Language, Cognition and Culture Language and perception

 What is verbal hygiene?

It is a thought–provoking term, used by Deborah Cameron describe how People respond to the ‘urge to meddle in matters of language’. It covers a wide range of activities, from writing letters to Editors complaining about the ‘deterioration’ and ‘abuse’ of language, through prescriptions and proscriptions about what constitutes ‘proper’, ‘correct’ and ‘acceptable’ usage in a range of contexts, to using language as a political weapon.

– Euphemism: substituting unacceptable terms with nicer words or terms, such as disabled instead of crippled, cosmetically different instead of ugly.

– Dysphemism: using derogatory terms of language to reflect society’s perceptions of particular groups, such as referring to a coloured person as a nigger or a homosexual male as gay or queer.

 Benjamin Lee Whorf

In his analysis of Native American languages, Whorf noticed that the particular words selected to describe or label objects often influenced people’s perceptions and behavior.

 What is linguistic determinism?

The medium is the message, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (linguistic determinism) is that people from different cultures think differently because of differences in their languages.

* Testing Sapir-Whorf hypothesis: if Whorf is right then it is difficult to identify colours which your language does not have a name for. But although people form the Dani tribe in New Guinea, use only two colour terms (corresponding to black and white or dark and light), it was found that they could recognize and distinguish between subtle shades of colours that their language had no names for (pale blue vs. turquoise).

* Different discourse patterns can reflect different patterns of thinking or socio-cultural relationships, for example: a similar news report can be represented differently from one newspaper to another, in form and content.

CHAPTER 14- Analysing Discourse

 What is discourse?

For sociolinguists, the term discourse is generally used to refer to stretches of spoken or written language, which extend beyond an utterance or a sentence.

For philosophers, discourse is a broader term; it is regarded as a means of structuring knowledge and social practice, and language is just one symbolic form of discourse.

 How is discourse viewed by pragmatics?

Pragmatics are concerned with the analysis of meaning in interaction, context is crucial in interpreting what is meant, and pragmatics extends the analysis of meaning beyond grammar and word meaning to the relationship between the participants and the background knowledge they bring to a situation, which is analysed in terms of conversation maxims and politeness.

 What are conversation maxims?

Paul Grice formulated four maxims of cooperative talk:

1- Quantity: say as much as but no more than necessary

2- Quality: do not say what you believe to be false, or that for which you lack evidence

3- Relation: be relevant

4- Manner: be clear, unambiguous, brief and orderly

 What are the politeness rules that Lakoff introduced?

1- Don’t impose: use modals and hedges: I wonder if I might just open the window a little.

2- Give options: use interrogatives including tag questions: do you mind if I open the window? It would be nice to have the window open a little wouldn’t it?

3- Be friendly: use informal expressions endearments: Be a honey and open the window darling.

 Ethnography of speaking: or ethnography of communication, it is an approach developed by the sociolinguist Dell Hymes, for analysing language, which has been designed to heighten awareness of culture-bound assumptions.

* The frame work that Hymes developed for the analysis of communicative events involved the following components:

– Genre type of event: phone call, conversation, business meeting, etc.

– Topic of what people are talking about: holidays, sports, politics, etc.

– Purpose of function: the reason (s) for the talk.

– Setting: where the talk takes place.

– Key of emotional tongue: serious, jocular, sarcastic, etc.

– Participants: characteristics of those present and their relationship.

– Message form: code and/or channel (telephone, letter, email, etc).

– Message content: specific details of what the communication is about.

– Act sequence: ordering of speech acts.

– Rules for interaction: prescribed orders of speaking.

– Norms for interpretation: what is going on?

 Interactional sociolinguistics: Interactional sociolinguists typically make use of the detailed tools of conversation analysis, by paying careful attention to turn-taking behavior, hesitations, pauses, and paralinguistic behavior (sights, laughter, in-breaths, etc) to interpret what the speaker intended.

 What is Contextualisation cause?

In an interactional sociolinguistics perspective, features ‘by which the speakers signal and listeners interpret what the activity is, how the semantic content is to be understood and how each sentence relates to what precedes or follows’.

 Conversational analysis: CA researchers approach communication as a jointly organized activity like dancing, or cooperative musical. Discourse is conversation (talk) which has its own structure (openings, closings, overlaps, turn-taking, interruptions, etc.)

 Critical Discourse Analysis: it is concerned with investigating how language is used to construct ad maintain power relationships in society; the aim is to show up connections between language and power, and between language and ideology.

CHAPTER 15- Attitudes and Application

 Attitudes to language

* Language attitudes (positive or negative) towards a language or a variety have much impact on language and education

 Explain overt prestige & covert prestige from a sociolinguistic perspective?




The meaning of overt prestige is reasonably self-evident; it is associated with the standard variety in a community ‘the best way of speaking in a community’. In contrast the term covert prestige refers to positive attitudes towards vernacular or non-standard speech varieties.

 What are the methods of collecting attitude data?

1- Direct observation

2- Direct questions

3- Indirect measures

 Why do working-class children fail in schools more than middle-class children from a sociolinguistic perspective?

1– The criteria for success are middle-class criteria, including middle-class language and ways of interaction

2- Many of the children, recognizing that schools are essentially middle-class institutions, deliberately and understandably rebel against all that they represent.

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