Monday, 4 January 2016

Linguistic Identification

This essay was written as a means of preparing for my year 12 linguistics examination. Language is a truly fascinating phenomenon and I hope you get something from it.

There are many factors that influence how people as individuals and groups are identified by others. One notable factor that influences individual and group identity is the use of language. In the words of linguist David Crystal, "Language shows that we belong. It acts as a sort of natural badge to signify public and private identity". This can be seen when researching occupants of recognised professions and when exchanging discourse with individuals in our day to day activities. This is a truly profound natural phenomenon that some people spend their lives researching.

It is clear when listening to the difference in speech patterns what decade speakers came from. Words such as 'groovy' and 'swell' were lexemes of positive connotations in the 1960s and 1970s. Words such as these are sometimes considered to be defining features of a generation. The youth of today however, show preference for using words like 'dope' and 'dank' to host the same meaning that cool carried for a long time an still carries today to and extent. When a listener hears words such as 'groovy' and 'swell', it can be assumed that they grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, or was influenced to a large extent by the popular culture of this era. In times to come, the popular words of today will be seen as the language of old people, especially by youth.

Jargon is a very common feature of language that signifies group boundaries. As stated by Robert on the 28th of July 2013, downloaded on the 4th of May 2015: "[C]communities tend to come up with their own vocabulary... Jargon serves to create a common identity among the members of the group. If you know the jargon you belong to the group, if you don't know it everybody will notice you don't belong to the group... In this sense, jargon is comparable to slang, which also serves to mark group boundaries". Evidence of Jargon (a set of lexical items associated with discrete occupations or social groups) being used to create an identity for a group is the Legal profession's unique use of language. Lawyers understand the language in which the law was written. To gain this understanding, they had to spend years at university studying the law and its respective lexicon to reach a level of adequate comprehension. This indicates the extent that some people go to obtain professional and prestigious careers to be part of a highly payed profession that is looked up to by many in society. Lawyers must be well acquainted with the specific terminology of the law and in what circumstances each phrase is to be used to their clients advantage. Knowing the jargon of the law will mean financial success is more attainable for its practitioners. Financial success may present higher employment opportunities that if engaged in, that may raise the practitioners position in the legal profession, resulting in a higher income. This is an example of how much language influences the lives of people.

Peoples phonological patternings and features such as accent also serve as natural markers to the sort of culture a group or individual is associated with. This especially applies with national accent. For example, Italian people who have immigrated to Australia will have to learn the English Language due to necessity. However, they will often retain many phonetic features that are distinctive of their native language. Many words in Italian end with a vowel sound and many words in English end with a strong, sharp consonant, such as 'bread'. Italian immigrants may add an additional vowel sound such as 'e' to the end of words such as 'bread', creating the interesting new lexical variant 'breade'. This is sometimes done to self differentiate ones self and retain elements of  ones heritage. This can also be a natural occurrence and will most likely be because the immigrant spent the majority of his or her life in their national community of origin. When Australian citizens phonological tendencies include the attachment vowels onto the the end of words ending with consonants, there is an underlying message that the speaker originally came from a Southern European nation such as Italy.

In sports such as the AFL (Australian Football League), nicknames are used to build and groom the rapport between team members. Building positive rapport between team members is essential for premiership success. For example, in the fast past game of Australian Rules Football, players often give each other nicknames that are either based on their actual names or their personality traits to increase efficiency of communication and/or to build strong/healthy rapport. Former Collingwood and West Coast player Damien Adkins was often referred as 'Chipper'. Language plays an important role in sports and is a largely unrecognised factor that contributes to success.

Individuals who immigrate to Australia may on occasion, feel out of place as the community they are integrating themselves into does not practice or value their culture and/or religion on a large scale. Immigrants may choose to change their names to make their personal identities feel more Australian. This lexical alteration is essentially a coping mechanism to aid the individual's integration into the new culture. It is not uncommon for this sort of action to generate negative responses in older generations in immigrant families, who may see the act as a 'slap on the face' to their heritage and a betrayal of their ethnic and national identity. This is a common conflict for immigrants caused by traditional views conflicting with the linguistic assimilation of an individual into a new society.

Language is an indication of our identity. It signifies our belonging in many realms of life. Such realms include the decades that culture had the most influence on how we express ourselves with language, our academic speciality, our ethnic backgrounds, how successful sport teams might be and how serious people can be when trying to integrate into new societies. Language is a truly fascinating phenomenon that never senses to amaze scholars across the globe.    

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