i love english language

words which show language variation

Posted in Uncategorized by aggslanguage on November 12, 2011



Eighteenth century grammarians promoted the use of a single past tense verb rather than several different forms for the same verb. This has led to ‘saw’ becoming the past tense form for ‘see’, and the others such as ‘seed’ are no longer used by speakers who want to appear educated. This drive to reduce variation has partly been due to a desire to eliminate what was seen as redundancy in language. This has led to variation being fairly unusual and therefore when it does exist it seems to attract the attention of analysts. Jenny Cheshire names this the idea of ‘one form, one meaning’.


Jenny Cheshire addresses the idea of ‘never’ functioning as a negative marker. She notes that the conventional analyses see ‘never’ as an indeterminate, equivalent to ‘not ever’. However ‘never’ cannot be seen as equivalent to ‘not ever’ in situations where the time reference is to a restricted period of time, as in ‘I never went out last night’, where ‘never’ could not be replaced by ‘not ever’. Cheshire is making the point that conventional analyses miss this point, and it breaks the idea of ‘one form, one meaning’. Instead Cheshire states that instead ‘never’ in this context is labelled as ‘non-standard’, even though it is frequently used in this way in educated speech and in writing.

you know

Fillers such as “you know” were once dismissed as simply fumbles, but after rigorous analyses of their use in interaction, it has been revealed that they have important and varied function. Jenny Cheshire is showing that ‘standard spoken English’ does not take fully into account all the functions of certain words or phrases, and can dismiss them simply as non-standard English. Jenny Cheshire claims that our ‘frameworks of analysis conform to the views of language that we have acquired during our education rather than to the variety of language that we produce during face-to-face interaction.

tag questions

Early studies assigned tag questions a single function of simply expressing speaker insecurity and the desire to get approval from others, however later more careful analyses revealed a range of meanings and functions. Jenny Cheshire claims that conventional analyses forces us to look for simply ‘one form, one meaning’ and this can cause us to overlook the typical features of spoken language, where meanings are usually pragmatically determined.


Jenny Cheshire notes that conventional frameworks of analyses have no way of accounting for words that are becoming grammaticalized, and the meaning of the word is therefore undergoing grammatical change. ‘Like’ is becoming a marker of reported speech and thought. Therefore grammatical analyses have no way of accounting for variation in general. This is also evident with ‘going to’, which is now being used as a future time marker. Jenny Cheshire observes that the people typically writing descriptions of language are ‘middle-aged’ academics who have spent many years immersed in language, and therefore this speech is perhaps not representative of the speech of the majority of educated speakers of English.


Jenny Cheshire claims that the one form, one meaning’ structure of Standard English grammarians has led to semantic and pragmatic functions of the word ‘that’ being seriously misunderstood. It has previously been assumed that the fundamental meaning of the word is a distal spatial one, in opposition to ‘this’. However this meaning is only correct when it is in implicit or explicit opposition with ‘this’. There are other frequent meanings, such as the ‘empathetic’ ‘that’ in examples like ‘how’s that throat?’ it also has meanings as a relative pronoun and as an intensifier. Therefore Cheshire is showing how it is possible to identity a more basic function of ‘that’ which has been obscured in previous analyses. In her article “Spoken Standard English” Jenny Cheshire addresses an issue she notes in regards to the definition of ‘standard English’. She states that the concept of spoken Standard English is problematic, but also that the grammatical structure of spoken English is not well understood. Cheshire observes the fact that our conventional descriptions of ‘standard English’ actually fit written English much better than they fit speech we produce, particularly because the situations we mostly speak in are informal ones.


In spontaneous speech, Jenny Cheshire observes that there is often incorrect agreement when ‘there’ is used, and she believes we should look for an explanation for this. If you take an approach orientated at spoken language then you would note that the structure regularly occurs, and could therefore look at how it relates to factors which are important to speakers. Cheshire states that a big factor is the presentation of information, because spontaneous language is produced in chunks of information rather than in perfect sentence structures. In speech there is a preference for clauses to have light subjects and for new information to be presented at the end of a clause. Therefore the irregular ‘there’ construction fits into this pattern, with the focused presentation of new information. The grammars of Standard English cannot account for this.

s suffix

In non-standard English an -s suffix on present tense verbs is frequently seen, for example in ‘I loves Elvis, he’s great.’ There is not in examples like this, agreement between the verb and the subject, but they appear to have functions in topic management and in turn-taking, and they seem to occur as unanalysed wholes. Jenny Cheshire believes that we do not discover a discourse function and its effect on variation unless we specifically set out to look for it. What is glibly dismissed by grammarians of Standard English as non-standard forms, are very often important features of spoken language which it relies on to work: spoken language and written language work in different ways, so we should expect them to have different rules, and not suppose that any variation from SE is simply non-standard and a regional or social variation.

wh-descriptive clause

Jenny Cheshire considers clauses which start with words like ‘when’ or ‘where’ or sometimes even ‘there’, and the function of them is as a bid for a topic to be discussed, and are frequently used by teenagers when recounting an event. They are used almost instead of saying ‘do you remember’. Cheshire believes the speaker is attempting to propose a topic and at the same time invite others to take it up, which is a feature of what she refers to as “Standard Spoken English” as opposed to the SE of grammarians which is based on the written variety only, thus not allowing for the fact that written and spoken grammars must necessarily differ. What has previously been discounted as non-standard regional or social variations, are very often accounted for by the difference between standard spoken and written varieties.


