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In the analysis essay you will choose a particular language community or social group that you are familiar with and provide a sociolinguistic analysis.  The essay should include a description of the group that includes some explanation of what qualifies the group as a distinct sociolinguistic class.  This should include some discussion of aspects of the culture of the group.  The analysis should look closely at two issues and how they are reflected in the community. Time will be given in tutorials to discuss your progress in this assignment.  Possible issues you might select for discussion include:

  • Language and Power
  • Multilingualism
  • Language in Education
  • Language Choice
  • Language and Gender
  • Dialects
  • Language attitudes

Sociolinguistics and Multilinguism in Japanese Australians

Sociolinguistics is the subject that deals with the study of social and cultural effects on the language of any social group. There are some issues which are attributed to the sociolinguistics including dialects, multilinguism, language attitudes and gender influences on the language among others. The sociolinguistic group in discussion is the Japanese Australians and how multilinguism and language and gender have had an impact in their social and cultural structure. Multilinguism observes factors which have led these Japanese Australians to adopt the use of other languages in their communication and the impact of multilinguism on them. On the other hand, language and gender is concerned with how gender is interrelated with the use of language within their setting. It seeks to evaluate factors related to gender which determine how they communicate with each other.

The Japanese Australians are Japanese people born in Australia or immigrants who can trace their ancestry to Japan. The group has a common native language, which is Japanese. It is bound by common social and cultural norms carried along from their native land Japan, and lives together in Australia main cities namely Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Gold Coast. These factors therefore qualify them to be a considerable sociolinguistic group of study.

The Japanese language traces its roots to a number of languages such as Turkish, Mongolian and Polynesian among other minor languages which bear notable resemblances with it. The language bears little sounds in its pronunciation which is fairly easy for people learning the language but it has numerous accents. A distinguishing factor of the Japanese language is the presence of countless homonyms which are usually confusing to new learners of the language at the beginning. The grammar has minimal distinctions between the singular and plural nouns and this makes it easy. It also has no gender articles attached to speech in most times. The written language is usually made up of Kanji, Hiragana and Katakana as character sets. Writing the Japanese language follows to styles which are either writing from the top to the bottom of a page in horizontal rows or writing in the traditional Japanese style which is characterized by writing from the right to the left side of the page in vertical columns (Kindaichi, Hirano and Nakayama, 2011).

There are variations in the use of language based on gender. The women of this sociolinguistic group use more honorific expression compared to the men. Their communication style is desu, taking a more keen observation on polite words than the men. This aspect of sociolinguistics has its roots in their cultural perception of both men and women. Women are culturally thought as subordinates to men and this cultural factor has shaped the way women use language. In addition to numerous polite terms they use, their communication is usually low toned, persuasive and inclined towards making requests or suggestions more than making demands when passing information to men, who are considered culturally superior (Holmes and Meyerhoff, 2003).  Men language is usually bossy and authoritative on the other hand. Women’s choice of words therefore, and especially when communicating with the men reflect their humble status both socially and psychologically. Interestingly, younger children are indifferent of this sociolinguistic factor but they become more aware as they grow. This is as they learn of the social values placed on both men and women and the different expectations. This communication difference is less observable for those in workplaces. Corporate women are more confident in their speech and do not shy from using authoritative language even when addressing men at the work place. This can be attributed to women empowerment that is attributed to acquisition of education and money. Women feel more equal to men in the corporate world and unlike the uneducated (Holmes, 2006).

Language and Gender in Japanese Australians

Varying physical features which are associated with genders are also responsible in bringing variations of language in both men and women. The pronunciation of words and intonation of voice is also determined by body features such as the tongue and larynx. Women have lighter tongues and shallow voice boxes which make them pronounce words much faster with a higher intonation than men. The deep voice boxes of men cause them to have low intonation and their heavy tongue affects their ability to utter words at a faster speed like women.

Vocabulary variety is more in women compared to their male counterparts. Women use many words to make an inference to a single subject unlike the men who use few words to describe the same thing. Explanations by the women tend to bear a lot of expressions. A study observed that this can be attributed to the multitasking function and psychological programming of women. They are involved in many co curricular activities in their daily lives from where they derive their terms and expressions, as they grow from young girls to adults. The women accompany their words with dramatic expressions and many verbal and non- verbal cues to lay an emphasis to their subject of discussion (Holmes, 2014).

In colleges, the young men are less formal in their communication compared to the young women. The boys are accustomed to the use of plain languages which may include offensive and sometimes vulgar words. The use of swearing words is also more prevalent among them than the girls. Boys have also been observed to be less keen about social and contextual factors unlike their female counterparts who choose their words more carefully while communicating in line with the social and contextual factors.

The mental concentration of both men and women is usually different during communication. Men and boys tend to switch off their concentration faster than the women. A study by some university students revealed that even in a class set up, boys are generally bigger noise makers than the girls during lectures. During conversations, men tend to go off topic easily than the women especially when the conversation is initiated by the women. This also happens when the discussion is longer even when the subject of discussion is of interest to them. This is unlike women who can dwell on a single subject of discussion for longer periods. The level of distraction during conversations is also higher in men than women.

