American Anthropologist 1964 – a

Special Issue: Ethnography of Communication

Albert, Ethel M. “Rhetoric,” “Logic,” and “Poetics” in Burundi: Culture Patterning of Speech Behavior. American Anthropologist, 1964, Vol. 66 (6) Pt. 2: 35-54.

The article explicitly describes the many different unwritten rules of Burundi speech in relation to their social structure. The main differences of speech are governed by caste, age, and sex. Albert first differentiates her uses of the Western terms: “rhetoric,” “logic,” and “poetics”. Albert refers to “rhetoric” as “the norms and techniques of persuasion, as well as criteria of styles of delivery in public speaking.” The term “logic” is used to refer to “the rules and uses of evidence and inference”, and “poetics” refers to “the esthetic criteria that govern discourse.” She then describes in depth the application of Burundi rules of speaking in a variety of social situations.

Albert first specifies the differences in speech training between boys and girls of the upper stratum. Where the boys are trained in the art of composing amazina, ‘praise-poems’, self-defense rhetoric, proper speech for funeral orations, and much more in accordance with the socially appropriate physical gestures (i.e. eye contact), the girls are trained in “artful silence”. They are taught to be listeners and be able to repeat conversations verbatim. They are loyal to their husbands and family, and their acquired abilities to listen and repeat are extremely important to the success of their household. Later in life they are taught to make important decisions and can become successful in their own right by their use of rhetoric.

The article covers rules of speech and gestures for petitioning a superior, whether you are upper caste or a peasant, and also what gifts you should bring in accordance to what you are requesting. Albert also reviews “Formulas for Visiting”, formally or informally, who is allowed to visit who, and what would constitute a visit. Family affairs such as funerals and weddings have their own rules of speech. They also have an underlying theme of quarreling in both incidences. Albert describes it as a practically “prescribed behavior”. Under the subject of “Rules of Precedence and Good Speech Manners”, Albert explained the use of silence versus angry speech, and how the Burundi use silence as a form of respect, and to get out of doing a job that they don’t want to do. Silence is also salient when used by a superior; hence it silences his inferiors down the line. There is a rank, or order of speaking, in that an inferior can only speak after a superior has spoken. Albert also covers “Formulas for Politeness”, including how to leave from a visit depending on whether you are male or female. She also touches upon the few speech taboos. It is taboo to say what another has had for dinner, or to say the name of a dead person in front of their relatives. Albert also reviews the importance of the umushingantahe, or judges, of the court system, “The Survival Value of Discretion and Falsehood”, and “Implications of Field Work”.

CLARITY RATING: 3
MARY A. LEE University of Nevada Las Vegas (Gary Palmer)

Arewa, E. Ojo & Dundes, Alan. Proverbs and the Ethnography of Speaking Folklore.American Anthropologist, 1964, Vol. 6 (6) Pt. 2: 70-85.

Arewa and Dundes present a clear and well-documented argument for the study of folklore as communication and the urgent need to record context when studying folklore. The methodological approach they invoke for doing so is that of Hymes’ ethnography of speaking, which is succinctly defined as, “interest[ed] in not only the rules of a language, but also the rules for the use of the language.” This linguistic approach, when applied to folklore underscores the importance of context both in fieldwork and data collection and interpretation. The rules for the use of folklore are as important as the text itself.

The authors specifically look at the use of proverbs to illustrate their point. Here, context becomes the answer to such questions as who can use the proverb(s), who are the proverbs directed to, in what circumstances, where, on what occasions, in public or private spheres, and what channels may be used (singing, drumming, speaking etc.). The actual events surrounding the use of a proverb must be part of the data collected so that subsequent analysis has some anchor. Without knowing what the “folk” perceive as important, several interpretations might be possible, so analysis becomes purely relative. The authors also point out that this leads to, “the worst kind of ethnocentrism, explaining a proverb in one culture by citation of a supposedly equivalent proverb from his own.” In the absence of the folk viewpoint, study of folklore and interpretation becomes What does this mean to me? not What does this mean to the people who use it and what does it tell us about their culture, their worldview?