This contracted form was once used by both the upper and middle classes in English society, but is now only used by the lower classes. Jenny Cheshire cites the industrial revolution as playing a part in the emergence of a new middle class who were insecure of their social position and therefore looked to grammars for guidance in their linguistic behaviour. This heightened awareness of social status contributed to the idea of ‘politeness’ and that the ‘correct’ form of grammar was a mark of politeness and high status. She states that the concept of spoken Standard English is problematic, but also that the grammatical structure of spoken English is not well understood. Cheshire observes the fact that our conventional descriptions of ‘standard English’ actually fit written English much better than they fit speech we produce, particularly because the situations we mostly speak in are informal ones.


New Yorkers were read a list of 12 words one being ‘tune’. They were pronounced in a standard and non-standard way ‘tyoon’ and ‘toon’ the participants then had to decide which one they used. Overwhelming results reported that people think they speak more prestigiously than they actually do. It also showed that more men were more accurate in identifying how they speak than women. 94 men were accurate yet only 64 women were. Peter Trudgill’s research showed that working class men report more non-standard speech in their talking, non-standard speech is seen to have masculine, ‘hard’ connotations as do other aspects of the working class culture. Many men would prefer to be seen in this way. It is prestigious in its own way as it carries its own desirable masculine attributes.


…and other verbs ending in -ing, Peter Trudgill in his Norwich Study wanted to see whether the speaker dropped the final g and pronounced this as -in’. 100% of lower working class in reading passage style used non-standard speech and pronounced ‘walking’ without the standard suffix ‘ing’ on the end. Whereas 0% of the middle middle class used the non-standard speech in pronouncing this. The non standard ‘walkin’ was more prominent in men than in women through all of the social classes. However women reported more use of standard speech whereas men over reported their use of non-standard speech. Trudgill noted that only 9-12% of people in Britain actually use Standard English, which raises the question how many speakers think they speak SE and don’t.


Standard speech pronunciation includes all the syllables of the word “because”. The word is shortened in non-standard to ‘cos’ removing the prefix ‘be’ this is used more by men than women. It is also used more by the lower classes as it is more efficient and also is seen to have more connotations as being ‘hard’ and ‘masculine’. Peter Trudgill  found that working class men report more non standard speech in their talking, non-standard speech is seen to have masculine, ‘hard’ connotations as do other aspects of the working class culture. Many men would prefer to be seen in this way. It is prestigious in its own way as it carries its own desirable masculine attributes.


Pronouncing ‘Tuesday’ with [yu] is seen as more prestigious than [oo] as in ‘Toosday’. In Willima Labov’s research 29 female’s results showed them over reporting the more prestigious form, yet no men over reported. New York participants over reported themselves as using the standard form more than they under reported and only 7 people in total under reported. Peter Trudgill’s research showed that working class men report more non-standard speech in their talking, non-standard speech is seen to have masculine, ‘hard’ connotations as do other aspects of the working class culture. Many men would prefer to be seen in this way. It is prestigious in its own way as it carries its own desirable masculine attributes.


I talk horrible

Missing off the suffix ‘ly’ to the adverb ‘horrible’ makes this sentence grammatically incorrect according to the SE dialect. In Peter Trudgill’s experiment in Norwich an informant stated ‘I talk horrible’ but when really asked about why they do not change the way the speak if they are unhappy with it, they admitted that although they do not talk with standard speech they didn’t really want to change as it would be considered foolish and arrogant by their family and friends. Women report that they use more overt prestige Standard English than they actually do. This dishonesty is not deliberate and shows that they are subconsciously dissatisfied with the way they speak and would prefer to speak with a more standard form. ‘No conscious deceit plays a part in this process, most of the respondents seemed to perceive their own speech in terms of the norms at which they are aiming rather than the sound actually produced.’


