Diversity Within English


In order to understand how language variation descriptors are used, we
first must understand what language variation is. We can say that the U.S. is
linguistically diverse because of the multitude of languages spoken here, but
we can also find diversity within these languages. All languages have both
dialectical variations and registral variations. These variations, or dialects,
can differ in lexicon, phonology, and/or syntax from the Standard Language that
we often think of as Œcorrect\' Language, although they are not necessarily less
proper than, say, Standard English. It depends on where, by whom, and in what
situation the dialect is used as to whether or not it is appropriate.
Most people are familiar with regional dialects, such as Boston,
Brooklyn, or Southern. These types of variations usually occur because of
immigration and settlement patterns. People tend to seek out others like
themselves. Regional variations tend to become more pronounced as the speech
community is more isolated by physical geography, i.e. mountain ranges, rivers.
Linguists have done extensive studies on regional dialects, producing detailed
Linguistic Atlases. Many linguists can tell where a person is from just by
knowing whether a person carries groceries home from the supermarket in a paper
bag or from the grocery store in a paper sack (Yule 184). And the person who
comes home from the supermarket with a paper sack serves to remind us that
language variation is not a discrete, but rather a continuous variable.
Characteristics of the dialect are more pronounced in the center of the speech
community and tend to be less discernible at the outer boundaries, where they
often overlap other regional dialects.
Within, and between, these regional variations we find the social
dialects. The primary social factors that influence dialects are class,
education, occupation, ethnicity, sex, and age (Ferguson 52, Yule 191). And
social dialects can vary on any or all three descriptor levels; syntax or
grammar, lexicon or vocabulary, and phonetics or pronunciation. Social
dialects are also where the described differences are often defined as
stigmatized or nonstigmatized (Ferguson 52). Stigmatized items include use of
the double negative (grammar), substituting the d sound for the leading th and
losing sounds like the middle r and the final g in ing (pronunciation), and
stylistic choices such as puke for vomit (vocabulary).
There are three main types of reactions to these socially significant
items.

1. Social indicators - the speaker, and often the listener, is not
aware that these items are socially significant in revealing one\'s social status,
so the speaker makes no attempt to avoid them when speaking in a more formal
style. This would be someone who wants to take your picture, rather than your
photograph.
2. Social markers - the speaker is sensitive to these items and will
avoid them in a more formal style of speech, although the speaker may not be
fully aware of why. Examples would be avoiding contractions, and phrases like
gonna or didja. Social markers are much more prevalent in American English than
social indicators.
3. Social stereotypes - even speakers who regularly use these types of
dialects are fully aware of the stigma attached to them. Social stereotypes
would include the copula deletion in Black English, and the loosing of sounds a
la Joe Pesci that produce phrases such as doze tree guys.

Closely related to these social class factors are education and
occupation. While occupations often produce their own jargons, a person\'s
occupation will also determine what style of speech is used. A lawyer and a
laborer would not be likely to use the same dialect on the job. Likewise, a
person with little education is not likely to use the same style of speech as a
college professor. This does not imply that the lawyer and college professor
speak a Œbetter\' variety of English, but because of more exposure to, and
familiarity with written English, which is usually Standard English, they tend
to speak that way, also. And because many people think of Standard English as
the norm, they also think of it as the more perfect English.
Ethnicity often produces language variation, particularly among recent
immigrants. But this would not explain the endurance of Black English and
Chicano English. The rather widespread survival of these dialects seems to
stem from the social isolation of the speakers (discrimination, segregation),
which tends to make the variations more obvious. Because the group itself is
stigmatized its dialect is stigmatized by association. Thus, the deletion of
the copula is considered Œbad\' speech, although Arabic and Russian also have
structures that leave out the copula and they are not Œbad\' (Yule 192).
The sex,