A glossary of linguistic anthropology terms, written by the students of People and Language (Fall 2020).
Diglossia is a situation in which two languages exist in a single community and the use of one or other language is dependent on different conditions. One language is considered the ‘high’ language and the other considered as a ‘low’ language. It is used by people to classify the main (High) language and sub (Low) language used by separate communities differently. ‘High’ language is used in the public, formal and learned domain. The ‘Low’ language is spoken in a more popular and intimate domain. Though it is a broad term that refers to bilingualism and bidialectal speech, bilingual or bidialectal individuals must live in a community where two languages are spoken based on different situations/context. According to Eckert “Diglossia does not exist if the bilingual individual does not experience diglossia in their own speech habits” .
Diglossia is a situation in which two languages or dialects are used by the same community. I didn’t know the meaning of this word before, but after reading its definition I came to know that I have experienced diglossia since my childhood. I am from Pakistan. During Britain ruled Pakistani and Indians spoke different languages. Persian was a formal language or high language, and Urdu was spoken by communities and considered a low language. People switch languages depending on the people who they are speaking to.
After getting independence, Urdu language was spoken in cities while Punjabi was a village language. People usually speak Punjabi at home. Urdu is considered a high language and Punjabi is considered a low language. I speak both languages and I switch my dialect depending on who I am speaking too. I have experienced racism because I didn’t switch. it’s been long, I have moved to the United States. I only speak Punjabi at home, so my Urdu is not that good. When I visited Pakistan last year, I faced difficulty in speaking Urdu. So, I started speaking Punjabi in public. People started looking down on me. You are considered illiterate if you speak Punjabi outside.
The country where I grew up is called Nepal. Nepal has very unique geography, Nepal is divided into three regions: mountainous regions, hilly regions and plains. Nepal used to have 123 reported languages and in 2019 six new languages were discovered and now there are 129 reported languages. The main reason for so many languages to exist is because it’s unique geography, there are many hills and mountains which separate many cities and villages. There are clusters of groups which speak similar languages but because of separation of many groups of people, each cluster of groups that speak their own languages. The main(High) language is Nepali and the low languages are a different language spoken by different groups. The high language is used in school, public places or cities, and with other people not from their community. Nepali is the official language and other languages are considered as the language of the nation because the constitution of Nepal states “all languages spoken as the mother tongues in Nepal are the languages of the nation”.
The place where I grew up consists of a cluster of 12 villages and they share the same language but each village has their own accents and dialects. I code-switch From my language and Nepali all the time. When I was little I used to speak Nepali I had my accent which was often mocked by others. I am more fluent in Nepali than my own mother tongue because I grew up mostly in a city where people do not speak my but speak Nepali and their own language.
Diglossia is a term that I am exposed to almost everyday. Despite being from a diverse city and growing up in a predominantly black/hispanic neighborhood, the way that I speak English is still seen as anything but good. Though I haven’t witnessed or experienced first-hand the way people discriminate against AAVE, it’s all over the internet and on mainstream media. Today, AAVE is seen as both “Gen Z slang” and “Twitter stan language”, when other non-black people speak it, then AAVE is used because it’s trendy. Once the hype of using it dies down, it no longer is “funny” and becomes “overused” which is still a negative correlation to the dialect, as people are essentially mocking it. The dialect has always been correlated with us as “ghetto”, and many of us have been looked at as less than intelligent for speaking it. This discrimination actively prevents us from attaining good jobs and this judgement has cause us to use “code-switching”. By speaking “proper” we are seen as equals in the eyes of others (others being white people), and we are given access to more opportunities that should have already been available regardless of how we speak. This greatly diminishes the value of our dialect and may lead some to abandon it all together.
An example of diglossia that I could relate to is from my mother’s dialect and my family history because my family is from the Island of Dominica. It is one of the Caribbean Islands between Martinque and Guadeloupe that was colonized by both the French and the British. In Dominica, English is the official language or the main language that is spoken. It is the only language that is taught in schools, however many other languages are considered low languages and are often spoken among the people more casually. For example, my mother learned Dominican Creole among the villagers and she spoke it with her family sometimes.
