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In what ways does the language of women in western societies differ from that of men?

According to the previous Sociolinguistics researchers, the linguistic forms used by women and men, even in the same speech community are contrast. Generally, it is claimed that women are more linguistically polite than men as both genders emphasize different speech functions. Besides, the difference in term of masculinity and feminine behaviours also contribute the reason why women and men do not speak in exactly the same way. Sometimes, the linguistics features of women and men language only can be noticed mostly in pronunciation aspect.

In western societies, gender differences in language reflecting social status or power differences. If a community is very hierarchical, men are more powerful than women. The identifiable differences between men and women’s speech explain the gender roles in that community. In other words, there is gender-exclusive language depending on social roles and their natural responsibilities. In dominant countries like United States, Australia and New Zealand, the women use more-ing [in] pronunciations and fewer in –in [in] pronunciation than men for words like swimming and typing. In this case, it is more towards gender-preference rather than gender-exclusive. One gender shows the greater preference for them than the other.

Based on social dialect interviews in Norwich, in every class, women tend to use more of the standard forms than men do, while men use more of the vernacular forms than women do. In many speech communities, the standard forms used by women are the overtly prestigious form. Meanwhile, men used more of the vernacular  –in [in] form at the end of the words like speaking and walking than women. A study in Sydney Australia revealed gender- differentiated patterns of [h]-dropping. Besides, multiple negation which is a vernacular feature of speech is more frequent in men’s speech than in women’s. As an example, men tend to use the utterance, “I don’t know nothing…” The vernacular forms used by the men are not admired overtly by the society all over the world. This linguistic difference can be noticed in American children’s speech in a semi-rural New England village from a very young age.

Reasons of gender linguistic differences

The four reasons of different language use between women and men are the social status, women’s role in society, women’s status as subordinate group and the function of speech in expressing masculinity. First, women tend to use more standard form due to their status-conscious nature. They more aware that the way they speak signals their social class background in the community. Women who do not have paid employment try to acquire high social status by using standard speech forms. Other than that, according to American study, women in Belfast, who have a paid employment use more standard forms because of wider interactions and exposure with people outside their communities. Thus, the interaction had its effect on their own usage. In the contrary, those who are stay at home prefer to use vernacular forms in their daily interaction with each other.

Second, women’s role as guardian of society’s values also reflect their language choices. Social expectation on women suggests that women should be the model of correctness behavior in particular speech communities. As an example, misbehavior of little boys is tolerated where girls are more quickly corrected. Society expects women to speak more correctly and standardly than men, especially they are the best models for children’s speech. However, the informal interaction between a mother and a son in a relaxing setting encourages them to use vernacular forms rather than standard forms.

Third, the general acceptance that the subordinate groups must be polite. In this respect, women as a subordinate group, must avoid offending men. So, they have to speak carefully and politely. Women are also suggested to have greater use of standard forms in looking after their own need to be valued by the society.  It is not only to their own face-protection needs but also to those of the people they are talking to, is more promising. This is the evidence of women’s sensitivity to their addressees. On the other hand, men are believed to be less responsive to the speech of others and to their conversational needs.

Fourth, men prefer vernacular forms because they carry macho connotations of masculinity and toughness. The men apparently wanted to sound less standard than they actually were. However, these men regard vernacular forms positively and value them highly. These forms actually, have ‘covert’ prestige by contrast with the ‘overt’ prestige of the standard forms. In addition, men solidarity would reduce the formality of the context. Standard forms tend to be associated with female values and femininity. One New Zealand study suggested that women avoid vernacular forms simply because they are associated with promiscuous women and ‘loose morals.’


Metaphorical switching is a powerful mechanism for signaling social attitudes or claiming group membership or solidarity.



What is code-mixing and why do code-switching and code-mixing occur?

Bilinguals often switch between their two languages in the middle of conversation. These code-switches can take place between or even within sentences, involving phrases or words. This linguistic behavior is very common in multilingual situations. In code-switching one language acts as a dominant language and other as subordinate or embedded language. The switching of words is the beginning of borrowing, which occurs when the new words become integrated with the second language. Thus, code-switching and borrowing are different phenomena. On the other hand, code-mixing is the process whereby speakers indulge in code-switching between languages of such rapidity and density. Elite and educated people in Nigeria indulging in code-mixing.

