HUDSON’S SOCIOLINGUISTICS Language and dialect

Language and dialect

Hudson tries to differentiate language from dialect but it turned out to be confusion as usual whether to consider it as a technical term or as untrained people see it. It could also be examined as part of a culture to make distinction between ‘languages’ and dialect’. He says that according to Ernar Haugen (1966), the term dialect was borrowed from Greek so the distinction between language and dialect is due to the influence of Greek culture. The use of the two terms are eventually different from the use in English now, they are rather similar in French.

Language is a variety that contains dialects. In this sense, English can be referred to as language containing other dialects like ‘steward English’, Yorkshire English, Indian English and many others.

Another contrast between language and dialect is a question of prestige. A language has prestige which a dialect lacks. In this case, Standard English is not a dialect but a language. One can say that a language is used in formal writing while a dialect is not.

Standard Language

According to Hudson, standard language should be the “proper language.” Standard languages are the result of direct deliberate intervention by society. A language is standard after passing through the following processes.

  1. Selection – this language is selected and developed into a standard language. This is observed by the social or political or economic importance attached to the language. It may be an existing variety or an amalgam of various varieties.
  2. Codification – dictionaries must have been written on them.
  3. Elaboration of function – it must be useable in all functions associated with government and writing.
  1. Acceptance – the variety must be accepted by the relevant population and can stand as a strong unifying force of the state and as a marker of its difference from other states.

Hudson explains that not all linguists accept these factors for standardization. For instance, Macaulay (1973) argues that it is not essential that standardisation should involve matters of pronunciation as well as of writing.

The Delimitation of Language

It has been said that language can be determined based on prestige or size. But looking at size as what determines a language, it is true that a variety can be larger than one and small compared to another. How then can size be satisfactorily used to determine what language should be. But an extra criterion according to him is that of mutual intelligibility even though there are also problems in its application.

  1. Languages may be mutually intelligible and some instances of the same language may not be mutually intelligible.
  2. Mutual intelligibility is a matter of degree, ranging from complete intelligibility down to complete unintelligibility.
  3. Varieties may be arranged in a dialect continuum: a chain of adjacent varieties in which each pair of adjacent varieties are mutually intelligible, but pairs taken from opposite ends of the chain are not. If A is the same language as B, and B is the same as C, then A and C must be the same language as B, but A and C may not be mutually intelligible where A and B are mutually intelligible and B and C are also mutually intelligible.
  4. Mutual intelligibility is not really a relation between varieties, but between people. They are not the varieties that understand one another. This means that it depends on person A if he cares to understand speaker B. Another point is if two hearers of a variety have good experience of the variety they are listening to.
  5. Conclusion: mutual intelligibility does not work as a criterion for delimiting languages in the size sense. Still saying that there is no real distinction to be drawn between language and dialect.

The Family Tree Model

Hudson uses the family tree model to show the relationships among varieties. According to him, this model allows us to show how closely a number of varieties are related to one another. It however does not include how one variety influences the other.

Dialects

 

Regional dialects and isoglosses

Hudson points out that dialectal distinction has been proven impossible except with reference to prestige. There is no clear boundary between varieties. But dialect geographers try to indicate a line of division between different communities with reference to their use of some linguistic items. A group of people within a geographical area where one item is found is isogloss. He said that it can be concluded that varieties don’t exist but people and items do.

Diffusion and wave theory

 

The wave theory is based on the assumption that changes in language spread outwards from centres of influence to the surrounding areas in much the same way that a wave spreads from the place where a stone is dropped in a pool.

Different isoglosses have deferent standing points and gradually spread into one another. Innovations leading to any two isoglosses would not start in the same place at the same time.

The failure of the wave theory is that wave of linguistic influence freeze and stop expanding because the influence at that point of origin is no longer strong enough to sustain them.

He takes another analogy known as the analogy involving different species of plants sown in a field, each spreading by dispersing its seeds over a particular area. In this case, the different species spread to meet other species and some may eventually dominate others based on competition among them. One may eventually be faced out or remain confined to a small area of the field.

Linguistic innovation is new specie which may and may not prosper. It may replace or be replaced by other competing innovations.

Social dialects

Social dialect or sociolects refer to non-regional differences. A speaker may be more similar in language to people from the same social group in a different area than to people from a different social group in the same area. This means that by some form of social influence like education. A uniqueness may occur that cannot be directly linked to any region but forms a dialect on its own. However, such may be more pronounced in accents than other aspects of language like vocabulary, syntax etc.

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