What is Linguistic Diversity?
How Did We Find Linguistic Diversity?
The Link Between Context and Linguistic Diversity.
One of the participants said:
- “The only reason I speak English most of the time is because it’s the majority language here at Swarthmore and it’s more socially acceptable”.
We found this result to be very interesting because it gives us insight into finding the link between linguistic diversity and context. We can see through this participant's response that there are times where the situation and participants, as relating to Dell Hymes' model, change how people use language, further emphasizing that context alters linguistic diversity.
We also found that within text communication linguistic inequality was a non-issue. Most people who spoke two or more languages expressed that while they text their family in their native language, they texted everyone they knew on campus mainly in English. Some participants also expressed that if the person they were texting spoke the same language as them, the would often switch between languages when texting one another. Our results show that both across bilingualism and texting that context dictates the medium in which people choose to text one another.
What was most unique about our survey surrounding texting was the responses people gave when asked about using text expressions in a way that would contradict its common definition. For example, most people responded that they used “lol” to express agreement with someone rather than laughing at the contents, which is the conventional way to use the phrase. Having previously read on modality in our linguistics class we found it very interesting how the modality of texting changes the way language is used, even though participants are speaking the same language. This is also seen in American Sign Language (ASL) as well, given that ASL does not perfectly match up to spoken English but the same ideas can be conveyed through each modality (Language Files, 2011).
Participants even offered examples of syntactic slang they used that could come off as confusing. One of our responders expressed that they used ellipses to signal a change of topic in their conversation which when he showed us at first looked as if, in our opinion, that he was expressing awkwardness. In the survey, participants gave multiple examples of how they or their friends would express agreement using different phrases which have the same meaning. Such examples were: “alright bet”, “I’m down”, “ard bet”, “Sounds good”, “For sure man”, “trizz”. All these examples represent a positive confirmation simply expressed in different ways. The data we collected shows that linguistic diversity becomes more apparent in the communication through texting as people are exposed to new cultural slangs. We can also relate this to another study we read which analyzed the use of ASPs (sentence-final particles in Mandarin Chinese) in gendered linguistic practices. ASPs are commonly used to express emotion in linguistic and are most commonly used by women to express a sort of “cute” tone when speaking (Diao, 2014). This relates to our research because it allows for us to draw the connection between linguistic diversity, and a person's context-dependent choice of words to convey a certain meaning.
When we relate this to our survey surrounding bilingualism, our results show that people have a choice to decide between not only their language of communication, but also when it comes to their syntax, slang use, and word choice. One of the questions that was posed to participants was what language, their primary or secondary, they felt more comfortable using on campus. Four of the six bilingual students stated that they felt more comfortable speaking the language of their partner in a communicative event because they understood the slang their partners used better. This hints that language diversity is a constantly changing aspect of linguistics and supports that context is a large determinant of linguistic properties in speech and text.
What We Learned.
- Diao, W. (2014, October 9). Peer Socialization into Gendered L2 Mandarin Practices in Study Abroad Context: Talk in the Dorm. 590-620. Applied Linguistics.
- Hornberger, N. H. (1989). The Acquisition of Second Language Communicative Competence for One Speech Event in Puno, Peru. 214-230. Applied Linguistics.
- Linguistics Department at The Ohio State University . (2011). In Language Files (11 ed., pp. 24-29). Ohio State University Press.
About the Authors.
- Michael Haregot is majoring in economics and computer science at Swarthmore college. He is a sophomore who participates in community service.
- Ian Street is a economics and mathematics major at Swarthmore college. He is a current sophomore who volunteers at a local charter school and assists in tutoring students. He is also planning on studying abroad at the University of Glasgow during the fall semester of his junior year.