Code-switching is used to serves some purposes. First is as an expression of solidarity. It is closely related to particular participant or addressee. The switch reflects a change in the social situation and takes positive account of the presence of a new participant. In fact, different kinds of relationship are often expressed through different codes.  A speaker may switch to another language also as a signal of group membership and shared ethnicity with the addressee. For examples, a Maori tag at the beginning of utterance and Cantonese use final tag as an ethnic identity marker.

Besides, the topic or purpose of interaction is also taken into consideration in switching the language. This situation symbolizes a change in the relationship between the participants. In other words, they switch from a personal interaction to a more formal transaction or vice versa depending on the topic that is being discussed. Other than that, code-switching is also crucial in quoting a person’s words or quotations. The exact words are used to preserve the originality of the utterance as well as in assuring the correct understanding of the content. In this respect, the switch is not only emphasize on the referential function but also the affective element towards the people concerned.

People who switch code are likely vary depending on many different factors such as which codes are involved, the functions of the particular switch and the level of proficiency in each code of the people switching. Attitudes towards this linguistic behavior can be seen in positive and negative sides. Positively, in Papua New Guinea, one’s status is believed undoubtedly enhanced by his or her ability to manipulate two or more codes proficiently. On the other hand, looking at the negative side, this unaware behavior in the middle of a conversation is disapproved and condemned by many people. It is considered as a threat to the beauty of local dialect and perceived as “artificial speech.”




Why do language users perceive some language varieties as having a higher status than others?

What is diglossia? Why are some societies diglossic?

Diglossia is a characteristic of speech communities rather than individuals. Diglossia has three crucial features. First, there are two distinct varieties of the same language are used on the community; one is regarded as high variety (H) and the other is low variety (L). Second, each variety is used for quite distinct functions and third, no one uses the H variety for everyday communication. For example, in Arabic-speaking countries, classical Arabic is the H variety and regional colloquial varieties as the L varieties. In other words, diglossia involves the two contrasting codes with different styles of one language.

Some diglossic societies refer to the societal bilingualism, where two varieties are required to cover all the community’s domains. The two contrasting varieties are used in different situations as the roles of the two varieties are distinct. Basically, the H variety is the official language that is appropriate for serious speech or writing. It does occur in a very formal setting such as for political significance, religious, law, education and legal ceremonies. On the other hand, the L variety is commonly used in informal conversation and most casual activities.

There are clearly identifiable linguistic differences between the more formal and the more colloquial styles of a language. The pronunciation of H and L varies from place to place. As an example, the sounds of Swiss German are quite different from those of standard German. The grammar of the two differs too. Usually, the grammar of H variety is more complicated like standard German; uses more case markers on nouns than Swiss German. Most of the vocabulary of H and L is the same. But, not surprisingly, the H vocabulary includes many more formal and technical terms compared to L variety that has words for everyday objects. In most diglossia situations, the H form would not occur in everyday conversation, and the L form would generally seem odd in writing.

Generally, the H variety is taught in school since it is used widely in formal domains. Meanwhile, the L variety is aquired ‘naturally’ at home during the everyday interactions. The attitudes towards the two codes in a diglossia situation are complicated. People admire and pay a deep respect towards the H variety due to its prestige in the sense of high status. The attitude is reinforced by the fact that the H variety is standardized in grammar books and dictionaries. However, even L variety is used locally as a normal means of communication, people are comfortable of that language. Some people are easily attached to the L variety and may regard L variety as the best way of expressing their real feelings. Diglossia has been described as a stable situation. It is possible for two varieties to continue to exist side by side for centuries. Alternatively, one variety may gradually displace the other. For example, English had displaced French.


Explain the term bilingualism with specific examples.

The simplest definition of bilingual is a person who has some functional ability in a second language.

Original language in the home and religious domains

New language in work, education and public domains.

The nature of individual’s bilingualism

1)      Identify each of the languages.

2)      The way each language was acquired; mother tongue, informal learning, foreign language learning.- determine the level of proficiency.

3)       Age and time constraint

4)      Certain internal functions; counting, dreaming

5)      External functions; read daily newspaper, can give lecture, interact with shoppers

6)      Ability to translate from one language to another language.

e.g: Spanish and English



  • It is possible or desirable to save endangered languages?
  • How do minority languages can be maintained?

