Sociolinguistics in English Language Teaching (ELT): Linguistic Marketplace

The world is changing gradually, yet at the same time how we live is evolving as well. These days, we live in a globalized era in which each country becomes more borderless. In the previous post, Sociolinguistics in English Language Teaching (ELT): Language, Dialect and Accent, I wrote about the difference between a local dialect and a non-local dialect (language). So, you might come up with a critical question like "What is the cause of a local dialect can be standardized to a non-local dialect (language)?". Well, the topic I am going to explain in this post perfectly suits the question i.e "Linguistic Marketplace". Linguistic marketplace is defined as how language is used in the give-and-take of social interaction. As the fact that language is not just a neutral means of communication. However, some uses are extremely valued and others are not (Wardhaugh, 2015). Besides, Zhichang (2009) explains that language has some values as follows:

  1. Functional value (e.g. we use it to communicate)
  2. An exchange value (e.g. certain languages are more commonly used, and people therefore make an investment in learning these languages)
  3. A symbolic value (we speak and write properly to show that we are well-educated)
  4. A sign value (we learn and speak English as a lingua franca as a sign and a means of gaining access to a wider community)

    Gal (1978, 1979) conducted a seminal study which focuses on how people who live in Oberwart shifted from the state of bilingualism i.e. German and Hungarian, until they use only German with the woman as the forefront of the change. At the time of his study, german was more accepted as the language of social status and social opportunity rather than Hungarian which was perceived as symbolic of peasant status and most young people do not want to have a peasant status. They prioritize German use only in which ended up in language shifting to German in this region. Moreover, the peasant men most of them who live there worked as farmers, but surely they must learn German at the end because the wanted to get married the peasant women who at that time preferred to marry non-peasant men, german-speaking workers as spouses. So, we can see how language can shift because women here as the forefront of the alteration.

    We can also see that the abovementioned example is one form of linguistic marketplace. The motivation of language shifting can be various, It can be trying to be like a higher social group or less like a lower one, marking ourselves off from outsiders, achieving a feeling of ‘solidarity’ with others or reacting to the pressures of the "Linguistic Marketplace". 
    Another interesting case is the use of Received Pronunciation (RP) in England. Well, it happens only in one dialect, but they accepted the accent as the prestigious thing that they need to use to mark themselves that they are in a higher social group. Remember that when we use a language or dialect, we're also dealing with accent as well. So, we can see how complex language in terms of linguistic marketplace. It's not only dealing from one language to another language, but it also can happen in only language. In the next post, I will talk about identity in a language we use and it is also a form of linguistic marketplace as well.

    All in all, some pedagogical implications we can obtain here is we as the language learners/teachers have to consider that the language we speak will contribute to our professionality. You can imagine how many people nowadays want to speak English for the sake of their future career. In short, the way we choose which language we want to learn/choose/prioritize, we involve already in the linguistic marketplace. That is the reason why we have the standardized dialect, one of the reasons is because of linguistic marketplace, the people decide to standardize the language. Again, in the previous post, I wrote that the Arabic language has a variety of dialects, but they have the standardized one called MSA for the purpose of communication which connects the Arab World. It often help the people listen to Arabic news, at school and even at work.

    Gal, S. (1978). Peasant Men Can’t Find Wives: Language Change and Sex Roles in a Bilingual Community. Language in Society 7: 1–16.

    Gal, S. (1979). Language Shift: Social Determinants of Linguistic Change in Bilingual Austria. New York: Academic Press.

    Wardhaugh, R., & Fuller, J. M. (2015). An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. Language Variation and Change, 28.

    Zhichang, X. (2009). Linguistic, cultural and identity issues in Englishization of Putonghua

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