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The principles of Labovs theory

Compare and contrast, making clear the strengths and weaknesses of both approaches, traditional dialectology and the quantitative approach pioneered by Labov. Refer to specific works in your answer. Before starting to answer the question i think that it would be interesting to know which are the principles of Labovs theory: we could say that for Labov language is heterogeneous,not only in structure but also in its use. Because of the principle of this theory , that is based in variations.

Labov and his followers were called Variationists. or them variation is not random or free, but is has a pattern that it is highly regular. These patterns cannot be understood without looking outside langue (the abstract, autonomous system of language) to parole (speech behavior) & to the social world at large. Variation analysis must then be at least socially realistic, if not socially constituted ,since language is inescapably a social phenomenon. To Variationists is central the definition and description of linguistic elements, these linguistic elements may be extracted from context and compared for analytical purposes.

Descriptions are to be (initially) rich and full rather than spare and idealized. For contemporary language, high- uality recorded natural data should be the norm; elicited, introspective, experimental, and attitudinal data are secondary; and these different data- types require different types of analysis or interpretation. Data from a range of styles are needed to establish limits and norms of speech behavior; while data from a range of different social speakers are needed to map social distribution.

A typical sequence for variationist analysis should be, first they establish which forms are alternate with one another , they delimit the environments in which this alternation occurs, and classify the factors ithin those environments exhaustively. After that they propose hypotheses for contextual factors which might constrain the variation. They compile a data set that allows for investigation and confirm the alternations and co-occurrences predicted by he hypothesis and finally they compare the frequencies or probabilities with which the different variants co-occur with the different factors.

Typically, place primary emphasis on internal linguistic factors, and only secondary importance on external social explanations After trying to define the Labovs method we should start considering the two approaches that we have to compare. e should starts with the one called traditional dialectology. The study of the dialects started more than a century ago. The first studies wanted to draw uo a linguistic atlas of the social distribution of different dialect forms.

Such research was motivated by the desire to counter a mainstream view in historical linguistics at the time that all sound changes were regular and exceptionless, with these they tried to show the widely distributions of dialect forms. ther tried to demonstrate that linguistic changes were often irregular and did not affect all words equally. Early dialectologists were particularly interested in exical variation that are different words used to refer to the same thing in different places .

The information collected for this dialect atlas has been an invaluable resource even to present-day dialectologists, providing a valuable snapshot of the variety of different dialect structures used at a particular point in time. For this research, they used a very special type of speaker. what they call NORMS. The subjects of this studies are rural non mobile males, they use a limited sample, using only one style of speech. they treat all elements as if categorical. in the 1960s with Labov there is rise of interest in urban dialects as object of study.

Talking about the history of this method we could say that from the beginning of the 19 th century dialectologists have been working systematically on regional variation in language. Employing paper and pencil, and later tape recorders, researchers recorded differences in pronunciation, grammatical construction, and lexicon in the speech of rural inhabitants. Often, after decades of research, a monumental publication was produced which contained hundreds of dialect maps on which lines (called isoglosses) indicated the geographical limits of words, grammatical structures, and ounds.

Dialectologists employ two major techniques of data collecting, both of which involve ‘direct probes’ to elicit dialect forms. Some of the earlier dialectologists used postal questionnaires mailed to selected individuals (eg, teachers); others used the ‘on the spot phonetic transcription’ method, by travelling from one rural community to another to collect information. The questionnaires were very detailed. Earlier research tended to focus on a few older (mostly male) speakers who lived all of their lives in the community in which they were born.

The justification for this research ttitude was the belief that these speakers had the purest, most vernacular speech. However, because these speakers were living in rural areas, language use in urban centres was typically not considered. Another important feature of early dialectology was its theoretically biased approach. Dialectologists believed that through detailed documentation of the regional speech of older speakers living in isolated areas it was possible to show irregularity in language change, thus refuting the then popular hypothesis concerning the regularity of sound change.

By the early 20 th century, ialect research had shifted from a diachronic to a synchronic focus. It has become concerned with the distribution and variation of certain lexical or phonological items in population centres, rural and urban alike. While the social background of the various dialect forms was also taken into consideration, this was only of secondary importance . With increasing mobility and urbanisation, more complex dialectology methods have been devised.

The Linguistic Atlas of the United States, for example, includes all population centres and represents individuals of different ages of three ocial types based on their social and educational backgrounds (Kurath, 1972). A major shift in research techniques occurred with the publication of Labovs work on English in New York City (1966). His description of urban speech was based on a study of 88 individuals from a socially stratified random sample, consisting of male and female speakers from three age groups and four social classes (identified on the basis of education, occupation, and income).

Labov showed that variation in the speech of the individual was a reflection of variation in the social group by illustrating ow the most extreme case of stylistic variation in the use of /r/ by a single speaker was in conformity with the overall pattern exemplified in group scores of the different social classes. Labov developed the sociolinguistic interview, the corner-stone of sociolinguistic research today. The sociolinguistic interview aims at eliciting linguistic data in different speech contexts.