Over generations, less and less people have taught their children Creole because they wanted them to learn the English. However, many Dominicans are making the effort to keep the Creole dialect alive because it is wrong to consider any language as inferior to another.
Diglossia exists in every country, since different groups in the countries have a couple of different languages. All languages are not treated equally. Some are considered a high language and some considered a low language. There is a hierarchy between high language and low language.There are stereotypes and stigma attached to low language. If one speaks a low language in public one is considered illiterate or not smart enough. Oftentimes because of these prejudices people from low language communities are forced to speak mostly the high language which often cause one to forget or lose their own mother tongue. This experience is similar to people in Hawaii who speak Pidgin and are forced to speak ‘standard English’ instead of Pidgin.
Language ideology, also referred to as linguistic ideology, are attitudes and generalized
beliefs that are made toward a language, how that language is used in the world, and the speaker. There are rules about when and where a certain language is appropriate, what counts as a language/dialect, what is deemed (in)correct, and what is deemed (non) standard for a specific language. These rules put together form a language ideology. Society tends to judge one another based on the language they speak, and how well they can speak it. Jamila Lyiscott’s Ted Talk is a great explanation into the linguistic ideologies the vast majority of people have today. Lyiscott explains that people are perceived articulate or not based on the way they speak and the kind of language/dialect they use. She goes on to say that all language is correct and standard as long as you and the speaker can understand each other and create positive connotations. The bigger picture that Lyiscott offers is, the mutual understanding between a listener and speaker, should be the only language ideology.
Jerome’s Vignette #1
Language ideologies shape the way humans interact with each other and are connotated
with certain beliefs about one’s culture, character and even attitudes towards the speaker
themselves. Many people have language ideologies and operate under an idea about what is
appropriate to use when speaking to another person at a given time. These ideologies vary across people, and there is no standard fit/one size fits all, there is no rule or just ONE way language should be spoken. Many people derive different rules and have cues on communicating. In the end it doesn’t matter how one party chooses to speak in a given situation, what matters is they are communicating as effectively as they can and speak in a way in which they believe is appropriate at a given time.
An example of a language ideology taking effect, is through an anecdote I have about me
applying for a Job. I applied for Panda express in March of 2020 and got scheduled for an
interview in September of 2020. When the interview date came I arrived in the formal wear that
was prescribed for the meeting and began the interview. During the interview the manager asked me a lot of personal questions, about why I wanted this job and what is is I am trying to
accomplish, everything was going smooth, and in a way to put the interviewee at ease I did the
same, I asked questions about her life and interest whilst selling my skill set to land the job. In
the midst of the interview, I dropped my vocabulary and started speaking informally, I began the use of slang words, nothing out of pocket. I began to use words such as ‘Facts, heard you, I felt that, real talk, lowkey, and highkey.” During the interview I felt that I had created a connection with my listener and a safe place to use these words. IN my mind I thought this was appropriate as the manager hadn’t been much older than me, and my words were not out of context but were interpersonal, in my mind everything was fine. I spoke in an informal way as a way to build a bridge. However her set of language ideologies differed greatly from mine. Before the interview ended she gave me some feedback, she had told me I did good, and gave really great answers, however she had a problem with the way I was speaking. She told me I was being unprofessional and I should change my vocabulary for the second interview, the interview with her boss. Theway I was speaking under her set of language ideologies were wrong. I was being unprofessional in her eyes, and the way I was speaking according to her was wrong. Language or linguistic ideologies is merely a concept adopted and put into place by people and society. Our whole world runs on some standard set of linguistic ideologies in which many people think there is only one “true” or “correct” way to speak. Needless to say I landed the job and the manager that interviewed me is one of my friends. She still is a boss in my mind but also a friend, when communicating with her I make sure to choose my words respectfully and appropriately however from time to time we both engage in a conversation with slang words. We met in the middle ground, in her linguistic ideology she had opened up and began the use of slang words with me, and in my language ideology while communicating with her I maintain a respectful atmosphere and appropriate aura when I deem necessary.
