Sociolinguistics Series: Part 11

Sociolinguistics Series: Part 11

Language is a powerful tool.

In light of the holiday spirit, I thought that we should dedicate this installment of the Sociolinguistics Series to the language of festivities.

I’ll begin by introducing the idea of the Critical Discourse Analysis, which approaches language as a form of social practice. Simply put, the power in a society is established and reinforced by the language use of that society’s members. CDA looks at how language affects the flow and distribution of power in a social hierarchy.

Whether you are traveling across the world or having a staycation, the Critical Discourse Analysis applies to the society you’ll find yourself in. Like the study done by Labov that I discussed in a previous section, people on different rungs of the social ladder speak accordingly. It’s not only with pronouncing the “r” sound in “fourth” and “floor,” though. The language one speaks includes the physical sounds as well as the content found in the dialogue.

For example, at camp this summer, one of my roommates did a study on different Korean dialects found in TV shows and dramas across the Korean Peninsula. She noticed that very few characters spoke with a certain stigmatized accent, and that the only characters who spoke it were people on the lower end of the social scale. These characters included servants and tour guides who only spoke about certain factual events and statistics for the purpose of entertaining the main character (who spoke in the standard Korean accent).

This pattern carries out from behind the scenes and far beyond the television screen. A little over a decade ago, a study was conducted by a team of four researchers at Cardiff University; Adam Jaworski, Virpi YlaÈnne-McEwen, Crispin Thurlow, and Sarah Lawson analyzed the language use of people in holiday programs broadcasted on television to see if they could find a correlation between social roles and speech patterns of the people in these programs. Specifically, they wanted to look at the interactions between a “host” figure and a “tourist” one--basically, whether or not locals (hosts) spoke in a certain way to the visiting tourists.

Between BBC and ITV, the researchers looked at a total of 28 different program clips recorded between 2000 and 2001. These holiday programs included the documentation of trips to many vacation hotspots, such as the Caribbean, Spain, Italy, Egypt, Hong Kong, Maldives, Australia, Dubai in the UAE, Mexico, Thailand, and more. The programs mainly followed the trips of people of Caucasian descent, so the “tourists” in this case were Americans and European (mainly English) people.

The team devised three categories of hosts, or the “local people” of the destinations: Servant/Helper, Expert/Guide, and Other. The Servants included waiters, cooks, receptionists, and the like. The Experts were people like skiing instructors, distillery guides, and park rangers. The Other category consisted of people considered “peoplescape,” or the ones that added to the “natural scene” or “landscape” of the vacation, such as local business owners and shopkeepers in the street.

The programs depicted the destinations as a whole, so they included the local “hosts” as well as the physical and material attractions about a place. The Cardiff researchers looked at each segment with host interaction, specifically focusing on the content and style of their language use.

They found that regardless of whether the host was an Expert/Guide or a Servant/Helper, the bulk of his or her speeches were made of factual information intended only for the benefit of the tourist. Many times, the hosts are ignored completely and regarded as part of the background or landscape; in these cases, the tourists do the talking in opinionated sentences that contrast the factual ones presented by talkative hosts.

Though predictable, it is important to note that hosts use the words “Sir” and “Ma’am” consistently in their speech, while tourists rarely use such address terms at all. This most likely falls under the job descriptions of many hosts, but it still adds to the idea that hosts appear subservient to tourists.

In interactions where hosts speak in the native language and the tourist is unable to respond with more than a few simple phrases, the hosts are painted to look even more like part of the background. The video programs will use effects to incorporate these host-tourist interactions into the so-called “peoplescape” by letting them blend in with panning shots of the actual (natural) landscape.

These types of depictions are what contribute to the social stigmas and images that surround the local hosts of a destination. It helps tourists maintain power over the natives and create a very strange social hierarchy.

This analysis is far from over, as we have only covered the content of language by hosts and tourists. Stay tuned for next week, where we will be looking at language style and grammar of these tourist-host interactions!

Cover Image Credit: Irene Yi

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Dear Celebrities, Please Stop Thinking About Running For P.O.T.U.S.

Dear Voters, Please Don't Vote for Celebrities

Celebrities, I know your place in politics has been a hotly debated topic, especially since the last presidential election. For the most part, it has been Oscar speeches about climate change, donations to various charities and bringing light to serious issues like gender inequality and sexual assault. This is all well and good; I would even encourage it. However, I think you guys may have crossed a line when it became commonplace to talk about running for office…or actually doing it.

