Language and Ethnic Studies in Education

Some sociolinguists are chiefly interested in ethnic minority achievement in the classroom, exploring the role of language in educational success and failure. Others are principally worried about ethnic vernaculars, ethnic minority dialects, looking at the job of schools in esteeming, and supporting semantic assortments with insignificant institutional authenticity (Reyes, 2010). Furthermore, youth interactional works on utilizing instructive locales to observe the consistent doing and fixing of ethnic gatherings and limits through dialect utilization, is by far the foremost intriguing interests of most researchers.

Shah (2017) in her online article explicated that the importance of language in the society lies on the necessity for a convenient medium in communicating and conveying ideas, carrying of culture, and social contact. Sociolinguistics as we define it, is the study of the relationship between language and society which examines the societal influences and impacts of language (Reyes, 2010). Language and society in sociolinguistics’ perspective, share equivocal roles in molding and influencing an individual’s personality, emotionality, and mentality. To view the society, is to view language.

It implicates that language and society are intertwined and inseparable.

In the lens of sociolinguistics, class, ethnicity, and gender are three social factors which play significant roles in language variation. Munzir (2017) defined class as the structure of relationships between groups where people are classified based on their education, occupation, and income. Labov (1972) displayed the social classes in four classes: the lower working class, the upper working class, the lower middle class, and the upper middle class. Alongside, he also displayed the styles of speech in three styles: casual, careful conversation, and reading.

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Labov (1966) conducted a study in New York City which aimed to identify the influence of socioeconomic classes in the pronunciation of /r/ in the middle, and at the end of words. His study revealed that the pronunciation of (r) in New York City was stratified by class. Employees with higher socioeconomic status pronounced /r/ more frequently than those with lower socioeconomic status.

Labov’s (1996) study explicitly reflects the great influence of stratification in the production and use of language which in the present is discreetly recognized as the society embraces equity and equality.

In contrast to social stratification, which divides and unifies people along a series of horizontal axes on the basis of socioeconomic factors, ethnic identities divide and unify people along a series of vertical axes. Thus, ethnic groups, at least theoretically, cut across socioeconomic class differences, drawing members from all strata of the population (Peoples & Bailey, 2010). As ethnic groups develop their own language system which they have to learn and pass, marks an onset of language variation. Members of ethnic groups share certain ideologies and often, ethnic language variety, as manifested in difference of their lexicons from the standard variety, phonological differences, isolated grammatical features, and conversation style (Boekesteijn, 2015).

According to Boekesteijn (2015) a specific group changes or leaves out certain features of a Standard language variety, the group creates a different language variety that, in turn, can characterize an ethnicity. In his study, he characterizes the effects of gender and ethnicity on language use in a conversation. This study illustrated the effects of gender and ethnicity on language use and how social contexts affect the way people express their social identities with respect to their gender and ethnicity.

Waters (1990) stated that people commonly associate ethnicity with distinctions based on national origin, language, religion, food and other cultural markers, and link race to distinctions drawn from physical appearance, such as skin color, hair texture, eye shape and so on. There have been variety of researches across the world, international and local, concerning the relationship between ethnicity and language use; Asian Americans, Native Americans, Latinos and even here in the Philippines. This observation of rampant studies conducted on ethnicity and its relationship to language use gives the impression that in the history of linguistics, culture-related concern in linguistics are fully alive and interesting up to the present.

In the African context for example, Green (2002) emphasized that ‘African American English’ (AAE) is not limited to vernacular forms, but comprises multiple styles that vary according to class, region, gender, age, situation, formality, and so on. Others contested that AAE is derived from the dialects of English spoken by early British and other western European settlers in the United States (Poplack & Tagliamonte, 1989).

Scholars have also been concerned with whether AAE is converging with mainstream American English (MAE) and thus becoming more like MAE, or diverging from MAE and thus becoming even more different (Labov & Harris, 1986). Also, according to Reyes (2010), one of the important things to know about AAE is that it is a systematic variety with well-defined linguistic rules. In her pdf, stated there that even though they are the same American English still, it always have a difference how they deliver their expressions and thoughts. Some linguistic features of African American English is that the phonology and pronunciation (Rickford, 1996). AAE speaks “Lef” but MAE speaks “Left”, simplification of word-final constant clusters. Also, the realization of voiced TH as D or V like, AAE speaks “Den” but MAE speaks “Then”. It is characterized by its distinct syntax. The use of invariant be to express habitual aspect like, AAE “She be late” MAE “She is usually late”. The use of done to emphasize the completed nature of an action like, AAE “She done did it.” While MAE “She has already done it.”

“I might want to stress that there is to a great degree profitable research going ahead outside of what I investigate in this part advises our under- remaining of dialect and ethnicity in the Unified States and in different parts of the world.”

– Reyes (2010)

Some examples of international works that are focused on issues of language and ethnicity and the English language include research in New Zealand (Holmes, 1997), India (Kachru, 1983), South Africa (Mesthrie, 2002), Hong Kong (Lin, 1996), England (Hewitt, 1986) and the Philippines (Bautista, 1997), to name just a mere few.