Twelve Yoruba proverbs used for the training of children are presented, each followed by its cultural context and meaning within Yoruba society. The text of each proverb and a literal translation is provided in an appendix. The twelve proverbs, with their translations, and explanations, are supplied by Arewa who learned them in his native village of Oke-agbe in Western Nigeria. The significance of channel is addressed following the presentation of the actual proverbs and their uses. They discuss the use of drumming for ceremonial purposes in Yoruba culture and point out that the Yoruba perceive pitch differences and rhythmic sequences of the drum tones as similar to the tone sequence found in certain proverbs. They point out that this is not the case for the Jabo. Further, they point out that drumming is a public channel and speech is utilized as a private channel. Again, context is as important as the text itself. Their premise is neatly summed up in the opening quotation by an Ibo youth, “I know the proverbs, but I don’t know how to apply them.” This could just as easily be the anthropologist or folklorist looking at a list of proverbs or ritual practices without reference to the people who use it.

CLARITY RATING: 5
HELEN GERTH University of Nevada Las Vegas (Gary Palmer)

Bernstein, Basil. Elaborated and Restricted Codes: Their Social Origins and Some Consequences. American Anthropologist, 1964, Vol. 66 (6) Pt. 2: 55-69.

In this article, Basil Bernstein describes the interrelationships between social structure, forms of speech, and the subsequent regulation of behavior. Bernstein argues that “children who have access to different speech systems or linguistic codes, by virtue of their position in the class structure, may adopt quite different intellectual and social procedures which may be only tenuously related to their purely psychological abilities.” These social interactions reflect two linguistic codes, elaborated and restricted.

Restricted codes are confined to social structures with closely shared identifications. Examples are within a closed community like a prison or a particular sector of the military. Bernstein says, “The point I want to make is that a restricted code is available to all members of society as the social conditions which generate it are universal.” However, it may be that a considerable section of our society has access only to this code because of the implications of class background and shared assumptions.

Elaborated codes consist of “an extensive range of syntactic alternatives.” They enable the individual to focus on the listener and consider a psychological difference. It encourages the speaker to focus on the other person as having an experience different from his or her own. “An elaborated code user comes to perceive language as a set of theoretical possibilities available for the transmission of unique experience.” Bernstein states the distinction that elaborated codes are person oriented while the restricted codes have a social class orientation.

Bernstein’s final point relates social class to coding systems. Elaborated codes are associated with the “middle-class”, while restricted codes are associated with the “working class”. However, Bernstein states that is possible to relate these codes more precisely to “the orientation of the family role system, the mode of social control, and the resultant verbal feedback.”

CLARITY RATING: 4
HEATHER SMOLL University of Nevada, Las Vegas (Gary Palmer)

Charles A. Baby Talk in Six Languages. American Anthropologist, 1964, Vol. 66 (6) Pt. 2: 103-114.

This article addresses the phenomenon of baby talk as a coexistent and marginal linguistic system within the language of a culture. The author intends his analysis to lead to further studies that will create a framework for classifying and explaining these marginal systems.

The author uses a comparison of various characteristics of baby talk in six different languages in order to find commonalities and to make general observations regarding baby talk as a unique linguistic system. His data is collected from scholarly articles on Arabic, Marathi, Comanche, and Gilyak and the author’s own informants on American English and Spanish. He begins with the assumptions that “baby talk is relatively stable, is conventionalized and culturally transmitted, and is taught as such by adults to children” (p. 104). He then compares the six different languages in terms of their modifications of normal languages, both in phonology and grammar. He examines the similarities and differences in lexicon, characteristics, function, variability and diffusion of baby talk in the various societies under analysis, using examples from each language to support his points. He also briefly discusses the use of baby talk between adults.

