Prestige is a word commonly used to describe the reputation, fame or achievements of a person, group of people, institution or cultural aspect linked to some of the above. There are different related meanings although its use is not free of inconsistencies. Each meaning is applied depending on the historical context and the person who uses the word.
In sociology , the greater or lesser degree of general acceptance that has a social behavior, attitude or situation among the members of a society or a family is called “social prestige.” It is considered that the greater the social prestige of something the more likely it is that there are institutions responsible for protecting it, and the greater the number of people willing to find themselves related or involved with it. Frequently, the social prestige of a given situation is associated with conventional signs. The pairing of a certain sign or symbol with situations or persons of prestige implies the adoption of said sign as a sign of prestige or as imitation.
In sociolinguistics , the prestige of a linguistic variant , dialect or way of speaking refers to the level of respect and acceptability of the forms proper to that variety by its own speakers and the speakers of mutually understandable varieties .
Naturally, the sociolinguistic prestige is very frequently correlated with the social prestige of the speakers who use said dialect or linguistic variety. Frequently, there are varieties spoken by the dominant social class or by people with greater purchasing power have a higher sociolinguistic prestige than those used by the poorest speakers. Among the variants of a language , a prestige dialect can often be noted , which is the basis of the standard language , although there are some exceptions to the fact that the standard language is based on a prestige dialect, as is the case with standard Arabic .
Sociolinguistic prestige can be seen in situations where two or more languages come into contact, and in stratified urban environments, where speakers of different varieties are likely to coincide in the same social context. Despite the widespread opinions and impressions that certain dialects or variants are relatively “good” or “bad,” “from a purely linguistic point of view, all languages and all dialects have the same validity or value.”
The most prestigious people are those who have more relief in the community, and therefore can have a greater influence; influence that may derive from economic, political, social, media power, etc. Prestige is not always manifest; Undercover prestige is significant too.
It is possible that there is a tendency to assimilate the use of language ( idiolect ) to the favored dialect (positive prestige), or to abandon a dialect of low esteem (negative prestige). Studies, especially those of William Labov , have shown that changes in language are typically of 2 types, changes from above (or conscious), in which manifest prestige most influences, and changes from below (or unconscious) in which the undercover prestige most influences, which typically favors the speech of the working classes or marginalized groups. Various sociolinguistic studies have shown clear differences according to sex; women, especially middle class they are more susceptible to perceiving and adopting dialect changes with manifest prestige, while among men, especially those of the working class , there is a tendency to maintain their linguistic peculiarities, which for them have concealed prestige.
In nations with a colonial history, the prestige dialect is often close to the prestige dialect of the colonizing community, although it may be fossilized in the phase it was at the time of secession.
Where there has been creolization (the process by which a pidgin or contact language becomes a fully developed mother tongue), the superstition language operates as the extreme degree of the prestige dialect, which can have great influence, which includes, In certain cases, the decreolization of the Creole language .
When a prestigious dialect is prescribed as the norm by the dominant institutions, typically only at the written level, it also becomes a standard language . Broadcasting and television media have been especially effective in defining this type of language.
Dialect and language
It is not uncommon for speakers of a particular dialect , especially a regional dialect that historically has not been considered a prestigious dialect, claiming that their dialect is in fact a language . This is an attempt to shorten the sociolinguistic distance with the dominant dialect and to establish prestige and pride in its own variety of language. This is what the Scots have done to distinguish their language from English . A similar case has affected the perception of the language (or languages) commonly called Serbo-Croatian during the twentieth century.
Different causes of Linguistic prestige
- Religious Causes All religions have their own language, which is a bond between their members. Usually these languages are supranational. A very clear example could be the Latin language, whose life and importance after the Roman Empire is due, as a living language, to the religious needs of Christians.
- Cultural Causes In the current era, the word culture has two meanings: one anthropological and the other traditional. The first is defined as the set of customs habits, traditions and ways of life of any social group, regardless of its progress or its delay in terms of current customs. In this way all human groups have culture, it is not defined as good or bad, they only have it.
The traditional concept of culture is closely associated with the superior manifestations of civilization: in itself the arts, hygiene, economic well-being and communications. In this field if there can be differences in prestige, it depends on the collection of these elements to increase their importance. The very fact that a people acquires a reputation for worship and refinement, according to this concept, gives a new prestige to its language.
It happens many times that a nation although it has acquired a high degree of civilization with respect to the others and is endowed with a broad culture of its own, may also be under the cultural influence of another; Inverse when a linguistic group becomes a model for others.
The linguistic influence of one people on another is manifested by the study and constant use of the admired language. It has long been considered a symptom of culture to speak French. Thus, in linguistic groups, in addition to the mother tongue, there are one or several secondary languages that are adopted by cultural or other prestige.
- Political causes. A nation as its political influence increases, has a greater need to communicate with unknown peoples. The exchange is reciprocal, which increases the number of speakers of that language. Patent examples of this prestige represent him: English in almost all nations of the Western world and Russian in Soviet-influenced peoples.
- Geographical and social causes. The first influence in terms of territorial extension and the second by the number of speakers. Every increase usually means more prestige. The geographical may originate from the conquest, colonization or annexation of new territories (Spain and its colonies). The social, by the population explosion (China and its 800 million inhabitants). In the cases one can speak of these countries having greater linguistic prestige than others that lack these peculiarities.
Other causes could be added, but the slight analysis of the enumerated ones does not allow to affirm that extralinguistic reasons are those that originated the importance of a language with respect to others. In this way, distinguishing the different levels, we can affirm that there is no prestige among languages, if we consider them as communication systems; but that it does exist, if we consider that they are also social instruments and that they live mixed with other factors that influence and modify them.
The dialectical geography
The study of dialects is called the geography of dialectics or dialectology. Its purpose is the knowledge and relimitation of each of the dialects that form a language until it reaches the formation of a “linguistic atlas”.