Lauren’s Vignette #2
My great-grandparents on my mother’s side refused to teach my grandmother and
great-aunt Russian because their old country treated them badly. Their experiences shaped the
way they chose to communicate with their children. They wanted their children to fully embrace America and its ideals as fully as possible. The quickest way to make this happen was to shed any indications of old-world life. Plus, speaking Russian gave my great-grandparents a
coded-language that they could communicate to each other in front of their children without
them understanding. It is funny these days, because people at school and on the street would
stop me and try to say a few words in Russian, and then ask “do you speak Russian?”. I am
always half-tempted to say “da” just to give myself a connection to fellow-country people from
the old-world. Unfortunately, I always have to say no, I don’t speak Russian. Usually, that starts
off a whole discussion about how I “look” Russian. From where I see it, there is a belief that one country has one language. That is to be American, you cannot speak any language other than English. There is also a belief that if you are of a certain ethnicity, it is expected that you can speak certain languages.
Amirah Hanif’s Vignette #3
Linguistic ideology refers to beliefs about languages and how speaking a certain language
can affect how one is perceived by society. My example is the use of Urdu. Urdu is a language
that is spoken in many different dialects based on where someone is from or which way they grew up speaking. I was born and raised in America, because of this my Urdu is very different
from someone born and raised in Pakistan Growing up in America allowed me to adopt a
different dialect. My grandparents from both my parent’s sides speak Patwari and my parents do too, so Patwari is the language that has been passed on and we were taught from a young age. Those living in Pakistan usually have perfect Urdu but since I live here, I was never exposed to
speaking in the perfect manner. I can understand it fully and speak it but I feel like I sound
funny and improper. This is the linguistic ideology I developed from speaking fluent in Patwari
but not in Urdu, making me feel improper and not good enough.
Patwari is similar to Urdu in which many words are the same but overall it is a slang
version of Urdu. Urdu is considered to be a beautiful and respectful language but Patwari is the
opposite, it sounds broken and improper to many people. Most people think negatively of people who speak Patwari because they associate it with speaking in an illiterate manner. My entire family and I speak Patwari so we all sound normal to each other, but if I were to speak it to an Urdu speaking person, they would be very confused. They would say that’s not Urdu, when in reality many people don’t realize one language can be spoken in so many different forms. There is not one singular way to speak a language, but in fact many. Quite often, society judges people based on their mother tongue to determine if the language they speak is appropriate. This in its own is a language Ideology of society and how it shapes my beliefs, feelings, and language ideology of myself.
Aylee Laos’ Vignette #4
It had been a couple of years since I had visited my family in Peru. So much has changed
since I last saw them in person. When I last traveled to Peru I was a little girl and after years of
growing up into a woman, I was a completely different person. Finally landing in Peru and while
all positive emotions are coming out of my family, everything changed when I started to speak
Spanish. Of course after so many years of not celebrating my Peruvian culture, I lost some of the
traditions. One aspect in one’s culture is the language spoken. Growing up speaking mainly
English and learning Spanish through the American education system and home created this
combination of a language that my cousins in Peru would deem as speaking “gringa” which in
other words is someone who speaks Spanish but sounds like an outsider of the language.