There are certain social factors which seem to retard wholesale language shift for a minority language group. When language is considered as an important symbol of minority group’s identity, the language is more likely to be maintained longer. For example, Polish people have regarded language as a very important for preserving their identity. The same true for Greek migrants in places like Australia, New Zealand and America. They feel proud of being able to give contribution in western’s philosophy and cultures.

Second, language  maintenance can be achieved if families from a minority group live near each other and see each other frequently. For example, members of the Greek community in Wellington, New Zealand belong to a common church, the Greek Orthodox Church. In America, Chinese people who live in the Chinatown areas of big cities are much more likely to maintain a Chinese dialect compared to those who live outside the Chinatown areas.

Third, is the degree and frequency of contact with the homeland. The new migrants or even visitors will keep the need for using the language alive. Regular trip back home provide a motivation to maintain fluency for many groups.  As an example, most Greek New Zealanders regard a trip back to Greece as essential at some point in their lives. Even young Greek girls take the trip with the express aim of securing a good Greek husband. Clearly this provides a very strong incentive to maintain proficiency in Greek.

Fourth, the social factors may help to resist the influence of economic pressures. An active step to protect the language is when a normal family organization for an ethnic group is extended the family by living with grandparents and unmarried relatives. This is a good reason of using constantly the minority language at home. Similarly, discouragement of intermarriage between two different groups as applied for Greek and Chinese communities is also another effort of language maintenance.

Fifth, the minority groups can mobilize institutional supports for language maintenance programme. Education, law and administration, religion and the media are crucial domains from this point of view. When the government of a country is committed, it is possible to use the minority language in all domains. This is what happened to Hebrew is Israel. The use of language in school and worship place will increase the chance of language maintenance. Heritage language programmes in Canada use the minority language in school in order to maintain Canadian Germans. Another example is in Wales, bilingual education programme is available throughout the education system is some areas.

Basically, there are three basic components are involved in language maintenance process; the status of the language that reflects the attitude towards it, the size of the group who use it and their contribution as well as the extent to which the language enjoys institutional supports.








  • Explain the factors contribute in language revival process.

Language Revival can be defined as the restoration of a “dead” language, one with no existing native speakers.

● Create a socially integrated population of active speakers of the language

● encourage the informal use of the language among people of all age groups and within families

● establishment of local neighbourhood institutions in which the language is encouraged.

* Encourage the use of language in the workplace and local gov. services

● Requires motivation to overcome economic disadvantages

● Used in mass media

● Have a strong presence in the education system

● At best – should be used in formal situations

The success of lg. revival depend on:

* How far the language loss has occurred

● How determined its speakers are in reviving it

● The condition of economic factor (encouraging Vs discouraging)



1) To what extent language planning in Malaysia and Singapore since Independence been successful?

2) What are New Englishes? Describe some of its characteristics.

3) How is politeness expressed linguistically in different cultures?

4) Describe some differences between standard Malay and any one Malay dialect.


Question on Code- Mixing and Code-Switching

In countries with a large number of people from different ethnic backgrounds, communities will commonly switch between the language of their indigenous roots, and the language of the country they are living in.

1)    In what situations do people usually switch codes?

i-     Change in a feature of the domain or social situation

  • Setting where the conversation takes place

ii-    Participant features; addressee specification

iii-   Topic; quoting someone or proverb

iv-   Aspect of the function or purpose of interaction

  • Add emphasis
  • Add authority
  • Express feelings (Vs describing facts)


2)    Tan and his family speak Hokkien at home but switch to Malay when a neighbor called. Explain the reason for that switch?

The switch is an expression of solidarity. So, code-switch may be related to a particular participant or addressee. In other words, the switch takes positive account of the presence of a new participant. It is also to signal the solidarity with the addressee. In this respect, the relationship between the speaker and the addressee is taken into consideration for choice of code.

3)    In Sociolinguistic term, how does a person signal membership and shared ethnicity in a conversation?

A person signal membership and shared ethnicity by using code-switching. This means, the speaker switch to another language to a particular addressee. Even the speaker is not very proficient in a second language, he or she may use brief phrases and words for this purpose. Such switches are often very short and they are made primarily for social reason that is stated earlier.

