At present youth of Uzbekistan are eagerly studying foreign languages. If we know any kind of foreign language the doors of different professions will be opened. Language plays main role of human society. It is the main source of communication. We will look at many ways in which language and society are related. The possible relationships have long intrigued investigators. Indeed, if we look back at the history of linguistics it is rare to find investigations of any language which are entirely cut off from concurrent investigations of the history of that language, or of its regional and/or social distributions, or of its relationship to objects, ideas, events, and actual speakers and listeners in the ‘real’ world. That is one of the reasons why a number of linguists have found Chomsky’s asocial view of linguistic theorizing to be a rather sterile type of activity, since it explicitly rejects any concern for the relationship between a language and those who use it.
We must acknowledge that a language is essentially a set of items, what Hudson (1996, p. 21) calls ‘linguistic items,’ such entities as sounds, words, grammatical structures, and so on. It is these items, their status, and their arrangements that language theorists such as Chomsky concern themselves with. On the other hand, social theorists, particularly sociologists, attempt to understand how societies are structured and how people manage to live together.
To do so, they use such concepts as ‘identity,’ ‘power,’ ‘class,’ ‘status,’ ‘solidarity,’ ‘accommodation,’ ‘face,’ ‘gender,’ ‘politeness,’ etc. A major concern of this book is to examine possible relationships between ‘linguistic items’ on the one hand and concepts such as ‘power,’ ‘solidarity,’ etc. on the other. We should note that in doing so we are trying to relate two different kinds of entities in order
to see what light they throw on each other. That is not an easy task. Linguistic items are difficult to define. Try, for example, to define exactly what linguistic items such as sounds, syllables, words, and sentences are. Then try to define precisely what you understand by such concepts as ‘social class,’ ‘solidarity,’ ‘identity,’ ‘face,’ and ‘politeness.’ Finally, try to relate the two sets of definitions
within some kind of theory so as to draw conclusions about how items in these two very different classes relate to each other. Do all this while keeping in mind that languages and societies are constantly changing. The difficulties we confront are both legion and profound.
There are several possible relationships between language and society. One is that social structure may either influence or determine linguistic structure and/or behavior. Certain evidence may be adduced to support this view: the age-grading phenomenon whereby young children speak differently from older children and, in turn, children speak differently from mature adults; studies which show that the varieties of language that speakers use reflect such matters as their regional, social, or ethnic origin and possibly even their gender; and other studies which show that particular ways of speaking, choices of words, and even rules for conversing are in fact highly determined by certain social requirements.
A second possible relationship is directly opposed to the first: linguistic structure and/or behavior may either influence or determine social structure. This is the view that is behind the Whorfian hypothesis, the claims of Bernstein, and many of those who argue that languages rather than speakers of these languages can be ‘sexist’. A third possible relationship is that the influence is bi-directional: language and society may influence each other. One variant of this approach is that this influence is dialectical in nature, a Marxist view put forward by Dittmar (1976), who argues (p. 238) that ‘speech behaviour and social behaviour are in a state of constant interaction’ and that ‘material living conditions’ are an important factor in the relationship. A fourth possibility is to assume that there is no relationship at all between linguistic structure and social structure and that each is independent of the other. A variant of this possibility would be to say that, although there might be some such relationship, present attempts to characterize it are essentially premature, given what we know about both language and society. Actually, this variant view appears to be the one that Chomsky himself holds: he prefers to develop an asocial linguistics as a preliminary to any other kind of linguistics, such an asocial approach being, in his view, logically prior.
We must therefore be prepared to look into various aspects of the possible relationships between language and society. It will be quite obvious from doing so that correlational studies must form a significant part of sociolinguistic work.
Gumperz (1971, p. 223) has observed that sociolinguistics is an attempt to find correlations between social structure and linguistic structure and to observe any changes that occur. Chambers (2002, p. 3) is even more direct: ‘Sociolinguistics is the study of the social uses of language, and the most productive studies in the four decades of sociolinguistic research have emanated from determining the social evaluation of linguistic variants. These are also the areas most susceptible to scientific methods such as hypothesis-formation, logical inference, and statistical testing.’ However, as Gumperz and others have been quick to indicate, such studies do not exhaust sociolinguistic investigation, nor do they always prove to be as enlightening as one might hope. It is a well-known fact that a correlation shows only a relationship between two variables; it does not show ultimate causation. To find that X and Y are related is not necessarily to discover that X causes Y (or Y causes X), for it is also quite possible that some third factor, Z, may cause both X and Y (or even that some far more subtle combination of factors is involved). We must always exercise caution when we attempt to draw conclusions from such relationships.
A worthwhile sociolinguistics, however, must be something more than just a simple mixing of linguistics and sociology which takes concepts and findings from the two disciplines and attempts to relate them in simple ways. It certainly must go beyond Horvath’s view (1998, p. 448) that sociolinguists should just pick and choose freely from sociology: ‘What my kind of sociolinguists do is go periodically to sociology and find “social networks” or “the linguistic market place”... and we find [these concepts] terribly useful in understanding the patterns that emerge from our data. However, we are not engaged in the sociologists’ struggles over the importance of social networks vis-à-vis other ways of dealing with the structure of society and may remain blissfully unaware of whether or not these models have become contentious within the home discipline.’
A serious scientific approach is incompatible with ‘blissful unawareness’ in an essential part of its underpinnings. Hymes (1974, p. 76) has pointed out that even a mechanical amalgamation of standard linguistics and standard sociology is not likely to suffice in that in adding a speechless sociology to a sociology-free linguistics we may miss what is important in the relationship between language and society. Specific points of connection between language and society must be discovered, and these must be related within theories that throw light on how linguistic and social structures interact.
Holmes (1992, p. 16) says that ‘the sociolinguist’s aim is to move towards a theory which provides a motivated account of the way language is used in a community, and of the choices people make when they use language.’ For example, when we observe how varied language use is we must search for the causes. ‘Upon observing variability, we seek its social correlates. What is the purpose of the variation? How is it evaluated in the community? What do its variants symbolize?’ (Chambers, 2003, p. 226). For Chambers these questions ‘are the central questions of sociolinguistics.’ Chambers is not alone in holding such views. Others too believe that sociolinguistics is the study of language variation and that the purpose of such study is to find out what variation tells us about language and speakers’ ‘knowledge’ of language, in this case their unconscious knowledge of subtle linguistic differences.
We will also see that there is some opposition to this idea that sociolinguistic investigations should be confined to fairly straightforward correlational studies of this kind. Critics such as Cameron (1997) claim that these studies do not provide very satisfactory explanations for linguistic behavior because of inadequacies with social theory — sometimes there is none at all — and failure to appreciate the difficulties in using social concepts. Any conclusions are likely to be suspect. What is needed, according to Cameron (p. 62), is more social engagement so that sociolinguistics would ‘deal with such matters as the production and reproduction of linguistic norms by institutions and socializing practices; how these norms are apprehended, accepted, resisted and subverted by individual actors and what their relation is to the construction of identity.’ Milroy (2001, pp. 554–5) makes a somewhat similar claim in discussing the processes of standardization and change: ‘Social patterns are adduced only in so far as they may elucidate patterns of language by exhibiting co-variation with linguistic variables... and as long as internal analyses are quite strongly biased in favor of linguistic, rather than social, phenomena, the quantitative paradigm will be to that extent impeded in its attempts to explain the social “life” of language and the social origins of language change.’ I have already mentioned this idea of necessary social engagement and I will return to it later. However, one point is clear in the above disagreement: sociolinguistics, whatever it is, is about asking important questions concerning the relationship of language to society.