WiSe 12/13: V-Sociolinguistics and Varieties of English I
Descriptive linguistics studies the structure of language, i.e. phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics and pragmatics. Sociolinguistics turns to the functions and uses of language in social ... Lesen Sie weiter
Descriptive linguistics studies the structure of language, i.e. phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics and pragmatics. Sociolinguistics turns to the functions and uses of language in social contexts and its status in society. The distinction between competence and performance is well-known in linguistics and describes the innate grammatical (broadly speaking) competence of native speakers. Sociolinguistics is about performance, but a leading expert, Dell Hymes, argued that speakrs als have a sociolinguistic or communicative competence that is largely acquired through socialization.
Language use is inherently variable. It varies systematically and correlates with social parameters of speakers such as gender, social class, age, status, or networks. It varies in relation to contexts of situation such as in the private or in the public domain. It has to do with topics, participants, locale, etc. And, finally, it expresses style and purpose. There are, for instance, the familiar, the colloquial, the non-standard, and the technical register and there is the (relatively) formal standard. Naturally, speaker, domain, and purpose vary together so that practically each linguistic expression may signal multiple functions. Typically, parameters like these are involved in language change so that variation is dynamic, never static.
If one looks at language as an object of opinions, debates and attitudes, variation in language use may also signal a sense of social identity. As languages may have more or less status or prestige or functions in and for a society, they may be objects of politics and of language planning. Variable use is part of what is called mi-cro-sociolinguistics, while language status etc. belongs to macro-sociolinguistics. In between are questions dealing with attitudes to language, with standard varieties, standardization and codification.