In 1735, a British traveller in Georgia, Francis Moore described that America had taken the adjective of nautical and perhaps Dutch origin: bluff”, meaning ‘broad, flat and steep’, to use as a noun for a sort of river bank. This river bank hardly existed in England which is the reason why England originally had no name for it. This is an example of the vocabulary of American English expanding to meet the needs of today, where new words are needed to describe new things. This beneficial change is contradicting the statement that American English had a negative effect on the English language. John Algeo argues that ‘a language or anything else that does not change is dead’ – reinforcing that diversity in languages is necessary for the language to extend to new uses and new speakers, and to retain its popularity.


Americans generally retain the r-sound in the common noun ‘mother’, unlike British which has lost it. This could perhaps show a counterargument to presciptivists who believe American is corrupting the English language, as this is an example of the Americans pronouncing the word as it is truly spelt. John Algeo argues against the belief of some people that American English is running the English language – in terms of vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation. This prescriptivist attitude of people such as Francis Moore and Prince Charles, say that American English is a ‘barbarous language’ which is ‘very corrupting’. However, Algeo argues that ‘change is language is inevitable, just as it is in all others aspects of reality’ and that we should be open to innovation in the English language.


Americans retain a secondary stress on the penultimate syllable on words such as ‘secretary’. The British however have lost both the stress and often the vowel, reducing the word to three syllables, ‘secret’ry’. This British pronunciation is evidence supporting the ‘Damp Spoon Syndrome’ position of some prescriptivists as derisively labelled by Jean Aitchison: that this pronunciation is a sign of how language is becoming lazier. This supposed laziness could also be instanced by Guy Deutscher in his theory of language change which ascribes economy as opposed to laziness as a motive for language change. He stated in 2005 that this is ‘the tendency to save effort’.


The old use of the verb ‘to guess’ which meant ‘think’ or ‘suppose’ is still retained by the Americans. This is evidence to show America is not ‘self-confessed linguistic vandals’ as prescriptivists say, as they are retaining the origins of English words, which have had a semantic shift in Britain. John Algeo argues that ‘a language or anything else that does not change is dead’ – reinforcing that diversity in languages is necessary for the language to extend to new uses and new speakers, and to retain its popularity.


The past participle ‘gotten’ is used in American English still such as in the declarative sentence ‘I’ve gotten a cold’, where in Britain we would use ‘got’ such as in ‘I’ve got a cold’. However, in America they do still use both past particle forms, which shows clearly the flexibility of American English, going against the idea that American is corrupting the English language. John Algeo argues against the belief of some people that American English is running the English language – in terms of vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation. This prescriptivist attitude of people such as Francis Moore and Prince Charles, say that American English is a ‘barbarous language’ which is ‘very corrupting’. However, Algeo argues that ‘change is language is inevitable, just as it is in all others aspects of reality’ and that we should be open to innovation in the English language.


A recent British innovation in pronunciation is ‘conTROVersy’ where the stress is on the antepenult vowel, unlike American’s who pronounce it ‘CONtroversy’. This is because this British antepenult accent is unknown in America. That said, people in Britain thought at first that this pronunciation originated from the Americans due to the assumption that anything new is American, highlighting the dislike Britain’s have for the influence Americans have had on their language perhaps. This examples therefore shows that ‘both American and British have changed and go on changing today’ as John Algeo states.

we goes

the use of the present tense suffix with non 3rd person singular subjects is an indicator of vernacular loyalty as Jenny Cheshire found it was spoken less in a formal situation eg school, and people who are more strongly adhering to vernacular culture use it more than people who are less adhering. Jenny Cheshire found that the frequency with which adolescent speakers use many non-standard morphological and syntactic features of the variety of English spoken in the town of Reading in Berkshire is correlated with the extent to which they adhere to the norms of the vernacular culture.

not going nowhere

Multiple/double negative. Indicator of vernacular loyalty for boys as Jenny Cheshire found it was spoken less in a formal situation eg school, and people who are more strongly adhering to vernacular culture use it more than people who are less adhering. However both groups of girls (belonging to and not belonging to vernacular culture) use it at the same frequency. It overtly symbolises belonging to the vernacular culture as people who strongly adhere to the vernacular culture use it more. Jenny Cheshire found that speakers who are favourably disposed towards each other and who are working towards a common goal adjust their speech so that they each speak more like the other – linguistic accommodation – while speakers who are not working towards a common goal may diverge in their linguistic behaviour.


Ain’t used for negative present tense forms of be and have with all subjects. It overtly symbolises some of the important values of the vernacular culture, belonging and fitting in. Jenny Cheshire found that while it is an indicator of vernacular loyalty for girls, it doesn’t for boys. Girls who strongly adhere to the vernacular culture use it more than girls who are less adhering. Jenny Cheshire found that linguistic variables often fulfil different social and semantic functions for the speakers who use them. She notes that some features are markers of loyalty to the vernacular culture for adolescent boys but not for girls and vice versa, and that female speakers use non-standard speech forms less frequently than male speakers do.


