This paper will attempt to dispel the claim that some accents and languages are inferior. It will further show that people speak differently due to several reasons and not linguistic deficiency or inferiority.
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Several languages are spoken all over the world, and these also have their varieties. A linguist does not agree with the idea that such languages and accents are inferior. In fact, the claim that certain languages and accents are inferior is viewed as sentimental rather than factual.
There are so many cases where one dialect is given more official status than others. This means that such an elevation to standard status leaves the other variants to appear undesirable, yet they are not inadequate in any way whatsoever since they have a complete syntax, grammar, and phonology. In most cases, such elevation is based on non linguistic motivations like say political considerations.
It is against this misconception that linguists explain linguistic divergence. (Ember et al. 272) assert that just as physical anthropologists may attempt to develop an explanation for human variation, so the linguist investigates the possible causes of linguistic variation. They further assert that when groups of people speaking the same language lose communication with one another due to separation, either physically or socially, they begin to accumulate small changes in phonology, morphology, and syntax (which occur continuously in any language).
Geographical barriers such as large mountains, rivers, oceans, lakes, etc. may have been known to separate speakers who once spoke the same language. A good example of this can be found in northern India, where we are told hundreds of semi-isolated villages and regions developed hundreds of local dialects.
Social distance can also bring about differences in the way people speak. Social distance manifests itself in religion, class, etc. India provides such a good example. For instance, untouchables may not interact with those of the lower class, and this social barrier may lead to their developing a peculiar way of speaking from the rest.
Variation in language is arbitrary, and this perhaps explains why some language varieties and accents should not be viewed as being superior to the rest. A good illustration was in a study done by linguists on colors. It was found that people the world over mean more or less the same color when they are told to select the best ‘red’(Ember 273).
People may also speak differently due to their gender. Even though in most societies, women and men communicate freely with one another, there have been notable differences in the way they speak based on their gender. It has been documented, for instance, that men use more taboo language than women. A good example comes from the Zulu women. They replace some sounds of words that resemble those of taboo words (Trudgill 67.
Research has also shown that the spoken word does not communicate all that we know about a particular situation. (Ember et al. 262) say that we can usually tell when someone says, “it was good to meet you,” whether he or she really means it. This is possible not from saying the words or accent the person uses but from the non verbal cues provided like facial expressions, gestures, tone of voice, etc. It is claimed that some non verbal communication is universal, especially the facial expression.
In conclusion, we can say that no language or accent is superior to the other. The view that a language or accent is more prestigious or superior is only a subjective attitude. Linguists feel that we speak differently due to a number of factors, as earlier discussed.
Ember Carol, Melvin Ember, Peter Peregrine, “Anthropology Research”, NJ Prentice Hall.
Trudgill, Peter, “An Introduction to language and society”, London: Penguin Book Ltd, 2000.