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The Most Important Social Dialects In America English Language Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 2464 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The way people talk is influenced by where they live and how the people in their environment talk. That is why there are dialect areas in America. But within a dialect area, not all people talk the same because they are also influenced by other factors. For instance a speakers gender, age, ethnicity and social and educational background. These factors can have a small impact on a person’s speech. It can change the frequency of the use of regional dialect features. Some features are used more by older people than by younger people. For example, the absence of “r” in words can be influenced by status and it means something different in every region. In Charleston, the high-status groups use the absence of “r” in words more frequently than the working-class or low-status groups. But at the same time in New York City, the r-lessness is associated with working-class and low-status groups. There can be a bigger impact when you pick up all distinct features of the speech of the people you identify yourself with and of the people who are like you. This is when varieties of speech associated with particular groups within a society arise. Linguists call these varieties “social dialects” and they are also known as “sociolects”. When looking at regional dialects linguists look at where you are located when you use certain dialect features, but when looking at social dialects linguists look at who you are and what social groups you are a part of. Social dialects are spread across the country because nowadays people easily come in contact with people from all over the world. Poverty, class distinction and racism can cause groups to remain socially isolated from others. This gave rise to one of the biggest social dialects in the united states called Black English(ebonics)/African-American. Also important and widely spread are the social dialects : Slang and The Internet Dialect.

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5.2 African-American English.

Before the United States gained independence, the New World was a country where slavery existed. From the 16th to the 19th century, an estimated 12 million Africans were transported to America. It was the most active in the Southern areas of America, because the climate there was the most suitable for agriculture. The slaves were forced to work for whites, and not uncommonly for Native Americans.

The African slaves and their masters needed a way to communicate. The solution to this was the simplification of the slaves’ African language and the masters’ (Southern) American English language. The unsophisticated mixtures of the two languages, pidgins, were created with many different African languages, creating Gullah English, Cameroonian English and West-African English.

The pidgins were passed on to new generations, creating Creole language forms, providing the foundation for what is now AAVE, African-American Vernacular English.

African-American English mostly differs from American English in pronunciation and grammar. Some versions of AAVE seem like an entirely different language than American English, while others only have only minor alterations.

The most noticeable and common differences in pronunciation of words in AAVE are:

– Dental fricatives. AAVE speakers often use ‘d’ instead of ‘th’. This may have to do with the Dutch. If slaves were property of Dutch or German masters, as they have trouble pronouncing ‘th’, pidgins of the slaves’ languages and the Germanic languages might have adopted the pronunciation of dental fricatives.

– Realization of final ‘ng’ in verbs: This might be the best-known feature of AAVE. The speakers of AAVE often omit the last ‘g’ in verbs. This results in verbs like ‘sitting’ and ‘having’ to be pronounced as ‘sittin’ and ‘havin’. This alteration is also widely used by non-AAVE speakers.

– Metathesis of words. Often words as ‘ask’ are pronounced as ‘aks’.

– Before nasal consonants (such as m and n), ‘e’ and ‘i’ are pronounced the same way. This is distinctive for Southern American English also.

AAVE has a very interesting use of grammar. The most conspicuous is the creation of new words that developed two words said rapidly after eachother.

For example, “Imma dance” is used to explain that one is going to dance in the future.. “Imma” is an accelerated way of saying “I’m gonna”. “He finna go outside” means “He is about to go outside.” Here, ‘finna’ came from ‘fixing to’

Nowadays, AAVE, or Black English, is not only used by black people in America. Black English is the most popular rap and Hip-Hop music language and is frequently used, or ridiculed on television and in movies. AAVE is not exclusively used by black people: many other races speak it, causing controversy at times, especially if the person is Caucasian. Some blacks may feel pressured to use AAVE, because they don’t want to speak like somebody they’re not, such as white Americans.

5.3 Slang

Teenagers like to create their own dialects among each other. They use it to quickly define who is or is not part of the popular crowd. They also like to use it as a secret language in front of their parents. These dialects are called Slang. The definition of slang is “an informal non-standard variety of speech characterized by newly coined and rapidly changing words and phrases”. So slang tends to go in and out of fashion really quick, mainly because it needs to stay a “secret language”. By the time everyone (including unpopular kids and parents) knows about an expression, the group of teenagers have moved on to something else. Some modern slang has lasted over the decades since it was created,like “cool”. But some slang only lasts a few months or years before it’s considered unusable or outdated,like “bling bling”.

In order for an expression to become slang, it has to be adopted and widely accepted by the group of people that it was made for. Slang can arise from any number of ideas or situations, it can be full or weak of metaphors and it is often thoughtful and quite deep.

Slang has been around for as long as language itself. There was a time where slang was considered as the lowest form of communication. It undermined the standard language and it gave a bad reputation to its users. But many people nowadays consider slang to be a very smart and insightful variation to the boring standard language. Slang takes and incorporates words from other languages and cultures and uses them within its own vocabulary, and it sometimes even becomes a part of the standard language. Some people think that the fact that Shakespear often used slang is enough proof that slang is not dumb. It is a “hip” form of art. But slang is still ridiculed by people that are culturally ignorant, and who think that slang is an outcome of insufficient education. People desire and crave the need for individuality and uniqueness and that is what they use slang for. It is a safe and mostly effective way to rebel against the social order. The slang expressions often reflect the values and attitudes of the members of the group that use them.