Who am I speaking to? / To whom am I speaking? – is an example of a  well known ‘error’ in that a preposition (in this sentence, “to”) should never end a sentence. The nominative form of the relative pronoun “who” is also used rather than the oblique for “whom” which according to the standardisation of English should be used after a preposition. Lesley Milroy argues that the perception that this is an error came from the codification of the English language relatively recently in the history of language, whereby the need to have one form as ‘standard’ meant that other frequently used forms were cast as incorrect forming a prescription for grammar. This makes prescriptive arguments difficult as they can create problems such as the former of these two examples is normal in most contexts, whereas the latter will generally be interpreted as marking a social distance.

different to

in the sentences: “Martha’s two children are completely different to each other.” & “Martha’s two children are completely different from each other.” – Rather than “different to” the form “different from” should be used in this sentence according to the grammar of Standard English. However, there are arguments to support and oppose this rule. According to one writer, the reason for preferring “different from” is that “different to” is illogical, as nobody would say “similar from”. But others say that since “different to” falls into a set of words with comparative meanings such as similar, equal, superior, which require “to” there is reason to support this form. Lesley Milroy’s point is that where there is no reason for one form or the other, the Standard English form is no more than a convention – there can be no argument for many of the conventions of SE.

would could

Double modal constructions – ‘a good machine would could do it’ instead of ‘a machine would be able to do it’. These are mainly regional variations. There are some parts of speech that occur as part of spontaneous speech that would not be considered ‘standard English’ if written, as the grammatical rules do not apply. Jenny Cheshire argues that there are many examples of spoken English that would not be considered as standard written English, but that she believes are valid uses of the English language. Perhaps spoken Standard English should be broadened to include these. Where written Standard English only has one form, spoken English varies from region to region and generation to generation; Jenny Cheshire believes that this should be taken into consideration when looking at Spoken Standard English.

you was

Jenny Cheshire discovered that when speaking about minor criminal activity, those who agreed with it, those who were not against the crimes, tended to use grammatically incorrect structures: ‘you was with me, wasn’t you?’ and ‘I never went to school today’. This might suggest that lower class citizens (more likely to commit minor offences – statistically) speak less like standard written English than those who are more educated and higher class. Might suggest that it is a conscious choice to not speak Standard English in order to make oneself stand out more, be seen as more of the locality or class of people.

come down here yesterday

The use of present tense conjugation with time phrase rather than past tense e.g. ‘I come down here yesterday’ instead of ‘I came down here yesterday’. However you could not say ‘I come down here’ without a time phrase unless in context as there is no differentiation between the past and present tense so it would be ambiguous – ‘behaviour is influenced by our social background’ – shows that Jenny Cheshire believes that linguists should take into consideration people’s background, education, social status, wealth etc when making theories about language and variation. The national curriculum for English in England has highlighted that we know very little about spoken English and its differences to standard written English. It is mainly the grammatical structure of spoken English that is misunderstood. Jenny Cheshire explains that some of the theories used to describe spoken English may be biased because they are made by linguists who are exposed to lots of written English – therefore their speech will be influenced by written English more so than people who are not exposed to as much literature.


Saying “I was like don’t bother me” in an interview, despite excellent qualifications, will be detrimental to any application for a job. Language discrimination, based on such minor mistakes of spoken English will make a candidate with a London accent be rejected from interview. Sociolinguistics may argue that it is wrong to discriminate on the basis of linguistics grounds, just as it is wrong to discriminate on the basis of colour or race. James Milroy believes that “standardisation inhibits linguistic change and variability.” However, he thinks that it does not and cannot stop linguistic change from happening, no matter how slow the process, as standardisation “leaks.” Linguistic analysis tries to pinpoint the lexical and conversational functions of like and find out how it contributes to modern society and to our knowledge of changing use of English language. According to the prescriptivist, people must be stopped from speaking in this way as it is non-standard. However, it is a typical English for a certain age group in the UK.


In 1960, the spelling “all right” was required in textbooks. Changes have slowly been accepted over last 30 years as words have lexically compounded. “Alright” had been used in some cases before standard language accepted them. This is also the case with “all ready” or “already”. Because of notions of the “Queen’s language”, “the language of a great empire” and “a world language”, in the19th century, there was an additional powerful ideological influence on English language, and so a movement to establish and legitimise Standard English. So constructions such as “I saw” are deemed acceptable and “I seen” unacceptable. This shows successful standardisation in society and James Milroy describes this as “a high degree of uniformity of structure.” ‘Optional’ variation is suppressed and idealisations of standard languages are created. Competing ideologies occur due to vernacular maintenance opposing standard language speech.


