Attitude towards Language

From Mod Mania


We all use language to communicate, convey, and express ourselves as individuals. Within the systems of English language we have features such as phonetic (systems of sounds in a particular language), morphologic (the study of how words are formed), semantics (meaning within language) and syntax (how words are formed to make sense grammatically, and other features which influence the continual and gradual change of language. Our choices of language mark our identity as individuals and make us part of our communities and the world we live in. Our English choice is based on the context that we are in, for this to work successfully we have to uphold the Principle of Appropriateness. E.g. for valentine day you have to give red roses to your wife instead of lilies because lilies are more appropriate for funerals. The principle of appropriateness can be sustained if we know the context and the mode being used. Context can be defined if we know our audience, the function and the use of mode. Therefore when analysing not only grammatical relation between words, but also the way we think about our sentence structure, how clear it turns out to be. We also have other factors such as words does not only have one meaning, it is ambiguous and has many meaning due to different variety of language and context (meaning is not fixed, dictionary terms might be known to be the standard but they possibly may not reflect our value in life).

Language is always in a state of flux, it is ambiguous and arbitrary, it modifies itself to suit each century it survives in (due to historical changes, language also change). Language has no proper fixed meaning; it is just a system of signs, which we can all understand for the present purpose, there is no inherent link between the word and the thing they refer to. The organization of words can made up clauses and phrases however this is still arbitrary; we may speak about grammar rules, it basically signify a codification of what actually happens in the language however it does not explain or justify what happens. We follow the conventions of the language we are born with enabling us to understand each other, but we should still keep in mind that all connections between signs and meaning are arbitrary. It is this arbitrary nature of language which allows all speakers to have various attitudes towards particular words, usages and varieties. E.g. Taboo words are kept out of formal social situations by employing the use of euphemisms; instead of saying “I’m always wasting time” you say “I’m just a great procrastinator”. These words are avoided so the idea it represents can be omitted. Additionally, social factors such as age, gender and social class may dictate what perhaps is considered appropriate. E.g. a young person may say “piss off” whereas an older person may say “can you please go away”. Therefore the context and the user of the language are important factors when upholding the principle of appropriateness, and language change.

Context is the most fundamental factor as it is the setting of which speech take place. For example you would wear different clothing to a wedding to what you would wear to a football match. In the same way, you change your language expression depending on the social situation and the location. Therefore to uphold the Principle of Appropriate the field, mode, and manner of the register you must match with the audience view on things and its context.

Related to context and function are domain and mode. The domain is the area topic of the communication, such as politics, advertising, law, family, education, religion. The same vocabulary can have different meaning in different domains, E.g. pot and grass (an illegal drug or your lawn). Mode refers to the way communication is accomplished. The three basic modes of human communication are speaking, writing and signing (paralinguistics, body language). The spoken mode is one of the first modes we all adopt as babies and grow up with, our first utterance consist of pitch, stress and rhythm (prosodic feature); in the spoken mode we can be as formal or informal as we want depending on context. However in the written mode we always use Standard English therefore it is usually formal, but due to change in technology, we ourselves have mod Standard written English into an informal discourse. For example chat rooms or MSN, written discourse can be known as an informal conversation just with words, without any utterances.

Domain and register varies due to context and there are two main types of variation: use related and user related. Use- related refers to the way language varies due to context, and user-related refers to three distinct variation; they are regional, social and personal variation. Regional variation is the way a particular geographic location might sound or have different view on things compared to another region. E.g. The different accent that we have when compared to the Americans. Social variations are the differences associated with groups of people which have similar/different value on things (which could course solidarity, to avoid this we always look for context where we could fit in or to change our values to fit into the context). Personal variation is a variation by which we all stand by as individuals; that is what makes us unique.

Since Australia was discovered by the British, our language has changed very little over time; however it has somehow shifted to suit our social context and daily life (the Australian slang and twang; our laid back attitude towards everything). Since convicts spoke their own regional dialects, Australia became a country full of different English dialects. The dominant dialect was the London Dialect, since it was used as the basic for standard written English, for instance, it affected spelling that was used by printers and the makers of dictionaries. Modern English can be so strict to the point where we all complain that people cannot spell properly. Our Attitudes towards our vocabulary may be flexible, since what is known to be acceptable as the appropriate way of spelling does change overtime, sometimes quite frequently for example slang and swearing, E.g. the “F” word is now used so frequently to the point where it has no offensive representation (known as an intensifier), but 15 years ago it would have been very rude to say. Some groups of people perhaps use register that favours one usage above the other. Also when a new word is created the word would be noticed and judged by different social groups. People judge the word by using social values as criteria. E.g. a swear word is not appropriate in a formal context, and it doesn’t have to mean that this person is uneducated in this century, it might be because they are use to using it so often to the point where they use it regularly no matter what function or context they are in.

Standard English is the language we all use in formal situation, to write essays, and it’s what we read in newspaper and magazine. Like above our language has derived from the London Dialect that still carry on to this day. We as Australians have made it our own language for example by flattening the ‘a’ vowel, which equally is the broad accent. Our language reflect our culture and lifestyle, it makes us known as the outback/laidback people, however as a Melbournian would say all Australians aren’t the same, we all vary due to social status, the location we live in, the community we’re part of and the personal ideas we have as individuals compared to others. These are all the values we support, which makes as unique and categorizes us into the social groups we’re in. Our attitudes towards the Australian language are rather sloppy we always shorten words by altering its suffixes for example Jonathon turns into Jonno/Joni, or the word just change totally due to what it represents, for example William turns into Bill and Richard can change into Dick (this example was adopted from New York culture in America, USA). This can show that we have advanced in life and have adopted some American culture such as television culture and the new technology terms that have to be used to be understood clearly. We also have the Australian Broad accent which we all use and the cultivated accent which is the posh accent that high social class uses.

All in all contexts is what we base our language on, it has no standard meaning (dictionaries can be used however they may be known as the norm of meaning of the word), and it is ambiguous and arbitrary. All meaning has no traces of how they inherited the word they represent; it is all a figment of our imagination. Since these meanings are in all of our imagination, we all have common representations of words and their meaning; therefore we can all use it to make social connections and communicate and understand each other. Domain and register is part of context, if the mode, field and manner of the register are meet, then the principle of appropriateness is maintained. Principle of appropriate can change due to regional, social and personal variation, each variation has a value of its own and hence therefore language is ambiguous. Australian English is another language variation, we have the broad (Australian twang), general (normal Australian accent), and cultivated (people who speak like the queen) accent. These are the main accent we have today and we are moving forward by adopting new slang, jargon and technology terms, for example the vast American accent television show we have today can change our cultural value and make Australian English turn into a hybrid language of another kind, this occur occasionally however very gradually without any notice.