1. Education

social dialect


social dialect

Language in the USA, ed. by Edward Finegan and John R. Rickford (Cambridge University Press, 2004)


A variety of speech associated with a particular social class or occupational group within a society. Also known as sociolect.

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • "Even though we use the term 'social dialect' or 'sociolect' as a label for the alignment of a set of language structures with the social position of a group in a status hierarchy, the social demarcation of language does not exist in a vacuum. Speakers are simultaneously affiliated with a number of different groups that include region, age, gender, and ethnicity, and some of these other factors may weigh heavily in the determination of the social stratification of language variation. For example, among older European-American speakers in Charleston, South Carolina, the absence of r in words such as bear and court is associated with aristocratic, high-status groups (McDavid 1948) whereas in New York City the same pattern of r-lessness is associated with working-class, low-status groups (Labov 1966). Such opposite social interpretations of the same linguistic trait over time and space point to the arbitrariness of the linguistic symbols that carry social meaning. In other words, it is not really the meaning of what you say that counts socially, but who you are when you say it."
    (Walt Wolfram, "Social Varieties of American English." Language in the USA, ed. by E. Finegan. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2004)

  • Standard British English as a Sociolect
    "The standard variety of a given language, e.g. British English, tends to be the upper class sociolect of a given central area or regiolect. Thus Standard British English used to be the English of the upper classes (also called the Queen's English or Public School English) of the Southern, more particularly, London area."
    (René Dirven and Marjolyn Verspoor, Cognitive Exploration of Language and Linguistics. John Benjamins, 2004)

  • Slang as a Social Dialect
    "If your kids are unable to differentiate among a nerd ('social outcast'), a dork ('clumsy oaf') and a geek ('a real slimeball'), you might want to establish your expertise by trying these more recent (and in the process of being replaced) examples of kiduage: thicko (nice play on sicko), knob, spasmo (playground life is cruel), burgerbrain and dappo.

    "Professor Danesi, who is author of Cool: The Signs and Meanings of Adolescence, treats kids' slang as a social dialect that he calls 'pubilect.' He reports that one 13-year-old informed him about 'a particular kind of geek known specifically as a leem in her school who was to be viewed as particularly odious. He was someone "who just wastes oxygen."'"
    (William Safire, "On Language: Kiduage." The New York Times Magazine, Oct. 8, 1995)
Also Known As: sociolect, group idiolect, class dialect
  1. About.com
  2. Education
  3. Grammar & Composition
  4. Grammar & Rhetoric Glossary
  5. RAS Syndrome - Systrophe
  6. social dialect - definition and examples of social dialect or sociolect

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.