Ethnographic methodologies are likewise massively essential for investigating issues of dialect and ethnicity among ethnic gatherings that don’t talk an unmistakable lingo or if nothing else one that is generally perceived (Reyes and Lo, 2009). A few difficulties looked by the ethnographic approach incorporate trouble in depicting discourse designs over extensive quantities of speakers and in delivering generalizable discoveries. In addition, there have been many studies that combine both quantitative and qualitative approaches to produce rich, detailed accounts of language and ethnicity in particular communities of practice (Alim, 2004 & Mendoza-Denton, 2008)

A few researchers in the field of sociolinguistics approach the investigation of dialect and ethnicity with a peculiarity focused model. This model empowers the grouping of ethnic vernaculars, enabling analysts to depict in close detail the phonetic highlights of unmistakable discourse assortments talked by specific ethnic gatherings. Other research has demonstrated that issues of dialect and ethnicity ought to be concerned with the peculiarity of ethnic assortments, as well as with the execution of different discourse styles in the development of ethnicity. Taking a more subjective, ethnographic methodology, a few sociolinguists investigate the manners by which speakers draw on highlights of ethnic vernaculars (regardless of whether genuine or envisioned) in the generation of personality. Much of this research emphasizes improvised aspects of language use, for example, codeswitching (Gumperz, 1982), stylization (Coupland, 2001) and the use of linguistic features associated with an ethnic other, which can be found in studies on language crossing (Rampton, 1995) and mocking (Hill, 1995). Several researchers in this tradition gather data in educational settings since youth interactional practices are particularly rich sites for witnessing this type of language play (Bailey, 2002).

According to George Bernard Shaw this oft-cited quote sums up a situation 100 or more years ago in which accent and dialect were tremendously important for the way people assessed each other socially. Your accent betrayed not just your regional origin, but also your social class. Victorian and early twentieth-century Britain was a society dominated by the effects of the Industrial Revolution of 100 years earlier, during which new industrial towns and cities had emerged and, with them, local urban dialects had developed out of the melting pot of people who had moved into the new urban areas to find work. These dialects were spoken by people who became the backbone of the industrial working class, while the language of the factory owners, teachers, clergymen and others with access to literacy was much closer to Standard English.

We explore two of the main social factors which influence the way we speak. Social class and ethnicity. Class and ethnicity (and of course gender and age) are large-scale factors serving to both differentiate and unite human beings. To take class first somebody might have a particular income and have a particular type of job. These are just two of the factors which will feed into a sociologist’s analysis of that person’s social rank or class. At the same time, a British person might be, for instance, of English, Welsh, Pakistani or Caribbean origin. This category is often loosely referred to as that person’s ethnicity. Unlike the case with class, there is no implicit hierarchy or ranking between ethnicities. As we will see, class and ethnicity are more complex and controversial than their portrayal in everyday discourse – that is, the way in which they are talked about in the media and the ways people generally think about them. We’ll be looking at how class and ethnicity shape the way we speak.

Speech differences based on ethnicity also exist, but in rather more subtle ways: people of any ethnicity can and do speak with a British regional accent, or indeed Received Pronunciation, in a way that reflects their social class. Yet there have always been ethnically-based ways of speaking. If, as many people do, we count the different UK nations as constituting ethnicities, then regional accents and dialects are in a sense also ethnic.

The first large-scale survey of language and social class was conducted in New York City by William Labov in the early 1960s (Labov 1966). Labov was interested in pronunciation features, not grammar or vocabulary, because he believed that pronunciation is a more fine-grained indicator of social differences. Partly this is due to the fact that individual vowels and consonants occur far more frequently in the low of speech than do particular grammatical constructions or words (indeed, we can’t say anything at all without them). Labov argued that it was important to obtain a representative sample of speakers from the town or city under investigation, in order to be sure of revealing any systematic relationships between the use of language and social factors, particularly class, gender and ethnicity. He also devised the sociolinguistic interview, incorporating sections where the interviewee will be as relaxed as possible and others where they are asked to read sentences and word lists, forcing them to pay attention to their speech as much as possible.

The key difference between ethnicity and social class is that a person’s social class is defined by his/her economic status whereas his/her ethnicity is decided by the ancestry of that person. Both these terms, ethnicity and social class, are related to social stratification. Each and every person in this world belongs to an ethnic group and to a social class. Ethnicity and social class are inherited at a person’s birth, but he/she can change his/her status when they grow up. Social class is mainly defined in relation to the economic status in a society and almost all the societies, there are upper class, middle class and lower class people. Ethnic identity of a person is recognized by his/her ancestry, culture or the group of a particular society to which h/she belongs, etc.

The study of sociolinguistics, ethnicity and language use is a relevant study across regions and context as it encompasses multiple factors of disciplines in linguistics. If aims will be met, studies in sociolinguistics can bring fresh perspectives, which can potentially answer questions and clear the ambiguities concerning about the inseparable dilemma between society and language. It is significantly important for language students to academically indulge on studies that are adequately flexible to accommodate various contexts to suffice the academic interest.

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Language and Ethnic Studies in Education. (2022, May 11). Retrieved from

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