4)    Explain how emblematic switching works as an ethnic identity marker?

Emblematic switching or also known as tag switching is the term used when people use a tag either at the beginning of the utterance or use final tag in their speeches. The switch is simply an interjection, a tag or a sentence filler in the other language which serves as an ethnic identity marker.

The exchange in c for instance, occurred between two Mexican Americans in the United States. By using Spanish tag, M signaled to A that she recognized the relevance of their shared ethnic background to their future relationship. Basically, the tag serves as a solidarity marker between two minority ethnic group members whose previous conversation has been entirely in English.


5)    While switching serves to gap social distance, it can also work towards distancing people. Describe a circumstance in which this happens.


A language switch in the opposite direction, from the L and to the H variety is often used to express disapproval. So, a person may code switch because they are angry.

For instance, in families where Hungarian is the usual language of the home, a switch to German is significant. In these homes, Hungarian expresses friendship and solidarity, and a switch to German puts the addresses at a distance.



My mother complains that young people these days set for trivial reasons. She said in old days women revered their husbands, “kal analum kanaven pul analum purushun.” (Tamil- the status of man as a husband does not change even if he turns into a rock or a blade of grass)


6)    Explain the reason for the switch in the above example.

By switching between codes with such rapidity the village bigman effectively draws on the different associations of the two codes. The lady is code-switching for rhetorical reasons, drawing on the associations of both codes.

7)    Switching rhetorical reason is known as_metaphorical switching_-

8)    Switching for amusement is known as switching for___accurate quotation__

9)    Explain the metaphorical switching or discussed by Janet Holmes.


Metaphorical switching is a term used for code switching for rhetorical reasons, drawing on the associations of two codes.

For example, by using Buang language, someone is emphasizing his membership of the Buang community where he belongs to and everyone knows him. But, he is also a skilled businessman with contacts in the outside world of money and marketing. So, he uses ‘Tok Pisin’ (talk pidgin), which is a valuable lingua franca. In short, Buang symbolizes high solidarity, equal status and friendly feelings. Tok Pisin represents social distance, status and the referential information of the business world.

So, the term reflects the fact that this kind of switching involves rhetorical skill. Skillful code-switching operates like metaphor to enrich the communication.


10) Sometimes single word usually means from a first language or mother tongue is inserted in the second language. What type of switching is this?

Lexical borrowing reflects lack of vocabulary in a language. People will often use a term from their mother tongue or first language because they don’t know the appropriate word in their second language.


11)  Explain the following term with relevant examples.

i)             Intra sentential switching

Def.- switching within a sentence or clause.

–       The ability to have good control of two different codes.

–       E.g: I’m hungry lah. Jom, gi mkn!”


ii)            Inter-sentential switching

Def.- switching outside the sentence or clause level, for example at sentence or clause boundaries.


iii)           Matrix language

  • Def.- imposes structural constraints on code-switched utterances.
  • E.g: system morphemes (such as tense and aspect inflections) will always come from the matrix language
  • And the order in which morphemes may occur in code-switched utterances will be determined by the MLF.


iv)           Embedded language

Examples of code-switching situations;

As a result of the huge number of new immigrants (Olim Hadashimעולים חדשים) living in Israel code-switching is very common. New immigrants from the former Soviet Union, the biggest group of new immigrants in Israel, switch between Russian and Hebrew. Code-switching is also common with the native born Israeli (Sabra) using words and expressions from Arabic and English in Hebrew. Code-switching between Hebrew and Arabic is also common among Palestinians in an Israeli Hebrew-speaking environment. In Malaysia, the multi-racial community speaks “Manglish“, a mixture of English with Hokkien, Cantonese and Malay, or “Bahasa Rojak“, which is almost similar with Manglish except the base language is Malay.

In Singapore, the multi-racial community speaks “Singlish” (almost interchangeable with Manglish), a mixture of English with Hokkien, Mandarin Chinese and Malay.


In China, code-switching occurs very frequently in regions where the spoken variety differs greatly with Standard Mandarin, the lingua franca. Many regions speak three varieties, along with Mandarin. As a former British colony, code-switching in Hong Kong switches between Cantonese and English.


1) Why do languages change? (Mac 2005)

2) What is language change? Explain its occurrence and impact.