Rather than having a main argument, this article describes the different characteristics of the use and form of baby talk in the languages under study. A table is presented in which the baby talk terms for common subjects and objects are listed and compared; however, no clear conclusions are drawn from this table.

The author achieves his stated goal of defining a number of areas for further research and study. He finds a number of similarities in linguistic structure in the very diverse set of languages he examines. In order to understand the terms used in the linguistic comparisons in this article, however, one should have either a background in linguistics or access to a linguistic dictionary.

CLARITY RATING: 2
DEBORAH SEARFOSS University of Nevada, Las Vegas (Gary Palmer)

Fischer, J. L. Words for Self and Others in Some Japanese Families. American Anthropologist, 1964, Vol. 6 (6) Pt. 2: 115-126.

Members of urban, middle-class Japanese families organize their linguistic forms in referring to “self” and “addressee.” The family and social structure influence different uses of these. The personal pronoun chosen depends on social status and interpersonal relationships of interlocutors. Fischer discusses terms of address, terms used in reference to the addressee, and terms which call attention to the addressee. Forty-one families in Fukuoka interviewed in 1962 make up the research population. The study of Japanese, middle-class families in other cities should result in similar findings. Only one member of each family, usually the wife, was interviewed. Other members might disagree with her and offer their own forms of usage. Some or all members of the family withhold information, consciously or unconsciously.

Fischer discussed five major types of terms of self-reference and address: personal pronouns, kin terms, age status terms, personal names, and a zero form. A zero form is the result if no other form of reference is used. A self-reference or address term is superimposed in this situation. Every familial relationship uses each of the five types in some form. For address instances, some individuals were addressed in the zero form with vocative interjections. Some family members were never addressed by their name or by means of a second person pronoun. Vocative terms can be used with any relative. People can also use their own term. Some family members were only addressed by the second person pronoun, name, or kin terms. Grammatical subject and object can be absent and insinuated.

Senior relatives (older siblings, parents, and grandparents) are only addressed with kin terms. They may use their own kin terms when talking to junior relatives (children, younger siblings, and grandchildren). In contrast, the junior relatives are addressed by their personal names and may use their personal names when speaking to senior relatives and referring to themselves. Spouses and siblings close in age may address each other using personal names.

Age status terms and zero forms have restricted family use. Used with only one son at a time, booya, said with underlying affection, is a principle age status term. Booza is used with boys of an older age. A senior relative may address a boy with this term or a boy may refer to himself with it. Men mostly address their wives with the zero form with vocative interjection and an occasional self-reference. This use is to avoid identifying their wife with fantasy and not providing her with appreciation. Some husbands use intimate address to their wives with the interjection oi, and wives use interjections in politeness, such as anoo and nee. Personal pronouns can replace the other terms.

CLARITY RATING: 3
LISA AGNELLO University of Nevada Las Vegas (Gary Palmer)

Frake, Charles O. How to Ask for a Drink in Subanun. American Anthropologist, 1964, Vol. 66 (6) Pt. 2: 127-130.

Charles O. Frake’s article discusses the Subanun drinking situation as a mechanism to extend social relationships. He uses Ward Goodenough’s idea that description of culture should equip a stranger with the ability to perform any cultural activity in a conventional situation of the new society. Asking for a drink in Subanun exemplifies the importance of understanding the knowledge of simple culture performances as compared to just knowing how to ask the question grammatically.

Frake starts with defining the different kinds of drink of the Subanun. His article focuses on a rice-yeast fermented beverage called “Gasi,” or beer. Subanun beer contrasts with all other drinks in linguistic labeling, drinking technique, and social context. Beer drinking only occurs during festivals, which helps to explain why it is invested with such unique social significance.

At the festivals a Chinese jar contains the beer with bamboo straws inserted to the bottom. The jar is filled with fermented mash and then prior to drinking filled with water. The drinking takes place as a three-round process. The first is the tasting round, during which people drink small amounts with little regard to formal measurement of consumption. This moves into the competitive drinking round. Measurement of consumption here becomes important, as drinkers must equal each other’s consumption. The third round is the game drinking round, where talking ability comes in to play. In this round, verbal skill in performance constructs one’s social status.

