Thursday, March 12, 2020

A Definition of Speech Community in Sociolinguistics

A Definition of Speech Community in Sociolinguistics Speech community is a term in sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology used to describe a group of people who share the same language,  speech  characteristics, and ways of interpreting communication. Speech communities may be large regions like an urban area with a common, distinct accent (think of Boston with its dropped rs) or small units like families and friends (think of a nickname for a sibling). They help people define themselves as individuals and community members and identify (or misidentify) others. Speech and Identity The concept of speech as a means of identifying with a community first emerged in 1960s  academia alongside other new fields of research like ethnic and gender studies. Linguists like John Gumperz pioneered research in how personal interaction can influence ways of speaking and interpreting, while Noam Chomsky studied how people interpret language and derive meaning from what they see and hear. Types of Communities Speech communities can be large or small, although linguists dont agree on how theyre defined. Some, like linguist  Muriel Saville-Troike, argue that its logical to assume that a shared language like English, which is spoken throughout the world, is a speech community.  But she differentiates between hard-shelled communities, which tend to be insular and intimate, like a family or religious sect, and soft-shelled communities where there is a lot of interaction. But other linguists say a common language is too vague to be considered a true speech community. The linguistic anthropologist  Zdenek Salzmann describes it this way: [P]eople who speak the same language are not always members of the same  speech community. On the one hand, speakers of South Asian English in India and Pakistan share a language with citizens of the U.S., but the respective varieties of English and the rules for speaking them are sufficiently distinct to assign the two populations to different speech communities... Instead, Salzman and others say, speech communities should be more narrowly defined based on characteristics such as pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, and manner of speaking. Study and Research The concept of speech community plays a role in a number of social science, namely sociology, anthropology, linguists, even psychology. People who study issues of migration and ethnic identity use social community theory to study things like how immigrants assimilate into larger societies, for instance. Academics who focus on racial, ethnic, sexual​ or gender issues apply social community theory when they study issues of personal identity and politics. It also plays a role in data collection. By being aware of how communities are defined, researchers can adjust their subject pools in order to obtain representative sample populations. Sources Morgan,  Marcyliena H. What Are Speech Communities? Cambridge University Press, 2014.Salzmann,  Zdenek. Language, Culture, and Society: An Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology. Westview, 2004Saville-Troike, Muriel. The Ethnography of Communication: An Introduction, 3rd ed. Blackwell, 2003.

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