Language change is an inevitable, natural and unstoppable process. Everyone has multiple styles can shift the way they express themselves. Basically, language varies in three major interrelated ways; over time, physical space and socially. The source of change can be studied by looking at current variation. Change over time can also be shown by carrying out successive dialect surveys of the same area, or by surveying both older and younger speakers. The possibility for change exists as soon as a new form develops. If the new forms spread and manage to substitute the old form, the change becomes permanent. At other times, the changes may disappear after a short period of use like slang.

There are three basic reasons why languages change can occur. First, languages change has to do with social status. Language change enters a speech community through any social group. Different types of changes are associated with different groups. Usually, most high social status group tend to introduce changes into the particular speech community. For example, the case of post-vocalic [r] is spread due to its greater status in a community. In New York, this speech behavior is regarded as prestigious and used widely by dominant people. Other example, people from Norwich who have visited London, bring back a new pronunciation for words such as [ta:p] to be [top] or [da:g] to be [dog]. On the other hand, people from lower-class status spread less conscious language changes. It is mainly functioning to express solidarity among the community.

The second reason that contributes to language change is gender issue. Typically, men and women’s speech is different in many ways. Sometimes, men are the innovators of changes and it is not impossible for women to lead the changes as well. However, in some countries like India and Iran, women do not lead the changes in any direction. In general, women’s language tends to be more prestigious forms while men prefer to use vernacular forms in their daily interaction. For example, women in Spain choose a more standard Spanish language than men do. Most of them refuse to get marry with local working dairy farmers who end up with typical conservative lady in a small village. The opportunity to be university students or cooks for upper-class families gives them a wider exposure towards the standard dialect by looking at different lifestyles. Therefore, women’s language in that country can reflect their social contact, values and aspirations. Men, on the other hand, more focus on vernacular pronunciation in which they believe that it is expressing their solidarity of working as a team. They normally centralized pronunciation of certain vowels and re-invested new meaning due to the social changes. In short, they revitalize the older speech forms.

The third reason of language change is interaction factor. It is all about the contact between people. Language change is almost impossible for community who has a very little contact with the outside world. The perfect example for this is Iceland people. They develop a very little dialect variations due to their isolation from outside influence. The geographical situation itself makes the communication difficult. Fortunately, annual assemblies help to maintain contact with friends even over long distances. There are two obvious channels in spreading the language changes; face-to-face interaction and media exposure. Looking at the media’s role, younger generations tend to imitate the TV personalities or pop stars’ styles of speech easily and quickly. Change may be promoted as prestigious forms due to media. Nevertheless, over years, the change is believed to be spread better through the social networks of individuals. In other words, face to face contact between social groups promotes rapid change in comparison to media exposure. There are particular link-persons or linguistic innovators within social groups. These persons are known as marginal people who responsible to move between groups in each place.

How do languages change?

How do languages changes can be studied in three ways; from group to group, from style to style and from words to words. For the first way, many linguists have used the metaphor of waves to explain how linguistic changes spread through community. Typically, changes spread simultaneously in different directions and not necessarily in the same rate. The rate of change into another group is depending on social factors such as age group, region and social group. A change may spread along any of these dimensions from the speech of people on the margins between social and regional groups via a ‘middle people’ who have contacts in more than one group. These people would be known as linguistic stockbrokers or entrepreneurs. Therefore, the common change will begin from higher social class and then filter down to the lower classes. However, it is still possible for change to start from a lower social group to higher social groups with a few challenges and obstacles.


The second way of language change can be noticed easier that is from style to style. Let’s say from a formal form of speech to a casual form of speech. It is spread from one individual to another individual within a social group. For example, post-vocalic [r] is the most prestigious pronunciation in New York. This speech behavior begins from the most formal style by the most statusful young people of a group. Then, it spreads to the less formal style of that group before spread continuously to the most formal style of another group. The change spreads to the less formal style of another lower social group. Eventually, it goes to completion when everyone uses the new form in all their speech styles. On the other hand, vernacular change begins in people’s more casual styles. If it is a very non-standard form, it will take a long time to spread or never gain acceptance by the highest status people at all. It may be used merely around the middle of the social class range only. Younger people are believed to spread the change more quickly than older people and they use them more extensively. For instance, glottal stop for final [t] spread very fast in London by young people even in more formal styles.

