Language Diversity Theories


Les Parrott

Suggested identity is formed in young people

- through forbidden behaviours  (eg smoking, drinking)
- through rebellion, which separates them from adults but gains acceptance of their peers
- through idols, in that celebrities may become role models for for teenagers
- through cliquish exclusion, where teenagers exclude those who they believe have unacceptable or unattractive characteristics

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Joanne Thornborrow

Suggests fundamental manner of shaping own and others identity is through language (2004)

May include
- specific lexical choices
- grammatical constructions in speech
- variations in phonology

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Labov's Martha's Vineyard

Labov (1961) focuses on dialectology in Martha's Vineyard which is isolated and only accessible by air or boat.

It is a popular destination with tourists in the summer.

Labov focused on the pronunciation of the diphthongs /au/ and /ai/. He interviewed 69 people from different social groups, including age, occupation, and ethnicity. He asked questions which encouraged the use of words using these sounds.

The participants were naive as to the purpose of the study, allowing them to speak naturally.

He found that fishermen aged 31-45 and native islanders were more likely to pronounce the diphthongs as /ei/ and /eu/.

He suggested that this was done - subconsciously - to differentiate themselves from the tourists.

They diverged from the language of the tourists to create separation, and some tourists converged to merge their language use to be more like the Vineyarders to fit in. This is accommodation theory.

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David Crystal

Contrasted the perspective that cockney rhyming slang is dying out.

He suggested that modern obsession with popular culture was responsible for growing propularity of new slang additions.

There is perhaps more of a focus on linguistic playfulness and humorous rhyme than before.

He suggested that traditional forms are no longer used because of its widened understanding meaning it no longer suits the purpose of a secret communicative method.

However, rhyme is still popular, despite it moving beyond traditional usage. Additionally some cockney terms are idiomatic now, and are sometimes not even recognised as being related to the initial Cockney roots.  

Modern media has had a great impact in the dialect's spread, as it has featured in a number of films. However, social mobility is also a contributing factor, as it now may not only be found in working class Londoners but also other classes through marriage, new jobs, and movement.

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Kerswill's Multicultural London English (MLE)

Investigated by Paul Kerswill

MLE is a new hybrid dialect most common in Eastern London, comprised of Indian, South Asian, and Cockney roots. 

There is an element of youth slang, but also there is a core form of MLE which is an accent and dialect within itself. Much of the language is Afro-American or Jamaican in origin, and is frequently adopted as a child, especially when English is a second language.

People use the language to form their ethnic and cultural identity.

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Gary Ives' Bradford Asian English

Conducted a study of 8 boys about their use of BAE through interviews.

When asked why they spoke in that way, they sai it was a result of where they were born and live, and that it's a natural part of their identiy.

However, when pushed, it became apparent that this was more conscious than previously thought. They mixed Punjabi and English to create a sense of belonging, and to exclude people who didn't understand their languages.

There were shown to be groups within BAE, comprised of 'British Asian' (born in England), and of 'Freshies' (born in Pakistan then moved to England). However, the language is also grouped by postcode, and based on social class.

It is suggested that some linguistic choices are affected by the media and music inductry, including rap and hip-hop. The interviewee said that the slang they used unified him and his peers to create an identity.

Sometimes code-switching was used between the language for more taboo words so they could not be understood, for example by teachers, creating a secret and separate language.

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Gavy Ives' South London

Investigated participants language in South London, relating to Paul Kerswill's previous theory of MLE.

Used interviews and discussions. Subjects discussed specific words they used to separate themselves into a group which is different ot people in other areas of the country.

These tend to take the form of:
- replacing standard english verb forms (eg chatting: talking rubbish)
- changing a noun to a verb (eg hype to hyping)
- changing an abstract noun to ones less abstract (eg mad to madness)

Much of this language is from a range of different countries, including Afro-Carribean, Black American, and Jamaican roots.

It is sugegsted that the language is not about where the participant is from, however, but rather where they live now. Some students were white-British, but still used the same slang as those from different ethnicities. The dialect does not differentiate between race or cultural background.

