As sociolects or minority languages in are sociolinguistics language versions referred to, used by socially defined groups. Sociolects differ from the standard language, etc. a. in that they are usually only used within the respective group and are often only understandable in this group.
The term “sociolect” is a technical term that was coined in sociolinguistics in analogy to dialect . Unlike dialects, which are regional varieties of a language, sociolects are social varieties of a language.
Like dialects, sociolects can differ from the standard language on all linguistic levels (phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, lexicon).
Problems of definition
The term “sociolect” is defined inconsistently in the literature. In the early days of sociolinguistics in the 1960s, sociolects were rather narrowly defined and only seen as the language variants of different social classes (upper class language, lower class language). Some sociolinguists go a step further and consider only the social varieties that are associated with prestige or stigma as sociolects . The decisive factor here for the definition is not that a social class speaks a recognizable variant of the language, but that this variant is assessed positively or negatively (“vulgar language”). According to this narrow definition, professional and technical languages do not belong to the sociolects, but to the functional varieties of a language ( functiolects ), or they are summarized under the term "professiolects".
Broad definitions of sociolect consider all varieties of a language to be sociolect that are not explicitly regional (i.e., are not dialects). In addition to the language of social classes, this would also be professional and technical languages as well as special languages such as the language of young people , languages of hobby groups or rogue language . In some broad definitions of the sociolect or group language, the standard language is also seen only as a variety of the language in question, namely as the prestigious one that is usually used by the authorities, the press and educational institutions. According to this definition, all other sub-languages are group languages or sociolects.
In more recent sociolinguistics, the term “sociolect” only plays a minor role; Instead, one speaks of varieties of a language or language variation.
In connection with language variation, in addition to “sociolect”, other terms are used that completely or only partially overlap with “sociolect”. In the English-language sociolinguistics, instead of “sociolect”, the term “ social dialect ” is often used , whereby the same thing is meant here. The English term code goes back to the sociolinguist Basil Bernstein . Above all, this expression should not be equated with the broad definition of “sociolect”, because “code” only refers to class-specific language behavior.
In the context of sociolect and language variation one can also find the terms "diastrate" and diastratisch ; often “diastrate” and “sociolect” are equated. However, the definition of “diastrate” is also vague, depending on the author, the diastratic dimension is seen as the area of all social classes, professions, religious groups, etc., or it is restricted to social or socio-cultural classes.
Classification of group languages and examples
If one starts from a broad sociolect term, sociolects or group languages can be divided into further classes. Based on the reason for group formation, one can distinguish the following classes of sociolects:
The technical language is mainly characterized by the use of specialist vocabulary; As a rule, it is based on professional statutes, specialist literature, etc. in writing. For speakers of the technical language, factual orientation is more in the foreground. The special languages such as B. Youth or crook languages are almost exclusively oral. For their speakers, social aspects are in the foreground; the use of the special language is community-building for the group.
Specialist and special languages cannot always be clearly separated, but there are also mixed forms of specialist and special languages that have emerged in the course of cultural history. An example of this is the language of the hunters , which on the one hand has a technical language that serves the exchange of specialist knowledge within the group, but on the other hand also serves to distinguish the group from outsiders. The same applies to the craftsman's language, which is both the technical language and the language of the community of craftsmen. It is undisputed that shared specialist knowledge and language also have a group-building effect. Technical and special language can therefore be summarized under the term “professional language”.
In addition to specialist and special languages, group languages of parties, religious communities, political groups and the like can be understood as the third type of group language. With the groups, the group stability is in the foreground, but with the aim of increasing group members through public relations. Language is used here for direct contact between group representatives and interested parties.
Other classifications of the sociolects differentiate between class-specific group languages, work-related group languages and special languages as the actual sociolects.
Shift-specific group languages
In sociolinguistics, class-specific group languages have been researched in more detail and their social functions and linguistic characteristics have been described in more detail. In the English-speaking world, a study by William Labov on sociolects in Harlem is groundbreaking. In the German-speaking area there are u. a. Studies on Ruhr German , a sociolect especially of the working class in the Ruhr area.
Work-related group languages
The work-related group languages include professional, technical, class and scientific languages . This includes professional languages as the miners' language , the printer language , the jurists German or Seemannssprache .
The (non-work-related) special languages include age-related sociolects such as children's language , schoolchildren , youth and student languages . Group languages such as sports or hobby languages (e.g. computer gamer jargon ) are not used constantly by their speakers, but only in certain contexts in their free time. The use of the prison language is also limited to a certain period of time, which is why these special languages are also grouped under “transitory” and “temporary”.