Looking glass used for mirror and other such upper class forms of language that, with time, are merely viewed as quaint anachronisms, showing that language regarded as standard or mainstream is not necessarily the language spoken by those of the highest social class. Prestige language is therefore not identical in every respect with an ideal standard language and those with highest social prestige are not directly linked with their prestige of language. Indeed, stigmatised features of upper-class language have reflected features of lower-class language, shown through the dropping of g’s and h’s. James Milroy argues that this shows that it is very often stigma rather than prestige that connects society with language.


The American pronunciation of “John” can sound like “Jan” to a Scot and the Scottish pronunciation of “John” can sound like “Joan” to an American. This example shows how differences in vowels can make accents difficult to understand even to other English speakers. Professor David Abercrombie of Edinburgh said one of the “strands” of accent that what one must distinguish is the “short consonant and vowel sounds which alternate in rapid succession”, like in the “John” example, because these make one accent differ from another. John H. Esling argues that every individual has an accent even if they may think that they do not. Esling says accent is important because it shapes our character and communicates who we are. Accents can be used to tell where a person is from, what gender they may be, their age and even what occupation they have taken up. As well as having differences between accents in different areas, differences between individuals also exist. John H. Esling states we may also find it difficult to distinguish between accents of foreign speakers. However, if we are more exposed to that language, we can then work out which speech patterns are similar and which are different and work out how accents in that language differ depending on the part of the country they come from.


This is an example that supports Professor David Abercrombie’s “strands” of accent theory, that what one must distinguish is the “short consonant and vowel sounds which alternate in rapid succession”. It is the change in vowel pronunciation of the word “bacon” by Jamaicans as opposed to the Received Pronunciation of “bacon” which is distinctive. In the Jamaican accent, the word “Bacon” sounds more like the common pronunciation of “Beer Can”. The use of this pronunciation by Jamaicans distinguishes them from other people and so supports John H. Esling’s statement that “Accent defines and communicates who we are.” For example, if we were to hear somebody use this pronunciation on the radio, we would assume they were Jamaican.


John H. Esling says that although pronunciation varies between regions to give us the regional accents, we must also realise that we have individual accents. If we did not, we would not be able “to pick a friend’s voice out of the crowd.” Esling states that accent is not only relative to experience “but also to the number of speech features we wish to distinguish at one time.” One’s own accent will differ from their peers or colleagues but also from their own family. For example, Princess Anne was called “Enn” by her mother but she still pronounced her name as “Ann.” John H. Esling argues that most of us believe that the way we speak is the norm and that may be why we fail to recognise our own accent. We are aware of other accents when we meet people who do not speak in the same way as ourselves and by hearing different accents in the media. We may create a stereotype for a person with a particular accent – we listen and categorise according to what we have heard before.


John H. Esling argues that our accents can change and “we all leave parts of the speaking style of our early years behind, while we adopt new patterns more suited to our later years.” Dr Clive Upton’s work (he is a lecturer in English Language at the University of Leeds) supports what Esling says. His work shows that people speak different accents to their parents, change accents in their lifetimes, and speak differently for different audiences. One good example of somebody who changes their accent depending on who they are speaking to is Tony Blair – using the glottal stop in bottle instead of the “t” sound. Another example is of Edwina Currie (former MP in 1983) who changed her scouse accent so that she was more accepted socially. John H. Esling argues that our accents can change particularly as we grow older. How much they change depends usually on how much we choose to alter them and on social circumstance.


John H. Esling gives several reasons as to why a person’s accent may change. One of his reasons for accent change is wanting to adapt to your surroundings and blend in. He says, “If we were to leave our native place for an extended period, our perception that the new accents around were strange would only be temporary.” He says we would gradually change our accent “to accommodate our speech patterns to the new norm.” On the other hand, not all people want to change their accents and so keep their original accent to stand out from the crowd – this may be for overt or covert prestige reasons.  This supports what Martin Montgomery says in “An introduction to Language and Society” (1986) and he describes people who keep a more covert prestige accent as “working-class loyalty to non-prestige form”. He says that although people who do this recognise RP as having more overt prestige, they keep the “distinctive patterns of their own locality” in order to preserve their identity – such as “talkin” instead of “talking” as per Peter Trudgill’s study in Norwich.


The word ‘queue’ can also be pronounced in different ways using the pronunciation [kju] or [ku] it would be non Standard English to pronounce it as [ku] as RP would be [kju]. Peter Trudgill looked at a survey carried out in Norwich in 1974, correlating phonetic and phonological variables with social class, age and stylistic context. The relationship that obtain between linguistic phenomena and sex showed that women were more prone to be influenced by the overt prestige of the RP pronunciation, whilst men were more prone to be influenced by the covert prestige of the Non-RP pronunciation.