A few examples of popular slang:

– It became very popular to use the word “like” in many different ways : “he was like, totally looking at you” or as a quote : “she was like, do I know you from somewhere?”. People associate the excessive use of the word “like” with the “valley girl” language, which is an exaggerated variant of California English. But It has become very popular among American teens because it has been used in many popular movies, such as Scooby Doo(Shaggy) and Clueless.

-“take a chill pill” is being used to say that someone needs to relax, calm down. When your mother is constantly telling you that you need to clean your room, you would say : “MOM, take a chill pill! I am going to do it in a minute”

– “bounce” is often used to say you are going to leave, “I’m gonna bounce up out of here, see you later”

-“Hyphy”, short for hyper active, created by a rapper from the bay area. He used it on his album and soon teens started using it too. Example : “we getting hyphy up in here”, which basically means that everybody is being happy and hyperactive

– “Dude” can refer to anybody, people you know or may not know, sometimes even to women. “look at that weird dude over there!” Dude is also used in many movies, a famous one is the movie, “Dude where’s my car”

5.4 The internet dialect.

People all over the world connect with eachother via new media such as text messaging, chatgroups, e-mails, forums and instant messaging programmes. And there are a lot of new language forms and styles that have arisen under the influence of the internet and other new media. The users of internet and new media created a new social dialect among eachother. This social dialect includes popular phrases such as brb(be right back),

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LOL(laugh out loud), ROTFL(Roll on the floor laughing), smh(shake my head) and ttyl(talk to you later). The use of internet slang originated from chat rooms, it allowed the people that were in the chatrooms to save keystrokes and answer quicker because chatroom conversations move on quickly. Later on a lot of words were shortened for the purpose of using less characters in short text messages. Nowadays many people use the same abbreviations on social networking websites, with instant messaging and for texting.The internet dialect even has its own online dictionaries that explain the different words. New internet dialects develop when the use of certain words depend more on the type of group you want to be in (gamer,youtuber,fashionista) rather than saving time with typing. There are also rules on how to use these abbreviations. When people write “LOL” capitalization is important, and someone who types “LOL” is probably laughing louder than someone who type “lol”. Some linguists think that these standard expressions of laughter are going to lose their power through overuse. They wonder how many people are actually laughing out loud when they type “LOL” into a conversation. The use of these internet words can be useful, but they shouldn’t be overused.

There have been many debates between internet linguists about the effects of internet dialects. People are concerned that because of the internet language there is a growing infiltration of the use of informal language and incorrect words into formal or academic situations. For example the use of casual words like “guy” or the choice of words that are more simple in academic papers by students. Educators also note that students are making more spelling- and grammar mistakes in their academic works with the use of shortened words like “u” for “you” and “2” for “to”. Students who use these terms can have reduced chances of employment. When they make mistakes like this their bosses will not be “lol” when they read a report that lacks proper grammar and punctuation, has abbreviations that they can’t understand, has numerous misspellings and has various made-up words. Critics think that professional or business communication should never be careless or badly constructed, whether you are writing a quick e-mail or an article for publication. Abbreviations, smileys and internet slang have no place in business. But a recent study published by the British Journal of Developmental Psychology found that students who text message regularly presented a wider range of vocabulary and this could have a positive impact on their reading development. Though the use of internet slang resulted in a certain language style that is inappropriate in formal and academic situations, some linguists think that internet use does not slow down language education but instead aid it. The internet has shown it can have benefits that enhance language learning, especially in second or foreign language learning. There is no scientific evidence about this subject yet, but it is an important aspect of the internet dialect that should be investigated because it involves the education and job opportunities of current and future generations.

5.5 Regional dialects versus Social dialects.

Some people think that the fact that we are more mobile than we were before and the use of mass media are making america more homogeneous. They suspect that we will eventually all talk the same way. One of the reasons they think that, is that the media exposes us all to the same way of talking.When watching the news or a movie you often hear what is sometimes called “the network standard”,this is broadcasted over the entire country. People are also being more and more educated to speak in a standardized way to have higher chances of getting jobs. Furthermore, there is the fact that people move around the united states more than they used to because it is easier now to move into different social circles and social classes than the ones they were born in. So than regional dialects are going to die out because social dialects will become more and more important.

I personally don’t think regional dialects will die out because of social dialects. You learn how to speak when you are born. The first influences you get are from your environment and from your parents. When you get older you get influenced by other groups and the media. But I don’t think you can completely shut off the way you learned how to speak when you were a child. The dialect features of the region you grew up in will always have an effect on your speech. People also often reject the standardized way of talking because they don’t want to be homogenized. They sometimes express their resistance by deliberately speaking in distinctive ways. When people think that their local dialect is in danger of dying out, they may feel the need to exaggerate certain features of their dialect to keep it alive. Also when many outsiders move in, people use their regional dialect to express their local pride.


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