Language & Culture

Miscellaneous Authors



Language & Culture


Prof. Dr. Leland McCleary

1st Assessment





Q u e s t i o n s:



Discuss, in your own words (with reference to the texts), the following concepts from Course Bibliography, class discussions and the video material available in the group site:




1) Speech Community (Fishman, Gumperz).


Speech Community is a concept in sociolinguistics that describes a group using a unique, shared linguistic communication, mutually accepted by all of its members.


For Gumperz, it is understood as any ‘human aggregate characterized by regular and frequent interaction by means of a shared body of verbal signs and set off from similar aggregates by significant differences in language usage”. So, most groups ‘may be treated as speech communities, provided they show linguistic peculiarities that warrant social study’.


For Fishman, it is a neutral term that ‘does not imply any particular size or any particular basis of communality’, provided ‘members share at least a single variety and the norms for its appropriate use’.




2) ‘Variety’ as opposed to ‘dialect’ (Fishman).


A variety is a form that coherently differs from others in a given language. But when such varieties represent not only a geographic origin, bringing systematic and numerous differences involving lexicon and grammar, they become dialects.


However, dialects may represent factors other than geographical, and eventually may become a social variety or ‘sociolect’, as in the given example of a group immigrating to a richer area in order to look for jobs.



3) Standardization and autonomy of language varieties (Ferguson).


A standard language may be understood as a particular variety that achieves a legal status of official language, mostly due to historical or economic reasons. As it starts to be used at schools and in the ‘media’, it is almost ever wrongly considered by speakers as a more "correct" version, in relation to other dialects and varieties.


In name of cultural preservation, the uniqueness and independence of differences should be considered in association with the standard variety, as one does not necessarily displaces the others. But the concept of ‘autonomy’ is not a consensus among linguists, being understood, however, that the availability of dictionaries and grammars helps to ‘cultivate and increase’ it.




4) Verbal Repertoires (Fishman).


Verbal repertoires are the set of verbal forms employed in a socially significant way by communities, including those of regional and social profiles. In the singular, it also represents the discursive domain of an individual and his/her communicative competences.




5) Diglossia, ‘H’ and ‘L’ varieties (Fergusson).


Diglossia is an original French term which defines a situation when two or more languages are simultaneously spoken, being one of them, with higher prestige, used by the government in formal texts. The other languages, due to their lower prestige, will be used for daily communication only. As a convention, ‘H’ (high) stands the superposed variety while “L” (low) characterizes the regional dialects or varieties with less prestige.




6) The relationship/difference between bilingualism and diglossia (Calvet).


The original Greek term diglossia is now used in Linguistics in a very restricted sense, although its original translation was also ‘bilingualism’. Ferguson described diglossia as ‘a stable relationship between two linguistic varieties’, although with an existing difference in terms of prestige. Bilingualism, on the other hand, supposes the undifferentiated use of two languages, at the level of individuals or groups.



7) Pidgins, creoles and language contact.


A ‘pidgin’ is a simplified language developed as a means of communication between two or more groups, which have the necessity to live together for a long period of time. It is also a condition that they do not have a language in common and no one speaks the native language of any of them.


A ‘creole’ is a stable language apparently originated from a native pidgin, after being used as a ‘lingua franca’: it is not the mother tongue of anyone in the group, but a simplified registry with a limited lexicon and basic grammar.


Language ‘contact’ occurs when speakers of distinct speech varieties interact. It may occur at borders as well as between ‘adstratum’ languages, or even as the result of migratory movements, with the intrusive language acting either as a ‘superstratum’ or a ‘substratum’.



8) Problems that may be caused by non-standard speech styles and non –standard languages.


No language or variations have a higher or lower value. However, in political and economic terms, the official variety has a greater social prestige, since it is the dominant, well-educated modality spoken by the upper classes. Consequently, such differentiation causes the immediate depreciation of those speakers of ‘non-standard speech styles’ or ‘non-standard languages’. So, deviations to a standardized language or style do not generate problems by themselves but, instead, may condemn their users to a kind of social ‘apartheid’.




9) Why may sociolinguistic concepts be said to have originated in mono-lingual and mono-cultural contexts? What issue does this raise?


The sociolinguistics concepts were originated in mono-lingual and mono-cultural contexts, as the constant existing variations inside each language were not perfectly known by ancient philologists.


Also, who was in charge of studying languages at those times used to work with written texts of either dead or living languages, being the oral modality never considered. Obviously, the different tongues were known but it was much easier to realize the variations among diverse languages that properly inside them.


And as a variation within a specific language takes centuries to be recognized, the idea that a same language – spoken in different regions or by distinct groups – could change throughout the years was something completely impossible to be achieved by those first experts.