The third way of language change is from words to words. It is known as lexical diffusion. This kind of change can be described as sound changes spread through different words one by one. In fact, all words with a particular vowel don’t change at once. It does not occur simultaneously in all similar forms. Therefore, changes can occur below people’s level of conscious awareness. As examples, in Belfast, vowel change can be identified in the words such as ‘pull’ before ‘put’ or ‘put’ before ‘should’. In New Zealand, a vowel change currently in progress is in word pairs like ‘beer’ and bear’. According to Janet Holmes, a recent study reported that the distinction had disappeared completely for most young people in the pair really/ rarely.

3) What are pidgins and creoles? How do they come into existence?

4) What are creoles? Describes some of their importance characteristics.

A pidgin is known as a contact language which has no native speakers. Pidgins developed rapidly as a means of communication between people who do not have a common language. Alternatively, a pidgin can become so useful as a lingua franca. They do not have high status or prestigious because they always perceived as the second language. Usually, pidgins are mainly used for traders to fulfill communicative needs and referential functions. They are also associated with any contact situation for slavery and plantations. Pidgins arise independently in different contexts but for the same basic function; for referentially oriented function.

Sociolinguistic ally, they have no norm of interpretation. This kind of language was created from the combined efforts of people who speak different languages. The prestigious language tends to supply more of the vocabulary that is known as “superstrate”, while vernacular languages have more influence on the grammar in the pidgin development that is known as “substrate”. The examples are Nigerian Pidgin English and Vietnamese Pidgin French. Most pidgins can be found in Caribbean and Pacific.

In term of linguistic features, pidgins tend to have a simplified structure and a small vocabulary for a trade language compared to fully developed languages.  Words generally do not have inflections or affixes used to mark gender. The grammar is simple, much variation but little system. As the product of incomplete Second Language Acquisition, they also borrow extensively. An example is Solomon Islands Pidgin. This indicates that the pidgin language tend to reduce grammatical signals to a minimum so that it is easier to be learned and applied by the speakers. In fact, a few hundred words is sufficient for survive. (Janet Holmes, 2001) All in all, pidgin language can be concluded into three basic characteristics; it is used in restricted domains and functions, it has simplified structure and has low prestige as well as attracts negative attitudes especially from the outsiders.

Pidgins often have a short life. They disappear when the function disappears. A trading pidgin usually disappears when trade between the groups dies out. However, in some cases, pidgins go on to develop into fully languages or called as creoles.

A creoles is a pidgin which has acquired native speakers. They are learned by children as the first language and used in wide range of domains; not only for communicative function but also expressive function. Tok Pisin is a perfect example of pidgin which has successfully developed into creoles language. It is the first language of many children in Papua New Guinea.

As a product of first language acquisition, creoles have expanded in structure and vocabulary to express the range of meanings and serve the range of functions. In term of linguistic aspect, creoles have developed systematically in expressing additional meanings as the demands made on the language by the speakers increase. It becomes structurally complex yet the meaning is expressed in a more concise manner. Unlike pidgin, creoles have coherent sociolinguistics norms of interpretation. In short, the functional demands lead to the linguistic elaboration.

Creoles may remain as standard language. This process is described as decreolization. Eventually, they may exist a continuum of varieties between the standard language and creoles. Creoles can develop into a full-fledged, complete and adequate natural language which is typically stable and autonomous in its norms. Creoles have become accepted standard and even national and official language like Indonesian which developed from pidgin Malay. Currently, creoles are mostly spoken by the American slaves in America and the Caribbean. The process of pidginization and creolization are a universal processes that reveal a great deal about the origins of language and the ways in which language develop.

1) Discuss how language varies with social status in difference societies. (Nov. 2005)

2) Why do language users perceive some language varieties as having a higher status than others? (Oct. 2007)

3) How can languages vary?

Fundamentally, language is a mental process. As individuals vary, so does their language. Speakers of a language are very depending on their geographical origin, class, gender and ethnicity. Therefore, social factor of a language is one of the crucial considerations in conveying social meaning effectively. This is because the social factors influence the choice of appropriate ways of speaking in different social contexts. The same message may be expressed differently by different people. In other words, we use different styles in different social contexts.