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Received Pronunciation (RP)

This is not a regional accemt, but is instad affected by class and social background instead.

It is perceived as being eivident of a good education, and demonstrative of authority, status, and power.

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Leslie Milroy

Milroy (2002) investigated the causes of dialect levelling.

Agued that increased georgraphical mobility led to:
- 'large scale disruption' of socially constructed linguistic norms

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Paul Kerswill

Investigated dialect levelling.

Found that numbers employed in rural secotrs has steadily declined, meaning most have began to live in cities, leading to the 'subsequent breakdown of tight-knit working class communities'. It also results in 'increased interaction with people of other speech varieties'. 

He summaries this as 

- the movement of people led to greater dialect contact
- led to radical changed in people's social networks away from local ones and away from linguistic norms

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Foulkes and Docherty

Explored the widespread standardisation of non-standard geographical variants (1999)

Discussed the replacement of 'th' with 'f' or 'v' and its spead from its origin in London.

They found the spread of language features was: 

1. London 
2. South East (Reading, Milton Keynes)
3. Central England (Midlands, East Anglia, South Yorkshire)
4. Northern England (Hull)
5. North Eastern England, Lowlands of Scotland (Newcastle, Glasgow)

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Paul Trudgill

Generalisations are made about a person based on their accent (2000)

RP speakers are perceived as haughty and unfriendly, and then must prove otherwise. 

Additionally, children with working class accents may be evaluated by teachers are having lower educational potential than those who use a middle-class accent, unless they, too, are able to prove their capabilities..

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Media Polls

BBC polls have found a close link between pleasantness and prestige. Edinburgh was high on both, whilst Liverpudlian and Birmingham accents were both rated unpleasant to hear and low in prestige. 

There were two exceptions to this however, being London, which was high in status but unpleasant, and Newcastle, which lacked prestige but was perceived as likeable, friendly and pleasant. 

The majority of people had a preference for Queen's English, but also liked Irish, Scottish and New Zealand. Scottish and Irish responders placed Scottish above the standard RP accent, but English and Welsh people greatly preferred RP. 

Another poll found Welsh accents were the least popular amonst the sample of 5000 people. However, people from Wales were proud of their accent. 

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Howard Giles

Used the matched guise apporach to investigated internalised atitudes to accent and dialect (1975) 

Researched the perceptions of RP and Birmingham accents by 17 year-olds. Same speaker was valued differently whilst discussing psychology in either accent, rating RP as mmore credible and competent, as well as intelligent.  

Another study found more prestigious accents were more influential and convincing for speakers who presented views on the death penalty. 

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Dixon, Mahoney, and *****

Used same matched guise approach to test correlation between accents and perception of guilt (2002). 

Use of non-standard form (Birmingham) and RP. Participants listened to a clip of dialogue between police officer and suspect. 

Results found that the suspect as more likely to be seen as guilty when using the non-standard form.

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Neuliep and Speten-Hansen

Researched attitudes from an ethnocentric perspective (2013).

Used the matched guise technique (American and 'non-native') to understand how people make value judgements based on the expectations of their own culture's language. 

Participants questioned about their level of ethnocentrism, then split into two groups and each watched a video of the same male speaker. The only distinguishable difference between videos was the accents used. 

Participants were then asked to complete tasks, ranking the speaker on a scale of 1-7 based on how attractive/credible/similar they were. 

Those who had tested higher for ethnocentrism were found to give lower ratings to the 'non-native' speaker. 

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Seligman, Tucker, and Lambert

Found teachers' perceptions of their students were heavily influenced by their speech (1972)

Links to Choy and Dodds 

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Choy and Dodd

Reached conclusions in the school setting that suggest that teachers make judgements on a student's ability and their personality based ipon the way that they speak (1976). 

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Coggle's Estuary English

Offered a summary of the stereotypical attutides and evaluation of different accents (1993).  

Upper class english: evokes images of land rovers, green wellies, cordeuroy, jacqmar scarves

Estuary English (a type of accent identified as spreading outwards from London and containing features of both received pronunciation and London speech.): stereotypes of shell suits, beer bellies, ford escorts, chunky gold, and white high-heels. 