Is an aboriginal language word, which means ‘I cooked the wrong meat for them again’, which demonstrates the point of Nicholas Evans that just because a language has a different grammatical structure, it is not a lesser language and just as much meaning can be conveyed. The myth that “there’s no grammar in Aboriginal languages, that you can just chuck the words together in any order” is explained by the fact that, like Latin or Russian, most Aboriginal languages use word endings rather than word order to create meaning. So while it is true that words can be put in any order, it does not indicate a lack of grammar. Some Aboriginal languages work use such highly complex verbs able to express a complete sentence.


Nicholas Evans attempts to dispel the myth that “Aborigines speak a primitive language”. He writes that this myth constitutes a number of ‘sub-myths’ which are, that there is just one Aboriginal language, that Aboriginal languages have no grammar, that the vocabularies of Aboriginal languages are simple and lack detail or that they are cluttered with details and are unable to deal with abstraction, and that Aboriginal languages may be alright in the bush, but they can’t deal with the twentieth century. The preconception that the vocabulary is very limited in Aboriginal languages is addressed by explaining that in many lexical fields, Aboriginal languages are much more extensive than English. For example the word “Kalurlhlurlme” in the Aboriginal language “Kunwinjku” is used for “the hopping of an agile wallaby.” Kunwinjku has many different verbs to describe the different manners of hopping of various Macropods where other languages like English do not as they have not had the need.  As there is no equivalent in English, it could be said that in this case English is an inferior language.


There are cases in Aboriginal languages where there is no existing term in a language to cover new concepts, which contact with Europeans and late 20th Century technology has brought. However creating words from scratch to deal with new concepts is an unusual way of doing this in any language. Ray Harlow says that “Computers weren’t talked about in Old English; Modern English is the same as Old English, only later; it should follow that Modern English cannot be used to discuss computers. This is clearly absurd.” The three usual methods of developing terms for new concepts are: using existing words and compounding or affixation is used. (e.g. downsize), borrowing words from other languages (sputnik = fellow traveller in Russian), or extending the meanings of existing words (e.g. surfing the internet). An example of compounding in Kayadild, an Aboriginal language, would be the creation of a word for tobacco (wadubayiinda) by compounding wadu ‘smoke’ with bayii ‘to be bitten’. This logical compounding demonstrates the flexibility of any language and how it changes to suit needs of speakers.


The word for car, duljawinda literally means ‘ground-runner’. This is a logical compounding of two existing words to create a new word to fit the needs of the speaker. This is done frequently in German which is never called a primitive form of language.  For example the word for pollution in German is “umweltverschmutzung” which compounds the words “world” (umwelt) and “dirtiness” (verschmuzung) to create a logical new word to suit the needs of the speakers of the language. The myth that “Aborigines speak a primitive language” links in with the belief that some people hold, that some languages aren’t as good as others. Nicholas Evans argues that the Aboriginal languages have adapted to their needs and adapt to any other external changes, such as technological developments, just as effectively as any other language.


When borrowing words from different languages, often the pronunciation of the word can be changed to the point where the original source is not recognizable: the English word ‘hospital’ ends up as wijipitirli in Walpiri. Ray Harlow argues that the need to borrow words does not show flaws in languages, as borrowing words from other languages is a feature of all languages and shows the adaptability of Aborigine languages. This explains the point that Ray Harlow makes about the myth that some languages aren’t as good as others and he asks “good enough for what?” He states that languages have evolved over time to suit the needs of the speakers. For example the ability of languages like English or German to explain Nuclear physics, is often given as evidence of these languages superiority. However the ability to speak about nuclear physics was never an intrinsic part of the languages, but instead they have adapted to suit the need to talk about nuclear physics. Extending the meaning of existing words has also been a common solution in many aboriginal languages, which some people think are not as good as western or mainstream languages. For example in Kunwinjku, kun-denge means ‘foot’ as well as ‘wheel’.


The wide use of the German word “Schaden-Freude” is an example of borrowing in English where there is no English equivalent. Borrowing words from other languages is sometimes seen as a weakness in a language but, maintaining the flexibility to use words from other languages to express certain concepts is vital in maintaining the expressive ability of a language. Nicholas Evans attempts to dispel the myth that “Aborigines speak a primitive language”. He writes that this myth constitutes a number of ‘sub-myths’ which are, that there is just one Aboriginal language, that Aboriginal languages have no grammar, that the vocabularies of Aboriginal languages are simple and lack detail or that they are cluttered with details and are unable to deal with abstraction, and that Aboriginal languages may be alright in the bush, but they can’t deal with the twentieth century. English I only the language it is today through extensive borrowing and change – something any language can do. “Combinations of compounding and extension are a common way of dealing with novel concepts- when a text on nuclear physics has to be translated into an Aboriginal language such as Walipri, for example, a new compound verb was coined to mean ‘cause nuclear fission’ by using root meaning ‘hit’ and an element meaning ‘be scattered’. The fact that Walpiri can now be used to discuss central concepts of nuclear physics is clear testimony to the adaptability of Aboriginal languages.”


