jueves, 31 de mayo de 2012

Sociolinguistics, Neurolinguistics & Stylistics

Language as Social Behavior= Sociolinguistics

       Sociolinguistics is a term including the aspects of linguistics applied toward the connections between language and society, and the way we use it in different social situations. It ranges from the study of the wide variety of dialects across a given region down to the analysis between the way men and women speak to one another. Sociolinguistics often shows us the humorous realities of human speech and how a dialect of a given language can often describe the age, sex, and social class of the speaker; it codes the social function of a language.
Language is one of the most powerful emblems of social behavior. And sociolinguistics has become an increasingly important and popular field of study, as certain cultures around the world expand their communication base and intergroup and interpersonal relations take on escalating significance.
The basic notion underlying sociolinguistics is quite simple: Language use symbolically represents fundamental dimensions of social behavior and human interaction. The notion is simple, but the ways in which language reflects behavior can often be complex and subtle. Furthermore, the relationship between language and society affects a wide range of encounters from broadly based international relations to narrowly defined interpersonal relationships. In considering language as a social institution, sociolinguists often use sociological techniques involving data from questionnaires and summary statistical data, along with information from direct observation.
A slightly different concern with language and society focuses more closely on the effect of particular kinds of social situations on language structure. For example, language contact studies focus on the origin and the linguistic composition of pidgin and creole languages. These special language varieties arise when speakers from mutually unintelligible language groups need a common language for communication. In examining language contact situations, it is also possible to examine not only the details of a particular language but also the social and linguistic details that show how bilingual speakers use each language and switch between them.
Also the study of language in its social context tells us quite a bit about how we organize our social relationships within a particular community. In approaching language as a social activity, it is possible to focus on discovering the specific patterns or social rules for conducting conversation and discourse. We may, for example, describe the rules for opening and closing a conversation, how to take conversational turns, or how to tell a story or joke.
It is also possible to examine how people manage their language in relation to their cultural backgrounds and their goals of interaction. Sociolinguists might investigate questions such as how mixed-gender conversations differ from single-gender conversations, how differential power relations manifest themselves in language forms, how caregivers let children know the ways in which language should be used, or how language change occurs and spreads to communities. To answer these questions related to language as social activity, sociolinguists often use ethnographic methods. That is, they attempt to gain an understanding of the values and viewpoints of a community in order to explain the behaviors and attitudes of its members.

It is a branch of linguistics dealing mainly with the biological basis of the relationship of the human language and brain. The issues investigated related with ir were analyzed already in the nineteenth century. The first attempts to account for the parts of brain responsible for the ability to produce speech were made on the basis of unfortunate accidents in which people suffered some damage to head and brain, thus enabling scientists to exclude the damaged brain parts from linguistic investigations if the injured remained capable of language production.
Since that time on the basis of posthumous analysis of brains of people with some language dysfunctions it has been determined that the left hemisphere of the brain plays a major role in language comprehension and production, and especially some of its areas that are more or less above the left ear.
The part known as Broca’s area or ‘anterior speech cortex’ and as it has been discovered it is responsible for speech production. Interestingly, damage made to the same spot on the right hemisphere of the brain does not cause any language-related problems, therefore only the part of the left hemisphere is connected with linguistic abilities.
Posterior speech cortex, or as it is usually described Wernicke’s area is responsible for speech comprehension. This fact has been stated after the examination of a group of subject who had enormous difficulties with the understanding of speech.
The largest part of the brain is the motor cortex and it is responsible for the muscular movements. The part of motor cortex that is close to the Broca’s area is responsible for the articulatory muscles of jaw, face, as well as tongue and larynx.
When all the above mentioned parts were described it was proposed that brain activity connected with the perception and production of language would follow certain patterns. Thus, it is claimed that speech is perceived by the Wernicke’s area, then the signal is transferred through accurate fasciculus to Broca’s area. Afterwards, the signal goes to the motor cortex to articulate the word.
However, such a sophisticated system sometimes fails us in everyday conversations when it is difficult to remember a well-known word. In situations like that speakers often claim that they have the word at the tip of the tongue. Studies show that in fact speakers can often tell how many syllables the word has, or what sound it begins with, and in some tests they produce similar words which led neurolinguists to believe that the word-storage may be organized on the basis of phonological information.
There are some other similar phenomena analyzed by neurolinguists, such as the slip of the tongue for example. The slip of the tongue is an unconsciously made error in which the (usually) initial sounds of a few words are interchanged. One other type of mistakes often made in conversations is the slip of the ear which can be described as hearing a word as a different word which might not have been said. It is said that such mistakes are in fact slips of the brain which is trying to process and organize the linguistic information. Moreover, neurolinguistics deals with various language disorders known as ‘aphasia’ which is impairment of language functions because of some brain damage leading to difficulties in either producing or understanding linguistic forms. There are different aphasias depending on the language impairment and the damaged part of brain. Thus Broca’s aphasia is characterized by a reduced amount of speech, slow pace of speaking and distorted articulation. Wernicke’s aphasia is characterized by quite fluent, yet incomprehensible speech and difficulties in finding appropriate words. Conduction aphasia is connected with damage to accurate fasciculus and it is connected with mispronouncing words, disrupted rhythm, large number of hesitations and pauses.