Each round is filled with “drinking talk” appropriate to the specific round occurring. The tasting round is full of talk intended to request a drink and to acknowledge permission to sit and drink. In the second round the talk is about the jar and the beer itself. Increasing volume of drink and talk occupies the participants during this round. The topics brought forth in the second round lead to the performance of the game drinking round, which becomes filled with stylistic talking and singing. The topics of this round revolve around unsolved issues in the community. Solutions to the issues discussed gain creditability through the performance of speech. In conclusion, Frake wants to show that knowing how to ask for a drink plays a big role in Subanun society.

CLARITY RATING: 5
RENAUN ERICKSON University of Nevada Las Vegas (Gary Palmer)

Ervin-Tripp, Susan. An Analysis of the Interaction of Language, Topic, and Listener. American Anthropologist, 1964, Vol. 6 (6) Pt. 2: 86-102.

Verbal behavior is the fulcrum of Ervin-Tripp’s definition of sociolinguistics. Her article outlines methods in sociolinguistics that reflect a primary concern for the study of communicative form and function as mutually integral. She provides a survey of current research into the intercorrelation of sociolinguistic elements such as setting, situation, topic and functions of interaction. Her examples not only illustrate the relationship between these elements, but further support Ervin-Tripp’s contention that they vary together. In her view, social contexts and functions of communications produce a hierarchy of relations that must be considered together.

Ervin-Tripp’s study of bilingual speech illustrates the benefit of linking ethnography with various experimental techniques associated with interview. To determine the impact of any one element in her study, she begins with an ethnographic description followed by social experiments, which hold potentially relevant factors constant in order to discern the critical factors.

Her research focused on the study of Japanese-American speech in terms of topic-audience-language correlations. She began with an ethnographic description of their covariance based on informant interviews. In her initial experiment, various interview techniques were administered twice to the same group of women. At first, only Japanese was used, and second, only English was used. Her findings suggested that wherever monolingual American women and Japanese women in Japan differ in content, the bilingual women tended to show an analogous content shift with language, even though the situations were otherwise identical. In other words, bilingual women were less “Japanese” in content when they spoke English. In a second experiment, holding the language constant revealed significant effects on the style of English when the listener was Japanese that differed when the listener was a Caucasian American. And finally, a comparison of topics within each interview revealed certain topics were more closely associated with life in the United States than life in Japan. And, that when informants were instructed to speak English about decidedly Japanese topics there was a marked effect on the formal features of speech, such as disrupted syntax and borrowing, even though the most obvious form of change, a code switch, was not allowed. She concluded that not only do topic and listener affect speech, but so does the combination of listener and topic.

Ervin-Tripp’s bilingual experiment provides a model for sociolinguistics that holds verbal behavior central and stresses the importance of code variations as alternatives that are conditioned by both situational and individual factors. The implication is that the structures of relations with respect to language are specific to individuals in some ways and are more than indicative of more general sociological, psychological or cultural propositions—and she argues that this suggests the considerable contribution sociolinguistics can offer the social sciences.

CLARITY RATING: 5
VALERIE STANERT University of Nevada, Las Vegas (Gary Palmer)

Goffman, Erving. The Neglected Situation. American Anthropologist , 1964, Vol.6 (6) Pt.2: 133-136.

Goffman states that along with the correlational drive to bring in new social attributes as determinants of speech behaviour, there is also the drive which seeks to add to the field of properties discoverable in speech itself. Although these two currents of analysis have the potential for scholarly coexistence, it is possible that problems might occur. Namely, that at times only a very thin border separates these modes of analysis, thus consequently forcing one to examine the grey area between them. This in turn may lead one to perceive that an important factor has been neglected.