These enable members of British society to continue to disdain each other based on the continuing yet outdated class system. 

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Penelope Eckert

Raised a number of issues with the method of using age as a distinguishing factor in language use (1998)

Argued age may be: 
- chronological (years since birth)
- biological age (physical maturity)
- social age (linked to life events such as children and marrige)

Thus it can't be said that people in the same age group all share the same linguistic characteristics. 

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Jenny Cheshire

Argues that language of both adults and children develops as a response to important life events which affect the social relationships and attitudes of an individual. (1987)

But has been suggested that this is only relevent post-18 years of age.

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Gary Ives

Conducted a discussion with 17-year-olds in West Yorkshires. 

Asked about the words that they remembered using from their childhood but had fallened out of their vernacular. 

eg: 'kissy-catch', 'tig' 'kerby' 

But commented on how difficult it was for them to recall specific words they used to use. 

However as teenagers common words in their lexicon were linked by an informal register. 
- taboo 
- comon dialectical terms
- slang, as is expected ofage-group 
- informal lexical choices

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Anna-Brita Stenstrom

Discusses a range of reatures which are claimed to be common in 'teenage talk'. 

- irregular turntaking
- overlaps
- indistinct articulation 
- word shortenings 
- teasing and name-calling 
- verbal duelling 
- slang
- taboo 
- language mixing (minture of cultures) 

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Penelope Eckert

Also conducted research into teenage talk (2003)

Said slang is used to establish connection with youth culture and to separate themselves from older generations

Linguisic change is most common in the language of teenagers, for example the coinage of new lexical terms.

Also stated that all adolescents do not speak alive, and that differences amongst teenagers are probably greater than speech differences between any other age group. 

Therefore it is important not to homogenise.

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Christopher Odato

Carried out research into the use of 'like' in young people's speech (2013) 

Had initially been perceived as teen sociolect, but found in children as young as four

Stage 1: children use 'like' infrequently, and in only a few syntactic positions - usually at the beginning of a clause ('like you won easily').
Stage 2: 'like' is used more often, and in a wider variety of grammatical positions. Girls reached this stage at age 5, whilst boys at age 7.
Stage 3: children use it much more frequently in other postions, such as before a prepositional phrase ('it landed, like, right on the target'). Again,, girls reached this stage sooner than boys.

Suggests the role of interaction and mimicking because children learn less common forms more slowly as they are not exposed to them as frequently, so require longer to determine whether such use is appropriate.     

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Research does clearly suggest that some longuage is common amongst teenagers' speech. These are frequently informal, non-standard variations of Standard English. Attitudes towards this are both pejorative - judging the language to be restricted and inferior - and celebrative - encouraging the diversity of the eglish language. 
Eg teacher training encourages it, advertising teaching opportunities as 'learning a new language; - teenspeak. Eg newspapers (Daily Mail) discourage it, headlining 'the teens who can barely talk'. 

Teen text-speak and social media are both influential in teenspeak as a whole. The linguistic features of technology-based communication is a key area of research, and it has found that boundaries between speech and written language have become blurred. People may use phontic spelling to represent thei accent, and non-fluncy features to show emotions. 

Similarly, typical written forms have begun to merge into spoken word, such as 'cba' and 'lol'. This may be an aversion to the use of taboo language in front of others like adults to avoid conflict.

Levels of text-speak have declined recently however, peraps due to the introduction of auto-correct. Alternatively it may be that 8-11 y/os are adopting this due to earlier introduction to technology, and 11-15y/o are outgrowing this much sooner.  

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Investigated influential factors in teenage language (2009) 

- peers and the need to feel a part ofa group and part of 'youth culture' 
- technology
- adults: either copying adult speech or diverging from it 
- the media and the press
- new means of communication 
- music 
- street art and graffiti 

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Vivian de Klerk

Draws several conclusions about language (2005)

- young peioke have the freedom to challenge linguistic norms
- they seek to establish new identities 
- the patterns of speech previously modelled on the speech of adults are gradually eroded by the patterns of speech of their peer group 
- they need ot be perceived as modern, cool, fashionable, and up-to-date
- they need to establish themselves as 'different' 
- they need to belong to a group whose habits are different from those of their parents, other adults, and other young people to distinguish themselves as members of a distinctive social group.

