mode of carry oning the research and advantages of the three researches are that they broke new land in farther researches. The disadvantage of the first research is that the presence of the interviewer could act upon the result of the instance, possibly the kids follow his mode of speech production in some manner. Another job is that, Fischer did non look at the influence of parents or the influence of equals. However, he observed that “ people adopt a discrepancy non because it is easier to articulate ( which is most often is, but non ever ) , but because it expresses how they feel about their comparative position versus other conversant ” . An advantage is that Fischer established the basic methods in variationist surveies, which was an indispensable tool in assisting linguist Labov in interrupting new land in understanding linguistic communication in its societal context. The disadvantage of the Martha ‘s Vineyard survey is besides the influence of the interviewer and moreover, since the interviewer is non a talker of the assortment on Martha ‘s Vineyard, the interviewees could be more likely to talk as if they are non tourist but dwellers of the island, and emphasis their assortment opposite the 1 on the mainland. The advantage of Labov ‘s survey in Martha ‘s Vineyard is the he achieved to develop an empirical attack to the survey of linguistic communication and illustrated “ the interplay between lingual and societal factors in a comparatively simple puting ” , which is rather an achievement. The disadvantage of the 3rd survey is that the pilot study in the section shop is non recorded, but subsequently transcribed which could do the grounds of postvocalic [ R ] tainted and somewhat undependable. Furthermore, in the larger New York City study the participants know that they are being interviewed, which could act upon the mode of talking since it does non hold to be the manner the usually speak. The advantage is that this survey showed that “ socioeconomic distinction can non be ignored in surveies of linguistic communication construction ” .

To reason, John Fischer and William Labov managed to set up societal stratification through empirical observation with the usage of these three instance surveies. The consequences demonstrate that ‘free fluctuation ‘ , “ the random usage of surrogate signifiers within a peculiar idiom ” , is non extremely evident, nevertheless, linguistic communication fluctuation is patterned harmonizing to societal category, which is the ‘structured heterogeneousness ‘ theory. The researches illustrate, despite the jobs caused by mode of conducting, that lingual variables correlate with societal variables, which is a discovery for future linguist and other instance surveies.