At certain levels of analysis, the study of behaviour while one is speaking, and the behaviour of those present but not engaged in talk cannot be analytically separated. Within this context, the neglected issue becomes the physical setting in which the speaker performs gestures, or in which setting a speaker talks or makes an appearance before others. The physical setting, the social occasion in which language occurs is necessary to comprehend in order to fully describe the linguistic interaction which has taken place.

In order to clarify the neglected factors, Goffman focuses on his definitions of what a social situation is, and its components. Namely, that a social situation is a situation in which one has access to and is accessible to interaction with others. Those who partake in a social situation thus become termed aggregately as a gathering. The interactions among those in the gathering become known as encounters. When an encounter is verbal, it is referred to as a state of talk. Utterances presented with an overlay of functional gestures, although not intrinsically linguistic in character, are expressed through a linguistic medium. Thus, many properties associated with talk must be seen as alternatives, or as the functional equivalents of extra-linguistic acts.

CLARITY RANKING: 5
JAN OLLER University of Nevada, Las Vegas (Gary Palmer)

Gumperz, John. Linguistic and Social Interaction in Two Communities. American Anthropologist, 1964, Vol.6 (6) Pt. 2:137-153.

The relationship between cultural values, beliefs, social institutions and ecological factors constitute what Gumperz calls the universe of sociolinguistic analysis. Within this socially defined universe, he analyzes language use in two very different speech communities. He examines everyday forms in terms of their morphological and phonological structure for linguistic facts, which he then relates to the social structure of the community. Comparative analysis shows that a group’s verbal repertoire reflects internal patterning that correlates to its social structure. His study provides a model for establishing relations among communicative events and social structure. This model can be applied to either monolingual or multilingual societies. Thus he bridges the analytical gap between language and social groups in a way that is commensurable with anthropologists’ formulation of social structure.

Gumperz’s method is to isolate each community’s verbal repertoire, defined as “the totality of linguistic forms regularly employed in the course of socially significant interaction.” In his view, verbal behavior is a form of social behavior, and the constraints on each affect the behavioral choices available to the members of the community. His approach links the ethnographic methods of participant observation and interview with descriptive linguistics.

To illustrate the connection, Gumperz explains that relationships such as father-son, salesman-customer, husband-wife, are part of a finite set of status relationships, defined by certain rights and obligations. Any individual might assume many roles at once, or only one at a time for certain social occasions. Social occasions, or behavioral routines such as eating breakfast or participating in a meeting, limit both the participants and the kinds of social roles available. These restrictions imply a set of rules that set boundaries on an individual’s choice of behavioral variants that is analogous to the constraints on grammatical choices. For instance, the common linguistic variants, “dine-eat,” share their meaning in regards to food consumption but differ in who is permitted to do so and the kinds of behavior related to the task. Dining implies a more sophisticated menu, refined etiquette and a certain social status. Laborers don’t dine.

Similarly, co-occurrence restrictions affect the morphological and phonological aspects of a language resulting in sets of varieties distinguishable by grammar. A speech community may have several speech varieties, the use of which is defined by social factors. Gumperz submits that linking speech varieties to the structuring components of social groups provides measurable structural criteria for the analysis of verbal behavior. The fact that not all potential linguistic variants or social behaviors occur implies a system, and the correlation between systems might provide an index for the study of society.

CLARITY RATING: 4
VALERIE STANERT University of Nevada, Las Vegas (Gary Palmer)

Hall, Edward T. Adumbration as a Feature of Intercultural Communication. American Anthropologist, 1964, Vol. 6(6) Pt. 2: 154-163.

Hall takes the position that cultural analysis is best served through a linguistic model that considers the accurate interpretation of adumbrations, which are defined as indications associated with communication that exchange covert messages which foreshadow behavior. Examples would include tone, body language, appearance, and stance. Adumbration directly contributes to the meaning and nature of communication and is crucial for intercultural communication where the intended meaning is often preceded by adumbrative actions.

