E-book Sociolinguistics And Understanding Society In Language
Sociolinguists study the relationship between language and society. They are interested in explaining why we speak differently in different social contexts, and they are concerned with identifying the social functions of language and the ways it is used to convey social meaning. Examining the way people use language in different social contexts provides a wealth of information about the way language works, as well as about the social relationships in a community, and the way people convey and construct aspects of their social identity through their language. So Sociolinguistics is concerned with how language use interacts with, or is affected by, social factors such as gender, ethnicity, age or social class, for instance. As Coulmas defines, it is the study of choice and “the principal task of Sociolinguistics is to uncover, describe and interpret the socially motivated” choices an individual makes.
For many people there can be no confusion at all about what language they speak. For example, they are Chinese, Japanese, or Korean and they speak Chinese, Japanese, and Korean respectively. It is as simple as that; language and ethnicity are virtually synonymous. A Chinese may be surprised to find that another person who appears to be Chinese does not speak Chinese, and some Japanese have gone so far as to claim not to be able to understand Caucasians who speak fluent Japanese. Just as such a strong connection between language and ethnicity may prove to be invaluable in nation-building, it can also be fraught with problems when individuals and groups seek to realize some other identity, e.g., to be both Chinese and American, or to be Canadian rather than Korean-Canadian. Many Americans seem particularly reluctant to equate language with ethnicity in their own case: although they regard English as the ‘natural’ language of Americans, they do not consider American to be an ethnic label. The results may be the same; only the reasons differ. The following figure will make you understand.
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