Finally, the special languages also include varieties whose speakers form a fixed social group. Examples are the crooks language or the Jenisch of the travelers . In the German-speaking world, Rotwelsch is particularly well-known, a collective term for special linguistic sociolects of marginalized social groups based on German, which is used especially by traders and traveling people. Regional variants or regional offshoots of Rotwelsch are z. B. the Manisch in Gießen , Marburg , Wetzlar and Bad Berleburg , the Masematte in Münster or the Pleißne in Burladingen . In the French-speaking area, argot is known as a crook language .
Some authors also mention women's and men's languages as sociolects.
Sociolect and deficit hypothesis
In sociolinguistics of the 1960s and 1970s, the focus of sociolinguistics was on researching the prestige of language variants of different social classes. The researchers' focus was on the language varieties of the (lower) social classes, which were additionally afflicted with a stigma. The main questions were whether the use of sociolects constitutes a language barrier that prevents members of lower social classes from advancing in society. Central to this approach was the deficit hypothesis of Basil Bernstein that members of the lower classes use a restricted code, as opposed to members of the upper class who have an elaborated code.
Bernstein's hypothesis received criticism from US sociolinguistics of the 1970s, above all from William Labov. Based on an empirical study of the non-standard English of the Afro-American population in the USA, Labov was able to prove that this English variety was neither restricted nor deficient.
- Martin Durrell: Sociolect . In: Ulrich Ammon et al .: Sociolinguistics. An International Handbook of the Science of Language and Society . Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2004, pp. 200–205.
- Michael Hoffmann: Functional varieties of German - in short. Universitäts-Verlag, Potsdam 2007, ISBN 978-3-939469-74-2 ( full text ).
- Hartmut Kubczak: What is a sociolect? Reflections on the symptom function of linguistic signs with special consideration of the diastatic dimension . Winter, Heidelberg 1979.
- Heinrich Löffler: German sociolinguistics. 5th edition. Erich Schmidt Verlag, Berlin 2016, ISBN 978-3-503-16575-9 .
- Dieter Möhn: Specialized and group languages. In: Lothar Hoffmann (Ed.): Technical languages. An international handbook on language research and terminology science = Languages for special purposes (= Handbooks on language and communication studies 14, 1), half volume 1. de Gruyter, Berlin et al. 1998, ISBN 3-11-011101-2 , pp. 168–181.
- Wolfgang Steinig: Sociolect and social role . Pedagogical Verlag Schwann, Düsseldorf 1976, ISBN 3-590-15640-6 .
- Hadumod Bußmann : Lexicon of Linguistics (= Kröner's pocket edition. Vol. 452). Kröner, Stuttgart 1983, ISBN 3-520-45201-4 , p. 468.
- Wolfgang Steinig: Sociolect and social role . Pädagogischer Verlag Schwann, Düsseldorf 1976, ISBN 3-590-15640-6 , p. 15 .
- Michael Hoffmann: Functional varieties of German - in short . Universitätsverlag Potsdam, Potsdam 2007, ISBN 978-3-939469-74-2 , p. 6-7 .
- William O'Grady, Michael Dobrovolsky, Francis Katamba: Contemporary Linguistics: An Introduction . 4th edition. Addison-Wesley Longman, Harlow 1997, ISBN 0-582-24691-1 , pp. 541 .
- Heinrich Löffler: Germanistic sociolinguistics . 5th edition. Erich Schmidt Verlag, Berlin 2016, ISBN 978-3-503-16575-9 , pp. 113-116 .
- Dieter Möhn: Specialized languages and group languages . In: Lothar Hoffmann (Ed.): Technical languages. An international handbook for language research and terminology studies = Languages for special purposes . Half volume 1. de Gruyter, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-11-011101-2 , p. 171 .
- Christa Dürscheid: Soziolekt (lexicon article) . January 1, 2013 ( researchgate.net [accessed May 19, 2018]).
- Martin Durrell: Sociolect . In: Ulrich Ammon et al. (Ed.): Sociolinguistics. An International Handbook of the Science of Language and Society . 1st edition. tape 1 . Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 1987, p. 270-271 .
- Dieter Möhn: Specialized languages and group languages . In: Lothar Hoffmann (Ed.): Technical languages. An international handbook for language research and terminology studies = Languages for special purposes . Half volume 1. de Gruyter, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-11-011101-2 , p. 172-175 .
- Dieter Möhn: Specialized languages and group languages . In: Lothar Hoffmann (Ed.): Technical languages. An international handbook for language research and terminology studies = Languages for special purposes . Half volume 1. de Gruyter, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-11-011101-2 , p. 179 .
- Heinrich Löffler: Germanistic sociolinguistics . 5th edition. Erich Schmidt Verlag, Berlin 2016, ISBN 978-3-503-16575-9 , pp. 115 .
- William Labov: The logic of the Nonstandard English (excerpt) . In: Wolfgang Klein, Dieter Wunderlich (ed.): Aspects of sociolinguistics . Frankfurt a. M. 1971, p. 80-97 .