I suppose the beginning of this trend was when Richard Nixon became president, originally an actor and now a famously bad president. To say his time in the Oval Office ended badly is an understatement. This was followed by our favorite killer robot, Arnold Schwarzenegger, ran and won the governorship of California in 2003. I’ll admit it went better than Nixon’s political career, I am still a little put off that his Wikipedia page has no mention of political involvement until he ran for governor. Now, of course, we have Donald Trump, businessman, TV show host and President. So far, his term has been objectively bad, consisting of failing at repealing everything that came from the Obama Administration and golfing.

Despite what I believe will become known as the worst presidency in history, celebrities are still talking about running for office. In the past, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson talked about running (though now has shut down all rumors of running) and, more recently Oprah has shown interest.

But Celebrities, I beg of you, DO NOT RUN FOR OFFICE!

Celebs, it’s not I don’t love you. You guys are so talented in what you do, whether it’s music, acting or comedy. But here's the thing: what you are doing now is what you are good at and you should keep doing it, not run for public office. For the most part, celebrities lack the experience and know how to do well in those positions.

Take Trump for example. When he ran in 2016 (probably more as a publicity stunt than an actual desire to make change) he talked about running the country as if he would be running a business, even though countries and businesses are nothing alike. At all. And once he got into office he even admitted it was a lot harder than he had expected. Then, after a bunch of failed attempts at repealing ObamaCare and everything else left over from the former administration, he pretty much resigned himself to golfing. This is all because he had no idea what he was getting into. He didn’t run with any sort of experience and mostly just name recognition and racism.

Now, imagine a 2020 election in which Oprah runs for president. Donald Trump will definitely get caught saying the “N word” and Oprah will be running on name recognition and relief that she’s not Trump. She will assume being president is way easier than it is, fail at getting anything passed, and resign herself to what she’s better at: books and media attention. Yes, there will be less racism and golfing, but the country will not progress.

Now, my dear celebrities, there are still ways to make a difference in the world without being president. You can bring attention to issues that matter to you or donate to charities for causes close to you heart. You could even get involved in grassroot campaigning and work to get other people involved in politics.

Same goes for you voters. You can get involved with issues and campaigns that your favorite celebrities care about and go out and VOTE. Go research and pick and a candidate that you like for their policies and experience, not just their latest movie.

Cover Image Credit: Jerry Kiesewetter

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Millennials, President Trump Isn't Your Enemy Just Because You Disagree With Him

You are the difference that our country needs. Now go out there and be it!

Donald Trump has got to be one of most disliked presidents of our generation. Yes YOU, millennials, AKA generation Y, the largest, most educated, most technology savvy, civic-oriented, conscious, global, entrepreneurial, pragmatic idealists, authentic, frugal, liberal, compassionate, progressive, confident, diverse, practical and results-oriented, team-oriented, non-religious, multi-tasking, nomadic, impatient, and adventurous generation in western civilization today.

But when it comes to Donald Trump only a couple of things matter to us.

His horrible personality and the fact that he is trying to dissect the Affordable Care Act — ObamaCare, if you will. I have got to say I am not seeing many of those characteristics being actively applied to make sense of what is really going on during President Trumps’ term. Our judgment seems to be clouded by our distaste for our president.

Being a part of generation Y, I cannot believe that we have pulled a veil over our OWN eyes. Because, instead of viewing Donald Trump as our president, we view him as our enemy. We dislike his personality, we dislike most of the things that he allows to come out of his mouth and we dislike what he has done in the past.

One thing that I feel we should not dislike about the man is his current efforts. I am noticing a slight change in him since he has taken office to be honest. It seems that his cocky self is diminishing. He is realizing the true limitations placed on presidents. But that is solely my opinion.

We need to pay attention to the policies that the president in being active in trying to change or dispose of and begin to be the change. If you notice that Donald Trump is trying to attack a policy that could impact your life greatly, go and place a vote or write to congress. Do SOMETHING besides complain and riot about it.

Taking an executive approach, a responsible approach and work in ways that are guaranteed to be impactful. We are still young, and we still have so much knowledge to gain. Do not let your opinion of the president be the reason that your political views are limited. Do not let it be the reason that policies get passed that you dislike.

You are the difference that our country needs. Now go out there and be it!

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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