According to Hall, cultural events occur on three levels, the formal, informal and technical. Formal and technical adumbrations in cultural events are present when parties have little knowledge of each other or have little in common. Hall focuses on the informal adumbrative process and argues that while formal and technical communication are clearly understood, their meaning is influenced by informal adumbrations. Adumbrations are employed by non-humans as in the use of displays by primates, birds and sea lizards. Adumbrative actions serve to control behavior, avoid or reduce combat, express intimacy or communicate danger and they contribute to the evolution of the species. This is the pivotal point. An adumbrative event must be known to both parties or they can not properly interact. Therefore a linguistic model that considers adumbrative behavior provides a matrix of cultural meaning and understanding. Hall uses the examples of the American in a foreign culture, interactions between American and Japanese business negotiations and spatial positioning to demonstrate the efficacy of adumbrations when correctly understood. Adumbrations are cultural embellishments to communication and to misunderstand their significance is to miss the latent meaning of the communication.

Hall’s point that meaning is encased in cultural constructs is hardly disputed and his focus on adumbrations contributes to the many tools of analysis at the disposal of anthropologists. However, while Hall’s argument has general validity especially at the species level for non-humans, it explains neither sub-cultural nor individual variation. This limits the utility of his theory.

CLARITY RATING: 4
M. DIANE NELL University of Nevada, Las Vegas (Gary Palmer).

Hymes, Dell. Introduction: Toward Ethnographies of Communication. American Anthropologist, 1964, Vol.6 (6) Pt.2: 1-34.

In this introduction, Dell Hymes argues that the study of linguistics suffers from multiple problems. The focus of linguists on formal aspects of language has led the study away from the cultural content and social form in which language is embedded. Furthermore, the division of linguistics into various sub-fields: “ethnolinguistics”, “psycholinguistics”, “sociolinguistics”, etc. only highlights perceived differences in these methodologies. He suggests that the general rubric “Linguistics” could encompass these divisions but doubts that general acceptance of such a term will occur. He states, “Such an event seems unlikely, and composite terms are likely to prevail for some time, wherever something of concern to both linguists and others is in question” (p. 3).

Hymes proposes that the title of this special issue, “Ethnography of Communication” and the concepts it implies convey the appropriate scope to encompass the various linguistic sub-fields. The expression, “ethnography of communication” indicates that linguistic analysis cannot remove the codes, signs and channels from events of speech or communication. They must “…take as context a community, investigating its communicative habits as a whole so that any given use of channel and code takes its place as but a part of the resources upon which the community draws” (p. 3).

A review of the papers presented in this volume allows Hymes to illuminate connecting themes. First, each author has viewed language not as an abstracted component of a community but as something integral to the pattern of communicative events. The second theme is the study of the necessary relatedness of “communicative form and function”. These themes and the methodology associated with them show the importance of ethnographic concerns to linguistics in general. It is of no significance whether linguistic study is motivated by semiotics, pragmatics, communication theory or anthropology. What is important is that ethnographic methods be applied. Language must be seen as part of a larger structure and analyzed as such.

In order to achieve the necessary anthropological frame of reference with which communicative events can be understood holistically four questions must be answered. They are, “What are the communicative events, and their components, in a community? What are the relationships between them? What capabilities and states do they have, in general, and in particular cases? How do they work?” (p. 25). Hymes reviews the papers collected in this journal as a means to an end: to show that disparate fields can gain fresher insights into language through the use of ethnographic methods. In the end he simply hopes that, “ethnographic perspective on the engagement of language in human life will be the standard from which more specialized studies depart” (p. 28).

CLARITY: 5
RUSSELL RADER University of Nevada Las Vegas (Gary Palmer)

Labov, William. Phonological Correlates of Social Stratification. American Anthropologist, 1964, Vol.6 (6) Pt. 2: 164-176.