The long ‘a’ vowel- [a:] is used in the speech of Southern regions of England. It is a feature of RP, the Standard English, which, although not as popular as it once was, still encourages prejudice. Hearing someone speak with the long ‘a’ vowel in words like ‘grass’, ‘task’ and ‘past’ often makes people think that they are better educated than say a Northerner who would use the short vowel [a] in such words, when in fact the true case could be the exact opposite; it is simply that we have grown up to think of this as the superior form of speech. Dennis R. Preston looked at studies which asked people from different regions of the U.S. to rate the degree of ‘correctness’ of English spoken in the fifty states from 1- ‘worst English’ to 10- ‘best English’. In a study asking 150 Michigan respondents, the lowest ratings were given to the South and NYC. Michiganders also gave their own state a ranking in the ‘8’ range showing that they have ”linguistic security”, Also, when asked to label where they thought various dialect areas were, two of the three most drawn areas were the South and NYC. The South was also drawn most by people from South Carolina, NYC, Oregon and many more as well. The studies found, interestingly, that when answered by Southerners themselves (in Alabama), that they again list NYC as one of the ‘worst-speaking’ areas and, in contrast to the Michigan respondents, don’t rank their own area in the South as one of the best, instead giving it a middle-rank of 5. This shows they suffer from “linguistic insecurity”. In another study asking for rankings of ‘pleasantness’ of dialect rather than ‘correctness’, the Southerners conversely gave themselves the highest ranking and then ranked Northern areas like Michigan very low on ‘pleasantness’. The two things that the Michigan and Alabama respondents do agree on is that NYC is at the bottom of the scale for both ‘correctness’ and ‘pleasantness’.




Rhoticity and post-vocalic ‘r- pronouncing the ‘r’ in words after a vowel. In England this pronunciation is increasingly restricted to the West Country and the far South West and a small area of Lancashire to the north of Manchester, but it remains a feature of most Scottish and Irish accents. In England, this is a particular example of a dialect feature leading to stereotypes and prejudice and if you pronounce this ‘r’, being most likely from the West Country, people automatically assume you must live on a farm and are fairly uneducated. On a positive note, like how the NYC dialect was found to be the most unpleasant and how the Southern dialect was often found to be pleasant in the studies observed by Dennis R. Preston, this rhoticity in the accent of people from the West Country is often viewed to be pleasant and people assume such speakers are often happy and friendly.



‘Like’ insertion, the frequent use of the filler ‘like’ which carries no semantic meaning, is considered grammatically incorrect or non-standard i.e. it diverges from what is considered standard English and so is often viewed as inferior. It is thought to have originated within Estuary speech and American-English speech and spread throughout the UK. This is often portrayed as a feature of the speech of ‘youth’ and immediately draws prejudice towards them.




In Estuary speech particularly London suburbs like Hackney, the ‘th’ sound often becomes a ‘v’ (or even an ‘f’ sound in words like ‘think’). Dennis Preston looked at how people buy into the idea that some different regional dialects are more correct than others. He investigated how people stereotype others because of how they speak and how everyone judges different dialects according to what is considered ‘standard’ so that they believe that some regional varieties are superior. The ‘standard’ variety of speech is imposed by the higher-status group in society on others and becomes a status symbol, so that where the regional variations differ a lot from the ‘standard’, the people who speak it are considered inferior. He says that ‘a primary linguistic myth, one nearly universally attached to minorities, rural people and the less well educated, extends in the United States’ (where his study was conducted) ‘even to well-educated speakers of some regional varieties. That myth, of course is that some varieties of a language are not as good as others.’


Th-fronting refers to the pronunciation of the English “th” as “f” or “v”. When th-fronting is applied, /θ/ becomes /f/ (for example, three is pronounced as free) and /ð/ becomes /v/ (for example, bathe is pronounced as bave). Th-fronting occurs (in many cases historically independently) in Cockney and Estuary English, as well as in many foreign accents. The use of the labiodental fricatives [f] and [v] for the dental fricatives [θ] and [ð] is a well known feature of Cockney and was noted by Peter Trudgill as spreading through non-standard accents in England. Although th-fronting is found occasionally in the middle and upper (middle) class English accents as well, there is still a marked social difference between working and middle class speakers. This is because the phoneme /f/ in words like ‘think’ and ‘thumb’ is non-standard English and considered inferior to traditional RP therefore the upper and much of the middle classes are reluctant to pronounce it. Pronouncing ‘th’ in such a way is often stereotyped to uneducated, working class people and not considered ‘good’ speech. Popular TV shows like Eastenders and Only Fools and Horses have only served to reinforce this stereotype which is similar to the Southern American drawl stereotyping people as hillbillies as highlighted by Dennis Preston’s arguments on the prejudices which dominate our views on accents.