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Otto Jesperson

Propposed the deficit model of genedered language (1922).

Suggested men's language was superior to women/s 

- Some features of language are used exclusively by men 
- Some features are used by women and never by men out of shame
- Language is closely linked to maintaining an identity.

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Robin Lackoff

Produced a theoretical book of observations of gendered language (1975) contributing to the deficit model 

Features of female speech: 
- hedges ('sort of', 'kind of')
- empty adjectives ('sweet', 'divine', 'adorable')
- super-polite forms ('would you mind if...', 'is it okay if...')
- apologise more ('i'm sorry but...')
- speak less frequently
- avoid coarse language and expletives 
- tag questions (' you?')
- hyper-correct grammar and pronunciation 
- indirect requests ('i'm thirsty') 
- speak in italics ('so', 'very', 'really')  

Suggests women's language is deficient, and that men's speech is the norm and superior form. 

However, her sample was non-existent and purely observational, as well as being out-dated and potentially simply a product of society. 

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Jenny Cheshire (gender)

Looked at grammatical variations in the speech of young people (1982). 

Considered the frequency of: 
- non-standard -s 
- non-standard 'has' ('you has to')
- non-standard 'was' (you was')
- multiple negation 
- non-standard 'never' ('no you never')
- non-standard 'what' ('the boys what did')
- non-standard 'do' ('she do') 
- non-standard 'come' ('I come here yesterday')
- use of 'ain't' 

Overall boys used more non-standard forms than girls. Suggested variation is caused by social and linguistic factors, based on 'norms' of the peer group in boys. more of a free choice for girls, not social.  

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Pamela Fishman

Proposed the dominance model (1893)

Examined features of language suggested in Lackoff's study, but reached different conclusions. Focused on tag questions and listened to 52 hours of recorded data.

She found women do use more tag questions, as suggested, however said that these weren't the reult of uncertainty but instead actually a method of prompting conversation and sustaining dialogue.Said men do not always respond to a declarative statement or will only respond minimally. Women therefore use tag questions to gain conversational power, and keep it going - 'conversational shitwork' - which men are reluctant to do because of what they perceive as their 'dominant' role. 

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Deborah Tannen

Proposed the difference model of gendered language (1990)

Said women do speak differenylu, but these forms are equal. She represented this using a series of six contrasts: 

- Status vs support 
- Independence vs intimacy 
- Advice vs understanding 
- Information vs feeling 
- Orders vs proposals 
- Conflict vs compromise 

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Jennifer Coates

Argues that girls and boys develop different speech styles because of their same-sex friendships in early childhood (1989). Lack of integration means difference styles of speaking develop. 

Theorises that female language is co-operative in same-sex conversations. Tag questions and modality help to make communication supportive. 

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Jane Pilkington

Found women in same-sex conversations wee collaborative and used positive politeness strategies (1992). In contrast, she found men wee a lot less co-operative, less complimentary, and less supportive than women.

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Deborah Cameron

Proposed the diversity model of gendered language (2008) 

Argues that myths and stereotypes of gendered language shape expectations of speech, promting language to be judged as standard or deviant. This reinforces the myths of different language. 

Focuses on how people create identities through their speech, not just using langauge to reflect their gender. 

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Janet Hyde

Proposed the 'gender similarities hypothesis' (2005), claiming that there are substantially more differences within each gender than between them. Differences are due to other variables such as age, class, ethnicity, educations, occupations, sexuality, and politics.   

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Language used to communicate between gay men. 

Deemed an anti-language  by Halliday (1978) to describe how stigmatised subcultures develop languages which help them to reconstruct reality according to their own value. 

This declined following the exposure to the public through a radio show, as well as the legalisation of homosexuality.  

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