The relationship between language and social class has been a major concern in applied linguistics and in sociolinguistics, in the ethnography of communication, in language attitudes research. The patterns of social and stylistic stratification that emerged from early survey studies were remarkably consistent. Socioeconomic status affects a variety of mental and physical health outcomes, such as language development.
One example of how class affects language variation is evident in the New York City study by Labov. He displays the social classes in four classes: the lower working class, the upper working class, the lower middle class, and the upper middle class. He also displays the styles of speech in three styles, which are casual, careful conversation, and reading. Variation in language is an important topic in sociolinguistics, because it refers to social factors in society and how each factor plays a role in language varieties. Languages vary between ethnic groups, social situations, and specific locations. From Labov’s study, people can determine that variation is a characteristic of language that can be influenced by class, ethnicity, and gender. People notice these variations by interacting with people from different ethnic backgrounds and people with different social standings. According to his research, Labov realized that there are many ways of speaking, and each way of speaking is influenced by social factors in a society (Munzir).
Middle-class speakers used more standard variants than their working-class counterparts (Snell, 2014). In socially oriented communication, the social roles of speakers and listeners are the most important factor in speech behavior. At the same time, there is the following functional dependence: not only the role-playing situation determines the nature of the speech behavior of its participants, but also the selected language means are constructed, and confirm the social situation.
Middle class is a group of population characterized by a high material standard of living, sexual morality, and respect for property. It is a class a class occupying a position between the upper class and the lower class (Merriam Webster Dictionary).
Middle-class language is more popularly known as the language of educated people. With the preferable decision of socio-economically powerful portion of the society, a variety is considered as the standard and enough prestigious one but to be labeled as standard, it has to be written and go through some degree of regularization (Rahman, 2014). The middle class loves to use words that have achieved cliché status. The middle class, by nature both puritanical and terrified of public opinion, welcomed home because, to its dirty mind, house carried bad associations. The middles class will say cocktails where their betters will say drinks; purchase rather than buy, utilize rather than use (Mcintyre, 2016).
There is a set of distinct linguistic features associated with middle class, such as the use of /x/ in words such as loch; the distinction between /ʍ/ and /w/ in whine and wine; extensive use of glottal stop, especially in intervocalic position, such as in butter; dark in coda position, such as in feel; th-fronting or /f/ for /θ/ in think, among others. Middle-class speakers perform the diphthong compared, for example, with working-class informants who do the monophthong. It is true that for the word time, the working-class woman does the monophthong and the middle-class man does the diphthong; however, the opposite happens in quite, where she does the diphthong and he does the monophthong (Varas, 2016).
Hyper-correct pronunciation, pretentious expressions are typical for representatives of the middle class. The narrative speech genre, a narrative that includes orientation such determination of time, place, characters, development of events, assessment, and summarization as its phases, is realized, only in the speech of representatives of the middle class. The lower part of the middle class (clerks, some types of the workers) is characterized by replacing the narrative with a set of circumstances that are something like a description of the symptoms. For workers in general, it is typical to present the form of scenes, i.e. typical events without orientations and assessments, without generalizations and observations.
Standard English is used by many middle-class speakers and indicates their social class or educational background without obscuring ethnic identity in their speech. Using certain verbal techniques, speakers can contribute to the formation of one’s own image in the eyes of others, for example, to look more confident, more influential, and therefore more controlling the situation.
Mcintyre, J. (2016). It’s the middle-class linguistic morality. Retrieved November 3, 2019, from The Baltimore Sun: https://www.baltimoresun.com/opinion/columnists/mcintyre/bal-it-s-the-middle-class-linguistic-morality-20160507-story.html
Merriam Webster Dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved November 3, 2019, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/middle-class
Munzir, M. (n.d.). What is the relation between language and social class? Retrieved November 3, 2019, from https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-relation-between-language-and-social-class#
Rahman, A. (2014). The Influence of Social Classes on Language Variations: A Study on the people of Dhaka city.
Snell, J. (2014). Social class and language. Research Gate.
Varas, A. P. (2016). he Differences in Oral Speech by Working-class and Middle-class Speakers in Glasgow: A Case-study. Salamanca.
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