H dropping is a linguistic term used to describe the omission of initial /h/ in words like house, heat, and hangover in many dialects of English, such as Cockney and Estuary English.  This tendency to delete the initial <h> sound in words such as happy and house – first provoked comment in the eighteenth century and has been avoided by the middle classes. Such speech has also been popularised by programmes like Eastenders and Only Fools and Horses of which both feature working class characters and who, in the latter, are often made out to be quite stupid. Therefore a strong tendency to H-drop and generally ‘talk cockney’ immediately inspires negative judgement on people. Sometimes speakers prone to H-dropping consciously seek to avoid it in formal situations and end up inserting an [h] inappropriately, resulting in often caricatured pronunciations such as honest with the [h] intact, or statements such as what an orrible hexperience. This phenomenon is known as hypercorrection, and might explain the increasingly common pronunciation of the letter h (aitch) as if it were haitch. If someone is heard adding h’s where they are not meant to be pronounced, they are often mocked and people consider them inferior.




‘Nae’ ‘Dinnae’ ‘Cannae’ ‘I dinnae ken’- Standard Scottish English Vs Scots. Major regions in Scotland (e.g. Aberdeen, Ayrshire, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Fife, Inverness) have their own distinct accents and dialect words. In Edinburgh people are known for being of the upper classes and so have a dialect reflective of Standard Scottish English. However many Scottish people speak in what is called Scots and will tend to say “nae” for “not.” So, instead of the word “cannot,” the Scots would say “cannae.” Similarly, “do not” becomes “dinnae’. By the upper classes such as those more affluent and living in Edinburgh, saying ‘nae’ and speaking in Scots is viewed as inferior as it diverges from the standard English which is the overt prestige form and so, supposedly, indicates status. Such pronunciation is commonly heard in places like Glasgow, large and generally working class. This means that ‘nae’ and other lexis of the Scots dialect lead to people being wrongly perceived as working class, uneducated and in some cases as violent, like a drunken Scotsman.




The Vowel of foot appears in cup in the Midlands and North of England-The foot–strut split is the split of Middle English short /u/ into two distinct phonemes /ʊ/ (as in foot) and /ʌ/ (as in strut) that occurs in most varieties of English; the most notable exceptions being those of Northern England and the English Midlands. The first clear description of the split dates from 1644. The fact that the /ʊ/ sound of ‘put’, ‘could’ used in standard RP English is used for words like ‘strut’ and ‘cup’ too in regions of Northern England and the Midlands e.g. Manchester and Birmingham, rather than having split like speakers of standard English to pronounce the word ‘strut’ with a /ʌ/ sound shows a example of possible covert prestige. Although it is not considered standard and often by many, especially in Southern England, considered inferior, those who speak in such a way have diverged, looking to obtain covert prestige and hoping to distinguish and maintain their own separate identity like the native Martha’s Vineyard speakers observed by Labov.




Scouse is the name given to the accent and dialect found in Merseyside, England and most commonly linked with the city in that area, Liverpool. It is a very distinctive accent with many differences in pronunciation compared to nearby regions and cities like Manchester. Examples of this accent include the tendency to say the second person plural ‘you’ as ‘youz’, to vary the rising and falling of intonation a lot more than other Northern accents, and to realise the phoneme /k/ in all positions of a word except the beginning as /x/ or sometimes /kx/. The ‘Scouse’ or Liverpudlian accent is a very recognisable accent but not one that is often admired. Scouse is frequently ridiculed and it is satirised on TV programmes. Due to the fact that Liverpool is largely working to middle class, anyone who shows such features mentioned above in the way that they speak is subject to immediate judgement which is usually negative. Upper class RP speakers are especially wary of this accent.


The use of the non-standard come, as in “I come down here yesterday”, appears to depend on the gender of the speaker who is using it. It functions as a marker of vernacular culture for adolescents girls, but for the boys, it is used 100% of the time in their speech, no matter how much they adhere to the vernacular culture, and so is an invariant feature of their speech. However, both come and ain’t appear to act as markers as vernacular culture for the girls. Both features were used less by the girls who were classed as ‘good’ and for the girls who were deemed to have a similar vernacular identity to that of the boys, they were used almost 90% of the time.


The works of Cheshire in 1978 and Aitchison in 1981 suggest that the non-standardauxiliary do is undergoing a linguistic change away from an earlier dialect form and instead is moving more towards the standard English form. Of all the features examined, only the non-standard auxiliary do was used more often by the girls examined than the boys, however, this feature is undergoing linguistic change. All the other features are used less often by the girls, possibly because the girls who were observed did not form such structured peer groups as the boys, and so their vernacular culture was not as clearly defined.


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