Tuesday, 3 December 2013

On sociolinguistics

Looking back at my blog and it's been a while since I've posted anything. So, I thought I'd pick up the laptop and start writing.

The past year has been an extremely busy one for myself: in terms of my educational development, linguistic development and overall personal development. But, this busy year has allowed my passion for linguistics to extend to an all time high.

I seem to have become obsessed with sociolinguistics. You may ask, "what is sociolinguistics?" Sociolinguistics focuses on how language is used within societies. Everyday, I walk into Vauxhall train station and my colleagues greet me saying, "Hi, Josh"; I walk into work and the pupils greet me, "hello, Sir"; I walk home to hear my mother say, "good evening, Son". The way we use language fascinates me. We greet people according to a number of factors, namely: status, solidarity and formality. My daily exposure to a number of varieties has allowed me to gain an understanding of how language works: it is an extremely powerful social tool.

For that reason, I've attached the following link below, and should think that it may be useful to all those interested in studying sociolinguistics:


Wednesday, 22 February 2012

SLA: Parle francais? No!! I speak English.

If I got a pound for every time someone asked me if I could speak another language, I wouldn't have to go to work this month - I'd be rich. It seems bilingualism is an endemic phenomenon; everyone in the 21st century speaks another language - except from me. Fortunately, however, I studied Second Language Acquisiton as a module for my degree last semester; giving me an insight into what makes a good language learner.

The myth has it that to learn Latin you need to be intelligent - but is this true?

According to many researchers, this is nothing but an anecdote. Intelligence doesn't directly influence SLA, but it has proved beneficial for those who love metalanguage. It seems that there's more to language failure, than not being smart, and these individual differences are displayed in the image to the right.

Notably, however, the only individual factor that this image excludes - and in my eyes, the most important factor - is age. Age is a major contributor to how successful a second language learner will be. All infants acquiring their first language do it perfectly: so why is the disaster rate so high in adults? Noam Chomsky hypothesized a critical period for language acquisition. After these periods, it is either difficult or impossible to learn a language; the cut off age for this period is around the teenage years. When first taught this, my ignorance led me to question: why were most of us taught to learn a second language in secondary school? Wouldn't it be better to simply teach us the language from as young as possible; maybe as early as primay school, before we've passed these critical periods?

Well, the problem here is that the infants would need a lot of comprehensible input, (according to Krashen, that's all adults need to acquire a language as well; but we'll get onto this topic later) and a lot of French teachers to teach the children, which would be extremely expensive - considering training and paying them. It seems that the only answer for modern society is to start language learning from secondary school; even if the children have a slight, if not full, metalinguistic awareness of the language. Notably, however, there have been a few instances where people were able to learn a language after the critcal period; and all seem to have one thing in common, a remarkable memory. Maybe in the future we'll evolve memories capable of allowing us to learn a second language at any stage of our lives; but until then I'm going to have to keep trying to learn French using grammar translation and my Rosetta Stone CD.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Text Language: "Does text messaging affect literacy rates?"

With 5.9 billion mobile phone subscribers, it is not surprising that 2.5 billion text messages were sent each day in the USA alone.(2009) However, as well as pschological effects, texting must also have an effect on literacy rates.

The contested question continues: does text language hinder literary rates? Most would say yes; but according to the literary trust, texting actually boosts literacy among students. Click HERE for the full article.

Thursday, 3 November 2011


'Fucked', 'spliff', 'yute', 'fam', what do all these words have in common? Well, apart from some words to descibe a crazy night out at Oceana Kingston, they're all colloquial terms. I have a descriptivist view on language change and the terms appear to be creative and play a vital part in the youth sociolects, helping them to express their ideas in greater clarity. But once these words come into the university lecture room and you're sitting beside a guy shouting out to the lecturer: "nah fam, sir got gassed!"- it then becomes an issue. Standard English is a vital way for different dialects to be able to communicate with one another. The introduction of new lexical innovations is not what we need to watch out for; the introduction of these terms into formal situations is. I've often heard peers say they'll code-switch when placed in a situation where it's needed, but trying to consciously focus on whether you're saying 'man', 'blud', or 'fam' at the end of every sentence; whilst in an interview can deter your performance and one slip up of the word could render the whole interview pointless. Youth's are stereotyped enough as it is nowadays, (especially after the riots, with Nick running back to Kennington with piles of Marks & Spencers clothes) we need to reiterate our chances of future employment, not hinder them! In Jamaica, children who swear a lot are forced to wash their mouth out with soap, but for some reason I'm not sure if this will work with the modern youth. Think before you talk, your words are precious!