The first impression of a monolingual community would be that everyone speaks the same language. However, a closer observation may reveal slight differences or variations within the community especially in terms of vocabulary and pronunciation. The case of post-vocalic [r] is a prestigious pronunciation in New York. However, it is perceived as a rhotic accents in England. It is regarded as rural and uneducated.  In this respect, language varies depending on the nature of the language itself in terms of status, prestige, respect and power.

Language serves a range of functions. Basically, language is used to convey both information and express feelings. Language varies with social status in different societies depending on the degree of intimacy between the speaker and the addressee. In other words, how far the speaker knows the addressee influence their choice of words. For example, a close intimacy between a mother and a son lead to a very informal and friendly nature of language. On the other hand, when a student is talking with his principal, the language choice is more formal, distant and respectful kind of manner due this social class. The principal obviously possess a higher level status than the student.

Therefore, the language difference indicates aspects of social identity of an individual. The way people talk can provide clues to others about their origins and perhaps their academic achievement as well. Therefore, the linguistics choices are a reasonable indicator of one’s social background. That means, linguistic variation can provide social information.

Undeniably, the language choice reflects the social status of individuals. For instance, post vocalic [r] has a high regard in New York. It is considered as prestigious and dominant language in which used widely by dominant people. Meanwhile, vernacular forms indicate the low status of social group when it is mainly used by minority group of people. This kind of speech form is responding to the communicative needs of immigrants. The linguistics variation can be seen in term of pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary. This variations offer the speaker a variety of way in expressing their speech. For example, when [h]-dropping behavior can be noticed, that is indicating someone’s education level and occupation. That behavior only adopted by peasant people in a rural area.

A study in United Kingdom found that languages vary by social variation or social class, often formalized. In the simplest words, language is closely linked to social class. Status marked by linguistic features. The linguistic variation can be seen in terms of word choices, pronunciation and style of expression. For example, words used by the royal blood of Thai are a criminal offence in Thailand. Part of stylistic repertoire ranging from formal to casual form of speech. Looking at gender issue, women’s status depending on their male partners. Though, they can choose their partners freely but they also can improve their status by adopting certain features. Thus, traditional patterns may be replaced by phonological variation within a language or dialect.

Besides, the same local dialect is the best signal of membership. As in Malaysian context, people from the same state tend to apply their specific dialect when conversing to each other. The social group will influence the dialect of a social group. In this respect, there are not merely convey referential information in their speech but also affection element within their relationship. In a conclusion, in most communities, they will select different dialect and languages according to the three basic elements; the setting, to whom they are talking to (role-relationship) as well as the topic or purpose of conversation that occurs.

1) What factors lead a community to shift from using one language to using another language? (April 2006)

2) What is language shift? Explain why it occurs? (Oct. 2006)

3) Factors of language shift.

Language shift can be defined as a process in which one language displaces another languages in the linguistic repertoire of a community. Language shift occurs differently according to different individuals and different groups. Gradually, over time the wider society displaces the minority language mother tongue.

First, migrant minorities provide an obvious example of language shift. Language shift to English is a common situation for migrants in monolingual countries like England, United States and New Zealand. For many children of migrants, English becomes the normal language for talking but they still remain continuously use Gujerati at home. Eventually, the successful assimilation of languages leads to the abandon of minority language. Language shift may complete at least in just two generations.

Second, language shift also occurs within non-migrant communities. This is because political, economic and social changes are crucial factors to be taken into account. For example, in Oberwart, language shift from Hungarian to German for some time. When industrialization emerges and replaces the farming sector, the functions of German language is expended. The new industry provides professional jobs. Therefore, German language as the standard language is crucial for job opportunity, use widely in school, official transactions and economic advancement. In this respect, speaking Hungarian was considered as ‘old-fashioned.’ Parents begin to speak German even at home and only use Hungarian in their daily prayers at church. Gradually, German will completely displace Hungarian in Oberwart.

Third, language shift happened among migrant majorities. The influence of political and economic factors such as the need for work leads people to shift their locations as well as their language. When the majority group who do the physical moving need to shift language both for job success and for their social well-being in making friends. As an example, many speakers of Irish, Welsh and Scottish have shifted to English primarily in order to get work.  Obviously, the minority groups have to adopt the language of the dominant and powerful group. It is closely associated with status, prestige and social success. Countries like United States, Spain and France have imposed their languages along with their rules. Many American Indian people in United States, have lost their languages over four or five generations of colonial rule.

