Ottenheimer Chapter 6 Language in Action
Ottenheimer Chapter 6
Language in Action
Learning a language includes learning how to use words and sentences in social situations.
As an illustration of sociolinguistic analysis, she talks about the Native American who used indirection to ask for a ride.
Another example of indirection was the passing the salt request by the Japanese student
Author inferred that in Kansas indirection was also practiced (yup).
On Comoro Island to express admiration for something is a way to ask for it.
Indirection can be used to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. “I have to wash my hair.”
The dessert example of the Czech student who expected to be asked more than once is another culturally different way of showing politeness.
Similarly, ‘Ukrainian no” versus “Canadian no”.
In each of these examples, communication was complicated by cultural styles of communication, as well as gender and status.
The idea that situations affect the meanings of words is an important one in linguistic anthropology.
Bronislaw Malinowski is the European equivalent of America’s Franz Boas.
He conducted research in the Trobriand Islands, PNG, around WWI.
Among other important contributions was his emphasis on doing fieldwork.
He discussed the context in which language is used; the cultural and social situations.
How does context affect language?
Context can shift meanings, so he described the contexts when he wrote.
Competence with Languages 1
Linguistic competence: Ideal speakers and listeners
The term, linguistic competence, was defined by Noam Chomsky.
Linguistic competence is the speaker/s underlying ability to produce (and recognize) grammatically correct expressions.
Chomsky’s “ideal speaker”:
Lives in a homogeneous community.
Knows the language perfectly.
Is not distracted by environment when speaking or judging.
So linguistic competence is all about grammatical correctness.
Real situations are defined by distractions.
Remember Malinowski and his discussion of the social context being important to meaning (Chomsky ignores this!)
Some environmental “distractions”.
When ‘bad’ means ‘good’.
When two positives make a negative.
Greetings and address terms.
In English, many forms of address and reference are ambiguous.
Communicative competence: Real people using real language
Communicative competence is a term coined by Dell Hymes to describe real people using real language.
Ability to speak a language “well” as a going past linguistic competence.
Ability to use your language “correctly” such as when to use the grammar and vocabulary, even accent, in a specific social situation.
In a variety of social situations (Say Pierre, SD incorrectly and will know you are not a native).
Competence with Languages 2
Communicative competence and symbolic capital: Language and power
Related to the idea of communicative competence is the idea of symbolic capital.
French sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu, says that communicative competence can be thought of as a kind of currency that you can accumulate.
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