The principle of sociolinguistics
It is possible to distinguish several important principles that underlie sociolinguistics. First, one should mention the premise according to which many changes within the language can be attributed to “socially relevant forces and facts” (Spolsky, 1998, p. 4). For instance, they can be attributed to various factors like migration, economic or technological changes, military conflicts, politics, and so forth. To some degree, these factors can influence the way in which individuals can use language.
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Therefore, the language itself should not be studied separately from culture or society because this approach cannot fully explain the linguistic behaviour of people (Spolsky, 1998). This is one of the details that should be considered. Admittedly, it cannot be the only approach to the linguistics. For instance, psychological or structural aspects of linguistics should not be overlooked because they are useful for understanding individual peculiarities of language use. Nevertheless, socio-cultural interpretation of linguistic phenomena can also be rather useful in many cases.
Apart from that, sociolinguistics implies that the use of language can be a source of information about an individual. In many cases, it can be a sign of belonging to a particular social group (Stockwell, 2002). For instance, the excessive use of jargon may imply that a person represents a certain profession. Moreover, a great number of grammar mistakes may indicate that a certain person is poorly educated; moreover, his/her income level may not be very high. Certainly, it is only a conjecture, but very often such assumptions are quite justified. Thus, the use of language can be related to the notion of class (Stockwell, 2002). This is one of the details that can be distinguished.
Additionally, the task of a sociolinguist is to relate the variations within a language to the changes within a society (Spolsky, 1998, p. 5; Labov, 1972). For instance, the introduction of foreign words to the languages can be caused by demographic trends such as the increased inflow of immigrants. Thus, sociolinguistics is supposed to identify the relations between various independent and dependent variables. Furthermore, researchers, who examine language from this perspective, may try to identify social factors that contribute to sound change (Labov, 1972, p. 1). Thus, this field of study can help researchers better identify the causes of linguistic transformation. This is one of the benefits that can be identified.
Apart from that, this field of study is based on the multidisciplinary approach. In particular, it is critical to consider the use of information derived with the help of various sciences such as history, economics, cultural studies, and so forth. Therefore, a researcher, who chooses this approach to the study of language, should use different data collection methods. These are the main principles of socio-linguistics. These examples indicate that this field of study can help researchers answer various questions about the development of language and the differences in its usage.
The main strength of this method is that it enables scholars to trace factors affecting the linguistic behaviour of teachers. However, one should remember that the use of language can be strongly dependent on the individual traits of a person, such as the level of his/her self-confidence. Therefore, it is necessary to distinguish the influence of social and individual factors. This is one of the challenges that cannot be easily overcome by researchers. Moreover, scholars should be skilled in using the methods typical of other sciences such as sociology.
Speakers and speech communities
Sociolinguists pay close attention to such notions as speech communities and speakers since they are important for analyzing the relation between language and society. Overall, such a concept speech community can be understood as a group of people who have the same expectations regarding the use of language (Spolsky, 1998). These expectations may be related to such issues as pronunciation, grammar, or word choices (Stockwell, 2002).
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In turn, speech communities can be marked by several characteristics such as ethnicity, profession, education, social class, and so forth. To a great extent, these differences contribute to the variation within the language and result in the diversity of dialects. Additionally, one can say that misunderstanding between people occurs at the time when the representatives of different speech communities interact with one another. So, this concept of a speech community is of great importance to sociolinguists.
Additionally, it is critical to focus on the notion of a speaker. In the context of sociolinguistics, this term is used to refer to a person who uses language according to certain conventions, established within a speech community. For instance, the representatives of a certain profession, such as software design can use terms that cannot be easily understood by the representatives of other social groups.
Nevertheless, a person can be a member of several speech communities at the same time. Thus, he/she can sometimes combine the norms established by various social groups. Overall, these concepts are important for understanding the variations within languages as well as dialects. More importantly, they imply that linguistic norms can change significantly with time passing. Thus, much attention should be paid to the way in which speakers interact with one another. These are the main arguments that can be put forward.
Labov, W. (1972). Sociolinguistic Patterns. New York, NY: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Spolsky, B. (1998). Sociolinguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press Stockwell, P. (2002). Sociolinguistics: A Resource Book for Students. New York, NY: Psychology Press.