In this article, Labov argues that variation in speech patterns offer a better foundation for study than those things that occur as indistinguishable constant features. He states, “ As we turn… [to the] study of linguistic variables, we acquire more realistic methods of … comparing … and measuring differences between [linguistic] structures” (p.164). The focus of Labov’s argument is to show that empirical and quantitative information not only has a place in linguistic study but is, in fact, of paramount importance to it. He believes that it is “the linguist’s task to construct quantitative measures by which [variation in linguistic and cultural patterns] become a precise medium for comparison and further abstraction.”

Labov attempts to show a correlation between linguistic patterns and social forces that indicates a social motivation for phonological variation between classes: such motivations as social mobility and social insecurity. To this end, Labov produces data generated from a survey of households in New York City’s Lower East Side. The survey looked at three socio-economic indicators: “…occupation (of the bread winner), education (of the informant) and a family income figure”. His sample size was initially 122 consultants. This met 81 percent of his target. Of these 122, only 81 are presented in the data. It is his hypothesis that the social significance of the distribution of certain “phonological variables” to the speech community “would be indicated by correlations with objective indicators of class stratification” (p.165). The phonological variables he looks at are the pronunciations of (r), (th), and (eh).

Important to both his argument and the quantitative methodology he employs is Labov’s understanding that, when collecting linguistic data from consultants, the possibility must be acknowledge that a consultant will recognize an interview as a “formal” speech event and so produce speech patterns that reflect the unusual nature of the situation rather than producing the casual speech needed for accurate data collection. Labov recognizes casual speech as occurring “when at least one of five contextual situations occur and also at least one of five nonphonological channel cues”(pp.167-168). The situations take into account speech that occurs outside the interview and two specific topics within the interview. The cues are changes in “tempo, pitch, or volume; laughter or changes in breathing”(p.168). When one of these is present the data is considered to be casual speech. His data is broken up into four areas; casual speech, careful speech, reading style, and word lists.

His data seems to show that as lower class consultants become more formal in their speech patterns they begin to emulate those of the higher classes. This of course implies a certain awareness of phonological variance across social strata. Labov states, “…these variables actually serve as indexes that enable the average New Yorker to identify the class position of other New Yorkers within a reasonable range of error” 174). He concludes that subjective reactions overlay more fundamental empirical indexes. In rooting out this empirical data, linguists can better describe and understand linguistic evolution.

CLARITY: 4
RUSSELL RADER University of Nevada Las Vegas (Gary Palmer)

Malkiel, Yakov. Some Diachronic Implications of Fluid Speech Communities. American Anthropologist, 1964, Vol. 6(6) Pt. 2: 177-186.

Malkiel establishes a schematic approach to language by creating a diagram of a peninsula that is divided into four sectors each with its own distinct political, cultural and linguistic dialects. In this “Stage 1” condition the four dialects are stable and mutually understood. Dialectal changes may proceed through four stages. “Stage 2” is characterized by a dramatic political or socio-economic change that results in a shift to a new center. The new political center results in what the author calls dialectal leveling, where phonological and inflectional order and other aspects of inflection and tone are likely to change, with some characteristics becoming more dominate than others. Dominance can be expressed in frequency of use as well as in usage by social class and political influence on dialect, as when a specific dialect is taught in schools. Dialectal mixing can also result in a distinct dialect. “Stage 3”, the final stage represents an expansion of dialectal leveling into a larger area. Dialectal changes are subject to both internal and external influences and these in turn have implications for social structure which then may further influence dialectal leveling.

Historical records provide evidence of social, political and economic shifts indicative of dialectal changes. However, these records are not always available, and even when they are, they are laden with such detail that the larger picture of linguistic habits and shifts is difficult to perceive. Malkiel asserts that a schematic model offers a larger context for understanding linguistic shifts over great periods of time and provides a broader and clearer vantage point for discerning discrete influences that operate in language change.

CLARITY RATING: 3
M. DIANE NELL University of Nevada, Las Vegas (Gary Palmer).