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Trudgill Ch. 1 Questions

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LINGUIS 210; Pucci
The Power of Words
LINGUIS 210, Summer 2020
Focus questions for Chapter One, Trudgill
1. What points does the author make about the “function of language in establishing
social relationships,” and “the role played by language in conveying information about
the speaker?” (p. 2).
Engaging people in conversation helps us form an opinion about them. The
relationship between language and society is a very close one and when we speak to
people, it gives us clues about their social background, attitudes etc. in a way their
appearance is not able to. This happens due to how people say things, not necessarily
the words they use. These aspects of language behavior are interesting to
sociolinguists and generally from a social point of view.
2. What is a “dialect continuum?” (p. 3)
The dialect continuum refers to the divide between different dialects, meaning
that there are no clear cuts and divisions between them. Trudgill gives the example of
Norfolk and Suffolk dialects, which are geographically placed right next to each other.
Even within those two dialects, there are numerous other linguistic features that differ
from each other, creating, in theory, more dialects within them. Even from place to place
and village to village, linguistic features can change slightly. Furthermore, it is difficult to
say where exactly one dialect ends and the next continues, linguistically.
3. The author makes a number of points about distinguishing between the terms dialect
and language. Although, in general, we refer to “mutual intelligibility” as linguistic
criteria, what other considerations does he offer? What was the most interesting, in your
view? What needs further clarification?
First of all, Trudgill says that neither concepts of language and dialect are clear-
cut. Just as it is difficult to assign certain linguistic features to a dialect and vice versa, it
is difficult to say these features are one language and those another one. Both
decisions are based on political and geographical decisions rather than on linguistic
ones, as shows the examples of Norfolk and Suffolk dialects and German and Dutch
languages in border regions. I find it interesting that German and Dutch dialects can be
so similar when they are close-by, even though they exist in two different countries, that
Germans can understand this particular dialect from another language better than
dialects of their own language that are further away. What I don't quite get is why mutual
intelligibility is of less importance than political and cultural aspects. Shouldn't it be the
other way around, at least in the case of these German and Dutch dialects?

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LINGUIS 210; Pucci
4. What is a “standard” variety of a language? Is it “better” than a non-standard variety?
How does the author explain this? What has the contribution of the “scientific study of
language” (p.8) been in this area?
Standard varieties are dialects as well, especially in the case of Standard
English, showing grammatical, lexical and phonetic differences from other non-standard
English dialects. The standard variety is the one that is used officially, in print, schools,
and to foreign learners of English. Standard English developed from the English variety
and dialect spoken in London by the upper class, which diverged from other varities
over time. Nonstandard varieties are not “bad” though. It was then used in print and
schools, by writers etc. and was seen as an educated language. Speakers of other
varieties saw it as a model variety. Standard English has a codified grammar, but
theoretically, in most of its forms, no distinct phonetic features, no accent. However,
Received Pronunciation, the British English accent, is seen as such and is used by
upper-middle-classes. It is not necessary to speak RP to speak Standard English
though. Standard varieties are not better than non-standard varieties, and Standard
English, for example, has colloquial as well as formal variants as well. It is true that
standard varieties carry more prestige in the public eye, but linguistically, it is just
another variety like the others and therefore not better. Such judgements are made from
a social and not a linguistic point of view. The scientific study of language has helped
non-standard varieties in that it has convinced people that all languages and varieties
are equal rule-oriented and complex systems.
5. What do the author’s discussions about the non-prevocalic r and pronunciations in
Martha’s Vineyard tell us about judgments about language, from both linguistic and
social points of view? (p. 9-13)
The usage of the non-prevocalic r supports the assumption that judgements
about dialects and varities are social rather than linguistic. There are some accents that
do not have an r sound in words like “car”, but only before vowels. The r does not
appear before consonants. In England, accents that do not have the r are considered to
be of higher value, like RP. Non-prevocalic r is used for rural characters that are
supposed to be uneducated. In the United States, it sometimes is the exact reverse and
in New York, accents with that feature are considered more prestige. This shows how
value judgements about language are epending on social contexts and not on language
itself. Attitudes towards features such as the non-prevocalic r can change over time, as
the example of New York after the Second World War shows, with many people of
middle-upper class heritage having moved there during the war and bringing with them
the belief that non-prevocalic r is prestige.
The many tourists coming to Martha's Vineyard have socially changed the island,
also having an impact on its language. Suddenly, there were two accents prevalent on
the island, an old-prestige traditional one and a newer one found in other prestige
American accents. However, what happened was not that the islanders turned to the
newer variety, but rather that their linguistic form was increasing because they resented
the mass invasion of tourists. They started exaggerating the features of their old accent

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LINGUIS 210; Pucci The Power of Words LINGUIS 210, Summer 2020 Focus questions for Chapter One, Trudgill 1. What points does the author make about the “function of language in establishing social relationships,” and “the role played by language in conveying information about the speaker?” (p. 2). Engaging people in conversation helps us form an opinion about them. The relationship between language and society is a very close one and when we speak to people, it gives us clues about their social background, attitudes etc. in a way their appearance is not able to. This happens due to how people say things, not necessarily the words they use. These aspects of language behavior are interesting to sociolinguists and generally from a social point of view. 2. What is a “dialect continuum?” (p. 3) The dialect continuum refers to the divide between different dialects, meaning that the ...
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