Main Factors of Language Shift

The main factors of language shift are economic, social and political factors. Initially, communities see the importance of learning the second language. For Israel people, the reason is not only economic but also political factor. People learn English in order to get good job in English-dominated countries. This result in bilingualism. Without active native language maintenance, shift is almost inevitable in many contexts. When a migrant minority group moves to a monolingual society dominated by one majority group language, language shift will be unavoidable. The dominant language will be used widely in all major of institutional domains; at school, government administration, TV, radio and newspapers. It appears very crucial to learn the majority language in order to achieve social and economic success. As an example, language shift occurs in Oberwart from Hungarian to German for taking advantage of the new jobs offered by the industrial changes.

Other than that, intermarriage between groups can accelerate language shift. Normally, one language tends to predominate in the home. As an example, when a German-speaking man marries an English-speaking Australian woman, English is usually the dominant language and will be taught to their children.

The Effort of Language Maintenance

First, language shift due to demographical factors. Resistance to language shift tends to last longer in rural than in urban areas. The rural groups are isolated from the centers of political power. For example, because of their relative social isolation, Ukrainians in Canada who live in farm have maintained their ethnic language better than those in towns. Same goes to people in New Zealand. There are many native speakers of Maori language in rural areas to keep its survival. Everyday interactions between Maori people were in Maori and English mainly used in school. However, when roads, bus services and television in every home have improved, the change occurred. English take over as a dominant language in New Zealand.

Second, language maintenance requires a big size of group of that language. For instance, Spanish has survived in United States due to the large number of speakers. Other than that, intermarriage between groups can accelerate language shift. Normally, one language tends to predominate in the home. As an example, when a German-speaking man marries an English-speaking Australian woman, English is usually the dominant language and will be taught to their children. Therefore, language maintenance requires a serious disapproval on intermarriage between two different groups.

The third effort can be looked at in terms of attitudes and values. The language shift tends to be slower among the communities where the minority of language is highly valued. The language is seen as important symbol of ethnic identity. This positive attitudes support the use of the minority language in a variety of domains. Besides, language with international status also contribute to this positive attitude. Maintaining France in Canada is easier because France has international prestige. Immigrants Greeks are proud of the contribution of Greek to Western philosophy and culture. Pride and awareness of the importance of their language as their ethnic identity is a significant factor in language maintenance, provided with a strong community to support and encourage these attitudes.


1) What is the relevance of sociolinguistics to language teaching? (April 2007)

Linguistics is the study of language. In the simplest term, Sociolinguistic study the relationship between language and society. When it comes to sociolinguistics, it can be described as the study of variation of language in use. In other words, we use different words or grammatical forms depending on context. Thus, sociolinguists study how linguistics features vary. When variation is extensive enough and found across domains, they began to talk about varieties and codes. Sometimes, social attitudes and status also taken into considerations.

Variation is determined by factors such as social class, gender, place, age and situations. The relevance of sociolinguistics to language teaching is that teachers are supposed to teach communicative competence. In fact, communicative competence may not be the same as linguistics competence. That means, they have to teach language as it is actually used. In fact, the way people talk is influenced by the social context in which they are talking in. Therefore, teachers need to consider the language / dialect and accent used by their students. There may be different from teachers’ variety as well as from the standard language.

A linguist would say that if the difference only in term of pronunciation, then it is called as accent. Meanwhile, if words and grammar are different, but still intelligible , it is a dialect. Sociolinguists may look at this issue depending on social attitudes and politics. For linguist, if two people understand one another they are speaking the same language. Indians speaking Hindi understand Pakistanis speaking Urdu but claim they speak a different language. On the other hand, speakers of Hokkien dialect cannot understand Cantonese or Mandarin speakers, but do not claim to speak separate language.

Arab generally insists that there is only one language. Sociolinguist would have to agree with them but would also analyze the relationship between the different varieties. The lines between accents, dialects and languages are blurred, changing and socially determined. Sociolinguists tend to talk about code and variety. Speech communities refer to a group of people with the same rules about the use and correctness of language. It may not coincide with language and dialect. For instances, Malaysian Chinese, Arabs and Ireland.


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