What is sociolinguistics characteristics and theory


Sociolinguistics is a discipline that studies the relationship between language and the cultural and social environment in which people operate and how this influences the way of speaking. other aspects, it analyzes how age, gender, ethnic origin, social class, education, space, and time affect the development of linguistic communication. Sociolinguistics characteristics and theory among

This discipline emerged with the aim of expanding the field of research on language, which until then was seen as an abstract system, independent of the subject who used it and their circumstances.

The term sociolinguistics was first used by Harver Currie in his work A Projection of Sociolinguistics: The Relationship of Speech to Social Status (1952).

However, it was beginning in 1964, when several meetings between linguists, sociologists, and anthropologists were held in the United States to analyze this new perspective, that the discipline gained momentum and established itself as a prominent field of study.

Currently sociolinguistics is divided into two broad branches: the empirical, which deals with obtaining data on the relationship between language and the society in which it is produced, and the theoretical, which is responsible for analyzing them and drawing conclusions about them. .

What does sociolinguistics study

Sociolinguistics is a discipline that studies language and the relationship it has with the social and cultural context in which it is generated.

To do this, he investigates real situations of use within a given community, analyzing how individuals interact verbally and share certain codes and idiomatic rules.

All societies have a specific way of speaking, which in turn varies depending on the age, sex, level of training and social class of the interlocutors.

On the other hand, the words and the ways of communicating also change depending on the place and context in which the dialogue takes place.

These factors, and the way in which they condition language and influence the choice of words, are studied by sociolinguistics.

Characteristics of sociolinguistics

Sociolinguistics is characterized by analyzing language as a social and cultural phenomenon, and not as an abstract system, independent of the person who uses it.

To do this, he studies languages ​​and the way of speaking within the context in which they occur, in real life situations and focusing his attention on the circumstances.

In this way, this discipline has points of contact with the social sciences, especially anthropology and sociology, with which it shares similar research methodologies. Sociolinguistics characteristics and theory

Sociolinguistics knowledge has been used to facilitate the learning of first and second languages, because the social context is a fundamental element in this process.

For example, a person does not speak in the same way to an adult as to a child. It also changes the language depending on the topic you are talking about or if you are on the street with friends or serving a client at work.

Sociolinguistic theory

Among the theorists of sociolinguistics the following authors stand out:

William Labov (United States, 1927)

He is considered the founder of urban or variationist quantitative sociolinguistics. He was one of the pioneers in studying the relationship between language and the social situation of the speaker and raised the idea that the way a language is used varies between people and their circumstances.

Unlike traditional linguists such as Ferdinand de Saussure and Noam Chomsky, who recognized these variations but did not give them great relevance, for Labov it was a fundamental aspect.

Charles A. Ferguson (United States, 1921-1998)

He is known for his research on diglossia, which occurs when two languages ​​are spoken in the same population and one is more prevalent than the other.

In this regard, he analyzed how the uses varied according to the area in which the conversation took place, the prestige of each language, acquisition as a mother tongue, grammatical systems, variety of lexicon, literary heritage, phonology and other factors. .

Joshua Fishman (United States, 1926-2015)

He was a pioneer in research in the sociology of language, analyzing the way in which language influenced populations and modified the social dynamics and character of people.

Among other aspects, he studied the reason why two similar communities reached a different social organization of the use of language, evaluating individual and collective attitudes and cultural references.

Dell Hymes (United States, 1927-2009)

He analyzed the relationship between speech and human relationships and the way in which language shapes thought.

Starting from the theory that to understand a language it was not only necessary to learn its vocabulary and grammatical scheme, but also the context in which each word was used, he developed a model to identify the components that mark linguistic interaction.

Basil Bernstein (United Kingdom, 1924-2000)

His work focused on the sociology of language and the structure of pedagogical discourse, establishing a determining relationship between the way of speaking and the social class of the person.

Sociolinguistics Research Methods

When it comes to sociolinguistic research, there are three main fields, each of which has its own methodology and object of study. Sociolinguistics characteristics and theory

They are urban variationism or quantitative, sociology of language and ethnography of communication.

Urban quantitative or variationism

This field studies the linguistic variation related to the social factors in which the speakers live and find themselves. Among other aspects, it analyzes the influence of religion, educational background, socioeconomic status, profession, age, sex, historical aspects, and people’s ethnic origin.

Sociology of language

This current studies the way in which language influences communities and affects social dynamics and individual identity.

To do this, it analyzes the habitual use of two languages ​​in the same region (bilingualism), why one of them has a preference for use in certain circumstances (diglossia), the reasons for choice and the contact between different languages.

Ethnography of communication

This branch studies communicative interaction in small populations and the way in which language influences the vision of the world that its members have. To do this, he analyzes the linguistic structure and the social, cultural and psychological rules that govern its use within a community.

Sociolinguistics is also used to facilitate the learning of new languages. Source:

The linguistic variants refer to the different forms that exist within a language to refer to the same concept.

In this sense, sociolinguistics study why certain groups or people choose to use a certain word instead of another and in what circumstances they use it

There are four types of variants: geographic or diatopic, contextual or diaphasic, sociocultural or diastratic, and historical or diachronic. Sociolinguistics characteristics and theory

Geographic or diatopic variants

These variants refer to linguistic differences that are due to the different geographical origins of the speakers. For example, the garment to bathe in water in Argentina is called mesh, in Spain swimsuit, in Colombia swimsuit, in Cuba trusa, in El Salvador underpants and in Chile swimsuit.

Contextual or diaphasic variants

These variants refer to the linguistic differences that are due to the different registers of the speakers and their context. Depending on the means of communication used, the topic being discussed, the relationship between the interlocutors and the reason for the talk, different vocabularies are used.

For example, in a professional or formal circumstance, the other person is often called “you.” On the other hand, in a more familiar or informal situation, it is called “tú” or “vos”.

Sociocultural or diastratic variants

These variants refer to the linguistic differences that are due to the different sociocultural levels of the speakers. Depending on the level of instruction and the extent of language proficiency, the way of communicating changes.

Within this group there are 3 degrees of language: worship, used by highly educated people; the standard, used by people of average level; and the vulgar, used by uneducated people.

This variation is one of the most studied by sociolinguistics, since it analyzes how social relations and training influence linguistic facts.

Historical or diachronic variants

These variants refer to the linguistic differences that occur over the years as a consequence of the evolution of the language. In the Spanish language, 5 historical stages are distinguished: archaic Spanish (between the 10th and 12th centuries), medieval Spanish (between the 13th and 15th centuries), classical or Golden Age Spanish (between the 16th and 17th centuries) , modern Spanish (between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries) and current Spanish (from the twentieth century). Sociolinguistics characteristics and theory

For example, with the passage of time some words disappear or stop being used, such as pool or perish, and new ones appear that were not used in the past, such as internet or zapping.

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