Monday, 4 January 2016

Linguistic Influences on Group and Individual Identities

This essay was written as part of my year 12 school assessed coursework for my linguistics class. The acctural assessed peice was hand written under test conditions. What you see below is a draft that I prepared in advance. Paragraphs were colour coded as to make it easer for myself to memorise he the basic structure and key points of my essay. Language is a fascinating phenomenon and I hope you get something out of this essay.

GENDER.        GENERATION.             JARGON.            PREJUDICE.            INTERNET.

The English language is widely spoken throughout the world today. It has become the world's dominant Lingua Franca and is spoken either as a first or second language in countries at every corner of the globe. As with any language, speakers of English use their own sociolects to signify group membership. Consequently, there are many social and personal factors that influence individual and group identities. Perhaps the most common method of changing identity is to alter the language of group and/or an individual's. Furthermore, individuals within social groups often use unique lexical choices to signify their own identities. People also commonly manipulate their use of the English language to suit different situations/social context.

Language has historically been subconsciously used as a natural badge to signify gender. Both women and men have historically been associated with stereotyped linguistic patterns. Males have a tendency to speak in ways that make them sound as if they speak with Broad Australian accents. Young/adolescent girls on the other hand have a tendency to finish their sentences with rising intonation. This is known to linguists informally as 'Uptalk'. It is theorised that people, notably females, implement 'Uptalk' of subtly adding an interrogative undertone to their declarative sentences. This communicates uncertainty and thus makes them come across as being non threatening/non-assertive. 'Uptalk' is another rapport building strategy. As Uptalk is used so commonly and consistently by females, males are generally considered to be gay when utilising the technique in question. Gay men do have a tendency to use Uptalk, however, this assumption is not correct for every single case. It is possible that this sort of stereotyping discourages males from using Uptalk. Males possibly avoid Uptalk and to avoid being stereotyped as being gay.

Linguistic difference between generations is a notable trend of the continuous changes in English. Furthermore, lexical variation is one of the most notable differences that signifies one's generational belonging. Specifically, if an individual uses slang, a listener can gain an idea of what generation the speaker belongs to. It can be assumed that there may be a high probability that if an individual whose lexical choice includes words such as 'swell' and 'groovy', the individual grew up in the 1960's or 1970's. The current generation of youth in Australia have notable tendencies to say words like 'dank' and 'dope' as updated lexical items to host the meaning that 'swell' and 'groovy' hosted for the generations of the 1960s and the meaning that 'cool' carried for a relatively extended period of time.

It is also worth detailing that the English language is commonly viewed in two notably different lights, normally depending on the generational belonging of each speaker. In other words, it can be said that the decade a speaker learns the English language as a child generally has a large influence on how they will view their language for the majority or remainder of their lives. For example, older speakers are often ones to take prescriptive approaches to language. Many older speakers commonly make sure that their use of language meets a set/crystallised, codified standard. This version of English is known as 'Standard English'. Younger speakers on the other hand tend to disregard Standard English in their day to day lives, tending to use the language in question however they see fit. This descriptive approach has resulted in rapid changes in the English language, occurring at rates never before seen. This is partially why English is evolving quicker than it ever has.

Jargon is another area that contributes to the diversity of the language in question in a very huge way. Lexical items considered to be Jargon are associated with discrete occupational groups such as airline pilots, musicians and linguists. Jargon can also refer to the use of specialised language to obscure meaning and exclude non-members. This phenomena has historically been evident in professions such as motor mechanics. However, as cars have been present for approximately one century now, the majority of the Australian population are generally more familiar with the terminology of cars. The semantic field of motorised travel had largely been been 'de-jargonised'. Most know what a clutch is, for example. However, practitioners of some occupations such as legal workers are constantly updating their professions specific terminology/jargon. This is done as a means of 'protecting the profession', meaning that if no one understands the language they use, the more likely people will call on their services to aid them in their meeting with the law. Jargon is sometimes used to preserve the demand on professions.

As with many phenomena, prejudice is another factor that associates itself with language.
This is because humans have a natural tendency to believe that one group's way of speaking is better than another, and linguistic forms then become a source of linguistic value judgements.
Based on the way people speak, listeners make judgement about the type of person the speaker is. These assumptions may be positive such as when one hears a speaker with a cultivated accent share discourse, or negative as when a speaker with a strong foreign accent to the listener shares discourse.

Speakers may be aware of this fact and thus alter their accent to create a desirable identity for themselves. The fact that this is not easily achieved in most instances indicates the determination immigrants have to fit into Australian society. In schools, male students have a perception that to be and sound intelligent is not masculine. For this reason many males choose to alter their accents to sound less intelligible and worsen their performance in their school subjects such as English. This is an example of how individual identities or even idiolects (individual dialects) in young people may come to be.

Some of the most prominent change in many languages is taking place on the Internet. The Internet is a place where many people interact, share ideas and create new trends. Social networking websites that have seen the most significant evolution in discourse include 'Facebook', 'Twitter' and 'Google plus'. Notably, standard social etiquette of politeness seem to have been disregarded by the majority of Internet users. This may be due to the fact that if one user insults another user in such a way that would never happen if the interlocutors were to speak in person, there is most often no consequence. Punishments are almost non-existent on the Internet. Many people feel that the Internet is a place where they can just say whatever they want without any consideration for the emotional wellbeing of others. The Internet is a linguistic melting pot where fascinating neologisms and syntactical patterning are created to support Internet personalities. It is also a linguistic rubbish tip where the lowest, most un-polite forms of linguistic expression can be found.

Whether it be consciously or not, individuals and groups have been altering their linguistic expressions to create their ideal persona. Language has been used as a natural badge to signify gender and generational belonging, to maintain society's dependence on certain professions and to pioneer new ways of expressing both spoken and written language. Such diversity in a language has been a large contributing factor as to why English is the lingua franca it is today.

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