It comprises an informal part for eliciting vernacular or local use, and a formal part to elicit various degrees of formal or standard language use. Labov (1966) identified nine contextual styles from casual to formal, nd associated all nine types with channel cues. For example, by initiating a topic such as childhood games or traumatic life-threatening events the interviewer may achieve changes in the speech of the interviewee resulting in a less formal style, approximating or arriving at the desired more natural, vernacular speaking mode.

Although interview techniques in sociolinguistic research are acknowledged to be an effective tool for collecting sociolinguistic data, their limitations must also be recognised. Some types of linguistic variants are difficult or even impossible to collect by using the ethod of the sociolinguistic interview. For example, because certain vernacular forms may occur only in peer conversation, even minimal pair tests fail to elicit the forms the researcher may need to study in order to resolve an important theoretical question .

An illustration of this is the study of the hypothesised merger of two vowels in Belfast inner-city speech where the distinction between the vowel of meet and meat is retained only in spontaneous conversation (described in Milroy & Harris, 1980). In-person and telephone polling techniques have also been widely used in ociolinguistic research (Labov, 1984; Milroy, 1987, p. 73). Telsur is a large-scale telephone survey of speakers from all major urban centres in the United States and Canada (Ash, nd; Boberg, 2000, p. 9).

The number of speakers per centre varies with population size, but in all cases at least one female between 20-40 years of age was included. The telephone survey has been used to create a dialect map of the USA and Canada which is scheduled to appear later this year (Labov, Ash & Boberg, forthcoming). This survey allows the researcher to record actual sounds, rather than written representations of them. The data has been analysed both impressionistically by listening to the tapes, and acoustically by focussing on the formant frequencies of the vowels.

After talking about the traditional approach now we are going to talk about quantitative approach : As Labov (1992) puts it: “… speakers use different forms to express the same meaning. ” Over the last three decades, variationists have assembled a huge body of literature documenting innumerable cases of variability and describing its empirical properties. Most significantly, the work of variationists has demonstrated a deep and inherent relationship between variability and linguistic change.

In order to illustrate the empirical facts of variability for syntactic theorists, this presents a particular example of syntactic variability. The example comes from a moribund US English dialect spoken by the inhabitants of Smith Island, MD, a small and isolated cluster of islands in the Chesapeake Bay. Ongoing investigation of this dialect has documented several distinct instances of phonological, morphological, and syntactic variability (e. g. Schilling-Estes and Wolfram 1999; Schilling- Estes 2000).

Quantitative analysis of this variability has revealed that the dialect is currently undergoing exceptionally rapid change, nearly omplete. We could also say that thi method has a few limitations , for instance, it can involve a “quick fix, that is little contact with the people or the field”. Also, the statistical analysis could be based on variables that are arbitrarily defined, The pursuit of “measurable phenomena can mean that values taht were not noticeable enter the research.

By using concepts such as “deliquency” or “intelligence” in an uncritical way and finally because the fact speculation about th meaning os statistical analysis could involve some sort of “common sense”, something that science always try to avoid. A purely statistical approach to research can result in the generation of further, increasingly trivial hypotheses from existing data Traditional dialectology has also some voices against it for so many reason. from the 60s onward, however, many people began to voice serious criticisms of the way dialectological data were being collected .

In almost all cases, long questionnaires were used, with survey workers asking usually non-mobile, old, rural men (NORMs) to respond, usually with one-word answers, to questions such as: ‘You sweeten tea with..? ‘ and ‘What o you say to a caller at the door if you want him to enter? ‘ The answers to the questions were then transcribed phonetically . The critics argued, firstly, that dialectology should not just be interested in the very small proportion of the population who were old, rural and male, but also include the young, women and those living in towns and cities. this could be one of the main problem of this method.

If you only used this type of people to do the survey you could find that yo have only checked less than have of the socuery, without taking care of the other part of it, women. hildren and also males that live in the city. Secondly, they argued that one-word answers to questionnaires were too divorced from everyday language to provide a really accurate account of how people used language . Some critics suggested that dialectology should study continuous and relaxed conversation which not only would provide examples of more everyday language but also highlight variability within the speech of the individual.

So whit this “prefiexed” dialoguesw could cennter in ht we would like to study but it is not a real conversaction so the speaker behavior about it could be ifferent. With the quantitative approach. differential distribution of use of a given variable across different age groups might not be clearly seen because it may not represent anychange in the variety of a particular speech community, and instead might represent a pattern typical of age grading, repeated generation after generation.

Adolescents and young people in a given speech community will employ, if they are observed, different “atigmatised” forms with much more unselfconscious freedom than for example middle aged speakers. However, the question to be addressed here is, whether we an simply note the distribution of linguistic variables in different age groups, from young to old, in a given community, observing them at the same instant or the same synchronic point of time and then on that basis alone deduce that there is a linguistic change in progress in the speech community.

In this point, my answer would be no.. i think it is necessary more than just a mere “prefixed” conversation and more than just a look at the whole to comunity to see how it is developing and how the language has change, and the most important thing , from my pont of view, how the language will change.

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