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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: August 2013

2 - Standard and dialect: social stratification as a factor of linguistic choice


The Standard language was the possession only of the well-born and the well-educated.

J. E. Dobson (1956)

Outline of the chapter

This chapter describes the social dimensions of dialects, demonstrating that choice of words, pronunciation and other linguistic features has been observed to reflect speakers’ social position in various speech communities. It then goes on to explain how dialectal and standard speech should be conceptualized for purposes of sociolinguistic investigation. These notions are always interrelated, but do not mean the same thing in all speech communities. The same holds true for the concept of social structure. Social stratification changes over time, and the factors determining class are not the same in all places. Only empirical research can show how social structure is reflected in linguistic variation. At the outset of every sociolinguistic study, it is accordingly necessary to determine the relevant parameters of social stratification and how standard and dialect relate to each other. Network analysis and accommodation theory are briefly introduced as analytic tools, which are particularly useful at a time of rapid social change and technology driven change in communications.

Juri, Tanabe (1936). Gengo shakaigaku [Sociology of Language]. Tokyo
Further reading
Chambers, Jack K. 1995. Sociolinguistic Theory. Oxford: Blackwell.
Kerswill, Paul. 2007. Socio-economic class. In Llamas, C. and Stockwell, P. (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Sociolinguistics. London: Routledge, 51–61. Offers a comprehensive overview of how social class has been conceptualized in sociolinguistics.
Labov, William. 1966. The Social Stratification of English in New York City. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics.
Milroy, Lesley and Milroy, James. 1992. Social networks and social class: toward an integrated sociolinguistic model. Language in Society 21: 1–26.
Trudgill, Peter. 2001. Sociolinguistic Variation and Change. Edinburgh University Press.
Wolfram, Walt. 1997. Dialect in society. In Coulmas, F. (ed.), The Handbook of Sociolinguistics. Oxford: Blackwell, 107–26.