Language and identity

One of the most important functions of language is that it allows us to manage our presentation of self and our identities. In the same way that we can, for example, utilise different items of clothing in order to create unique presentations of self, we can also employ a whole range of linguistic resources.  Whereas early quantitative sociolinguistic studies, such as Labov (1966) or Trudgill (1974) understood a speaker’s sociodemographic characteristics (i.e. their gender, age, socioeconomic class or ethnicity) to be the cause of their linguistic practice, contemporary research understands language practice to be constitutive of our social identities. This means that rather than presuming that because I am a woman I will speak in a certain way; we can say that I am perceived to be a woman (in part) due to the way I speak (Cameron 1997). This understanding of the relationship between language and social identities is in keeping with Judith Butler’s (1990) influential theorising about the nature of gender. Butler (1990) argues that there is nothing behind the expression of gender identities other than the performative enactment of such identities.  This has led scholars in sociolinguistics, such as Bucholtz and Hall (2005) to suggest that identities are the emergent products of interactions, something which we construct using linguistic and non-linguistic social practices.

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An Introduction to Accent Discrimination

Diversity is a naturally occurring phenomenon throughout all of life, including language. Despite this everyone has their own idea of what is “correct” when it comes to speech, with some dialects and accents considered “better” than others. Even those who have been specifically taught otherwise can find it difficult not to make an instant judgment about a person solely on the basis of how they speak (Lippi-Green, 1994; Milroy & Milroy, 1991). It is in these moments, when snap judgments are made and not examined or discarded, that accent discrimination can arise.

For many people, the terms accent and dialect do not mean anything more than how someone who is other and different speaks. In fact, many people believe they themselves do not even have an accent (Morley, 1996), something linguists refer to as “the non-accent myth” (Cho, 2010). The word accent itself was originally a Latin translation of the Greek word “prosiodia,” (Vaissiere & Boula De Mareuil, 2004) which was used to differentiate between people who spoke “correctly” and those who did not (Oed.com, 2015). This seems to imply that approaching accents as something that is other is not a new view and has in fact been the prominent language ideology for millennia.

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What is sociolinguistics?

Hello! Góðan dag! Merhaba! Xαίρετε!

Welcome to HaCKS, an academically-oriented blog about all things sociolinguistic!

But what exactly is sociolinguistics? This first blog post will introduce this concept to those who are unfamiliar with it and give a better insight into the overarching theme of this blog and indeed our seminar series!

Essentially, sociolinguistics is an academic discipline that studies language and society. 

Sociolinguists must ask themselves how language affects society and how society affects language. Research in sociolinguistics generally concerns how language changes according to social context and the roles language plays in different social processes.The study of sociolinguistics explains not only how and why languages change, but also the different factors that cause it. It unearths the complex and multiple interactions between social actors, the language(s) they speak and the society within which they exist. Since language is a fundamental part of our human society, the scope and application of sociolinguistics is astronomical, not to mention highly interdisciplinary. Continue reading