Sociolinguistics: language and cultures

I found this excellent set of definitions in the text Language and Literacy in the Early Years 0-7 by Marian Whitehead.  Thought it worth posting here.

My hope is that this post marks the start of a new category on this blog – ‘Lit_Review‘ – for posts that contain material of the kind you just know you’re going to want to find again later when you’re doing that review of research literature…

Language Variety – Summary

  • Language variety is reflected in the different language of the world but it is also a feature within apparently uniform language communities.
  • Two major aspects of variety within a language are accent and dialect.  Accent refers solely to differences in pronunciation – the sounds of a spoken language.  Dialect is a variety of a language with distinctive variations in syntax and vocabulary, as well as pronunciation.
  • Standard English is the high-status dialect of English that is used in the written form of the language.  It is also used widely in business and professional circles, the media, education and the teaching of English as a foreign language.  Standard English dialect may be spoken with any accent.
  • Received Pronunciation is a prestigious non-regional accent associated with higher education and, traditionally, the private school system in the UK and Oxford and Cambridge universities (Oxbridge).
  • Variety is also found within every individual’s linguistic repertoire because we all switch registers, changing the degrees of formality in our language, according to the social context.  Individuals use a variety of other forms, including other dialects, slang and jargon.  We all develop a unique idiolect that makes our voices and language styles instantly recognisable.

Whitehead, M. (2010) Language and Literacy in the Early Years 0-7 (4th Ed.) Sage Publication: London. p.25

Neat summary eh? Pass it on!


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