It is the study of the devices in languages (such as rhetorical figures and syntactical patterns) that are considered to produce expressive or literary style.
Style has been an object of study from ancient times. Aristotle, Cicero, Demetrius, and Quintilian treated style as the proper adornment of thought. In this view, which prevailed throughout the Renaissance period, devices of style can be catalogued. The essayist or orator is expected to frame his ideas with the help of model sentences and prescribed kinds of “figures” suitable to his mode of discourse. Modern stylistics uses the tools of formal linguistic analysis coupled with the methods
Stylistics can be by and large described as the study of style of language usage in different contexts, either linguistic, or situational. Yet, it seems that due to the complex history and variety of investigated issues of this study it is difficult to state precisely what stylistics is, and to mark clear boundaries between it and other branches of linguistics which deal with text analysis.
What has been the primary interest of stylistics for years is the analysis of the type, fluctuation, or the reason for choosing a given style as in any language a single thought can be expressed in a number of ways depending on connotations, or desired result that the message is to produce. Therefore, stylistics is concerned with the examination of grammar, lexis, semantics, as well as phonological properties and discursive devices. It might seem that the same issues are investigated by sociolinguistics, and indeed that is the case, however sociolinguistics analyses the above mentioned issues seen as dependent on the social class, gender, age, etc, while stylistics is more interested in the significance of function that the style fulfills.
Moreover, stylistics examines oral and written texts in order to determine crucial characteristic linguistic properties, structures and patterns influencing perception of the texts. Thus, it can be said that this branch of linguistics is related to discourse analysis, in particular critical discourse analysis, and pragmatics. Owing to the fact that at the beginning of the development of this study the major part of the stylistic investigation was concerned with the analysis of literary texts it is sometimes called literary linguistics, or literary stylistics. Nowadays, however, linguists study various kinds of texts, such as manuals, recipes, as well as novels and advertisements. It is vital to add here that none of the text types is discriminated and thought to be more important than others. In addition to that, in the recent years so called ‘media-discourses’ such as films, news reports, song lyrics and political speeches have all been within the scope of interest of stylistics.
Each text scrutinized by stylistics can be viewed from different angles and as fulfilling at least a few functions. Thus, it is said that texts have interpersonal function, ideational function and textual function. When describing a function several issues are taken into consideration. Therefore, interpersonal function is all about the relationship that the text is establishing with its recipients, the use of either personal or impersonal pronouns is analyzed, as well as the use of speech acts, together with the tone and mood of the statement. When describing the ideational function linguists are concerned with the means of representing the reality by the text, the way the participants are represented, as well as the arrangement of information in clauses and sentences. The textual function is the reference of sentences forwards and backwards which makes the text cohesive and coherent, but also other discursive devices such as ellipsis, repetition, and anaphora are studied. In addition to that the effectiveness of chosen stylistic properties of the texts are analyzed in order to determine their suitability to the perceived function, or contribution to overall interpretation.
Linguists dealing with a sub-branch of stylistics called pedagogical stylistics support the view that this field of study helps learners to develop better foreign language competence.

Walt Wolfram. Sociolinguistics. Linguistic Society of America.2012. Retrieved on May 22th, 2012 from < http://lsadc.org/info/ling-fields-socio.cfm>
Explore Linguistics. What is sociolonguistics?. Tuesday, February 25th, 1997. Retrieved on May 22th, 2012 from < http://logos.uoregon.edu/explore/socioling/>
Kamil Wiśniewski. Neurolinguistics. Aug. 12th, 2007. Retrieved on May 22th, 2012 from < http://www.tlumaczenia-angielski.info/linguistics/neurolinguistics.htm>
Brown K. (Editor) 2005. Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics – 2nd Edition. Oxford: Elsevier.


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