Social Linguistics

According to the journal article, “Sociolinguistics is the study of language as a social and cultural phenomenon.”  Sociolinguists make a definite distinction between DESCRIPTIVE and PRESCRIPTIVE grammar. 

Descriptive grammar is more a type of informal language since it does not really focus on strict rules in different ways in the language of grammar and language. With this in mind, this type of grammar is generally use with writers and speakers in according to exactly the way a sentence is structure, the use of grammar, and not whether the words and sentences are structured correctly with meaning. Descriptive grammar is understood to be our natural language, regular speech. The nonstandard use of English can be stated in the example in casual chat. For example, two students are using slang while having a conversation that shows or gives away their social or cultural status. In other words, this is a good example because not every person may use the Standard English to which the conversation can be used to understand language.

On the other hand, prescriptive grammar is known as the proper English because a person must know the set of rules dealing with the structure and meaning of sentences and language. Linguists believe that prescriptive English have rules that define what is correct and incorrect.
Unlike descriptive grammar where you are able to use it at anytime in different settings, prescriptive grammar is the type of structure English (Standard English) that people should be using. If you think about it, this type of grammar is very similar to what is taught in schools. An example that shows how prescriptive grammar is used can be related to job interviews. This is a good reason because the people that will be hiring the applicant will be expecting the person to know important and correct grammar and not using slang or incorrect English. Also, importantly the dress code will give off the vibe about your job status or personality. With the use of prescriptive grammar and knowing that it should be used in job interviews or formal settings, it will help.

There is much debate currently going on in the Nashville area regarding the “English Only” debate. Historically, increased levels of immigration have given rise to concerns about English as an official language.  What traditionally has happened to the heritage language of first and second generation Americans?

I would have to say that the languages they are popular in the respective country should be on a societal scale and also those other languages that may not be known but are in this country. That is, have information and provide every language be given support in every aspect of life. Although English is the language of the United States, it is not official, but to continue to go on with the belief of the country being a melting pot of all cultures, we should not leave anyone out. There are so many languages, but every language that is spoken should be supported. You often see the different product manuals in different languages and in most cases every other thing in Spanish and then maybe French. I remember writing an essay in English 1010 about this issue and I forgot which side I had supported, but it may have been that English should be the official language (I still have a copy of the essay). Nevertheless, I guess the as this country advances, people will reflect on how the past was and how things are now; comparing and contrasting the way of life. Sometimes the heritage language may die out or be overlooked because of other popular languages. In some cases first and second generation Americans could lose their identity or feel as if they did because of how this country is advancing. They think their language is fading away and everyone is being Americanized and the trends are starting up and that they may be left behind.

Briefly describe your idiolect.  Where are you from?  What unique vocabulary do you use? 

I have lived here in Memphis now for a good handful of years; however, I am originally from St. Louis. I say that my idiolect is somewhat different than my peers and those in my age range. I will have to say that often time people may not understand what I am saying because I am talking at a rate to where I sometimes say words not fully or I have problems pronouncing certain words since I did to go speech classes in elementary. I guess the vocabulary I use may not be words or language people around my age may not use and use words such a “nifty” and “totally wicked.” Also my favorite word is “pragmatic” which may slip in conversations. Certainly, I my idiolect is could be distinctive different from others.

How is dialect different from accent? 

Dialect is different from accent because to do with the style of language of a person or group of people. It deals with the use of vocabulary, grammar, common words, and the way you speak. On the other hand, accent deals with the way someone pronounces words and the sound of their speaking. Accent (the way speech sounds from a particular person) helps to give someone their unique speaking tone or characteristics. Dialect is the way you deals with language and vocabulary; meaning whereas accent deal with sound and pronunciations.


  • Quite a range of issues you pick up on here. What you have to remember with prescriptive grammar is that it is completely arbitary. Indeed, the majority of our gramatical rules are based on the writings of Bishop Robert Lowth who decided that English should be like Latin.

    This doesn't work because English is a Germanic language (syntacticaly at least) so things like spliting the infinitive work in English because the infinitive is two words. In Latin it is only one, as such it canot be split.

    My idolect is mixed. I have a combined RP/West Country accent and a real prediliction towards using old fashioned words such as 'Huzzah' or 'Zounds'. 'Tiss merely a vanity I have developed because it amuses me.

    Interesing post.

  • Wow. Interesting post. I am definatly not that educated in the English language.

    But I do agree with you that we should ignore all languages but English.

    I think all languages should be acknowledged. They are all unique and special.

    I speak some Spanish and I would definatly say that Spanish, when spoken, is way more beautiful sounding than English.

    And way more exotic. Because I speak with a southern drawl which just stands to make me sound stupid. Even though it's just a part of who I am.

  • Excuss me, I meant, NOT ignore all other languages.

  • It's so cool to read this after I actually talked about it on a final exam I had :) I even mentioned it on a discussion at 20sb because some members were complaining about people's poor grammar and I just wanted them to realise there are just different approaches on "what is said" and "what ought to be said" :D