Both men and women have different language commands based on the subject of discussion. Men know and use complex terms when talking of a subject such as sports compared to women discussing the same topic. In equal measure, women will use a broader variety of terms on a topic such as fashion contrary to the men. Therefore, the social area of expertise also determines the choice and pattern of communication. Women also tend to revolve their language around domestic affairs mainly because they are the domestic custodians in their families. For older women, their language and choice of words would revolve around domestic topics such as kids, meals and clothing. On the other hand, most of men’s discussions generally revolve around politics, sports and economic trends (Holmes, 2014).

Variations in Language Use Based on Physical Features and Vocabulary

Some of these gender based factors however, are limited depending on the relational levels of those communicating (Kindaichi, Hirano and Nakayama, 2011).Parents are talked to with polite words by their children irrespective of gender factors. The hierarchical systems of the group are held with a lot of regard and no defiance is expected. Generally, those in authority are expected to be accorded their respect by those below them in spite of their gender orientation. The context could also limit freedom of gender specific factors. For instance in situations which demand show of empathy, a man won’t be excused to use authoritative language. In summation, language and gender effects on communication are not to be used as excuses for going against social norms but they provide a basis of understanding the causes of different patterns and behaviors of communication between men and women.

Multilinguism has become common among the Japanese Australians, as they can communicate not only in their native Japanese but also in English, which is a widely used formal language in Australia and other Aboriginal languages from the native sociolinguistic groups of Australia. One of the causes of multilinguism is increased interaction of the Japanese Australian students with other international students. As they relate with students from other sociolinguistic groups coming different continents who speak varied languages, they at least get to learn the basic words and phrases of communication if not all.

Modernity and technology advancements have also been responsible for increased multilinguism among the Japanese Australians. This is because as Australia advances in technological knowhow socio cultural exposure widens. Through the internet, individuals have been able to learn other languages of their choosing, for instance via channels such as you tube tutorials, at will.  Modernity has also encouraged these people to be open to other cultures and as they embrace diversity, cultural exchanges are made which bring along other language adoptions. Cultural acceptance also known as cultural tolerance is a concept which has come along with modernity.

Introduction of foreign languages is has equally contributed to multilinguism among the Japanese Australians. Students are offered lessons in several foreign languages from where they can choose their most preferable. These lessons are offered in both public and private schools which makes them available for all students. They are offered in all levels of education starting from the basic level to colleges/universities. Some private lessons are also offered by private tutors outside schools and this means that learners who can afford private lessons can benefit. Some courses in colleges and universities such as tourism and hospitality give a student a compulsory choice in a foreign language and in the end, they will have become conversant with at least one more foreign language, which coupled with their native languages and a basic language like English make them multilingual.

In summation, language and gender highlights the different approaches that men and women have in communication. Some of the differences are caused by variations in their physical structures and mental programming, the social and cultural expectations placed on each gender, power and positions of authority, areas of expertise and subjects of discussions involved. Multilinguism on the other hand is as a result of social interactions in the society and schools, foreign influence and modernization, sociolinguistic openness and embrace, introduction of foreign languages in schools and access of information from the internet.

These two sociolinguistic groups are not the limit for other issues continue to emerge. Trends in sociolinguistics are post modernity and technology, globalization and resurgence of cultural identification in language matters among others.  

The sociolinguistics of any group gives it some sense of cultural and social identity. A sociolinguistic group cannot be recognized as fully independent if it lacks language identity. The unique languages of different groups place them in sociolinguistic maps and create some sense of pride among its native users. Sociolinguistics bear the cultural norms of a language group and the study of the sociolinguistics can reveal a lot of details of the group (Stockwell, 2002). The basics sociolinguistics of any group should therefore be preserved by passing them onto the succeeding generations. Intense study and research should be done on diminishing languages and preserved in sociolinguistic archives if not revived.

References

Mooney, A. (2011). The language, society and power reader. London: Routledge.

Coulmas, F. (2013). Sociolinguistics. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

HOLMES, J. (1995). Women, Men and Politeness. London, New York: Longman.

Holmes, J. (2014). Women, men and politeness. London: Routledge.

Holmes, J. (2006). Gendered talk at work. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Holmes, J. and Meyerhoff, M. (2003). The handbook of language and gender. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell.

Meyerhoff, M. (2011). Introducing sociolinguistics. 2nd ed. London: Routledge.

Kindaichi, H., Hirano, U. and Nakayama, M. (2011). The Japanese Language. New York: Tuttle Publishing.

Loveday, L. (1986). Explorations in Japanese sociolinguistics. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Okamoto, S. and Shibamoto-Smith, J. (2016). The social life of the Japanese language. London: Cambridge University Press.

Smakman, D. and Heinrich, P. (2015). Globalising sociolinguistics. London: Routledge.

Cook, H. and Shibamoto-Smith, J. (2018). Japanese at Work. Springer International Publishing.

Stockwell, P. (2002). Sociolinguistics. London: Routledge.

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