According to the American education system, I speak fluent Spanish as I am able to speak, read,
and write the language. However according to my cousins in Peru, my Spanish is not native to
theirs. When I spoke Spanish to my family in Peru, my cousins acted as if I was speaking another
language because I didn’t sound like them. My cousins would constantly remind me in mid
conversation that I couldn’t roll my r’s, I didn’t pronounce a word correctly, or any other little
mistake they heard. I knew as well as the other adults that because I grew up in the United States my Spanish accent was not as firm as that of my cousins. This made the rest of my visit in Peru uncomfortable when I was talking to my cousins. They had different language ideologies than me and because we couldn’t agree on the basic concept of how one speaks Spanish, the rest of my visit in Peru was me getting called a “gringa” or my cousins laughing whenever I’d say certain words that sounded different to their native tongue. While I understood the idea of
someone speaking multiple languages which could affect how they sound in the different
languages, my cousins do not. They feel that a language should be spoken and sound a certain
way if that’s how the majority of the society speaks. Being that they have spent their entire lives
in one country I assume their language ideologies are based on that concept whereas I have heard so many people speak a language in many different ways and it is completely normal for me. One language can be spoken in different ways because it is how we perceive or have been taught it but, everyone has their own language ideologies as that is how they generalize and use the language in the world.
Selvaughn Legall’s Vignette #5
I was born in the United States, here in Brooklyn. Geographically I am an American, but
when I was about two years old my mother made a life decision to have me live with my
grandparents, her parents, in Point Fortin, Trinidad and Tobago. I lived there whilst traveling
back and forth to see my parents on special occasions and holidays but mostly stayed in the
Caribbean. I grew up in Trinidad basically, went to school from what’s considered as daycare and kindergarten through third grade in the states. When I came up to the states I was placed in the third grade towards mid-year and the moment I opened my mouth and spoke to introduce myself I received these glares of awe in one moment and then the next there were comments, jokes, and mockery of how I sounded. I had an accent, a heavy Trinidadian accent, and used words and phrases that a Trinidadian child or Caribbean child would. Though some of the children were of Caribbean descent and may have understood me, it didn’t stop the more American or
Americanized children from making fun of me. After some time I settled in as a normal student
who just had an accent and spoke funny. The experience recycled itself when I reached the sixth
grade but eventually the “American” accent grew on me and I was more so in control of how I
sounded. The children’s language ideology was very different from mine as a child, it caused the mockery and jokes I received. It was really my first experience with different ideologies of
language and seeming out of the ordinary because of how I sounded and what I said. I didn’t
make sense or fit in that setting at that time due to their language ideology.
We derive a language based on the beliefs and how we view the language being spoken
when used in the world. Many people have language ideologies that may contradict someone
else’s ideologies. There have been many scenarios where we can recall the times in which we
have had different language ideologies than someone else. These ideologies shape the way a
conversation is structured and communicated to one another. In many of our examples we notice the different scenarios and types of people that would create these language ideologies. From an interviewer’s perspective of formal speech to older generations refusing to teach the language to the younger generations to people outside of the society, including close family members, stating one is not speaking the language in a proper standard to speaking in a Caribbean tongue to untrained ears. These scenarios have depicted the effect language ideology holds over a conversation. However, there are no circumstances in which a language can be deemed wrong yet everyone has their own language ideologies which come into play when having a conversation.
Index, Icon, Symbol
Indexes, symbols and icons are conducive to the way we communicate. These terms aid
in making conversations universally understood. An index describes a connection between what it is signifying with the “signifier”. The index is described as a sign that shows evidence of what is being represented (concept/object). It resembles something that implies the concept. Whereas an icon is the opposite of indexicality, in that it does not indicate a secondary meaning other than what it literally depicts. When we think of symbols, we think of letters and numbers. They are seen everywhere yet they are not as easily interpreted. Their meanings, rather than being universally understood, must be learned because the symbol is not directly correlated to the “thing” it represents. Take the words “yes” and “oui” (yes in French). Both represent consent and agreement and are understood by their respective cultures. But those outside of said communities, may not understand what these words (symbols) mean.
We see symbols all around us. Some we recognize and others we may not know. Some
symbols can be representations of the cultures they come from. Take Halloween for example,
this holiday is deeply rooted in American culture. Its symbols include, candy corn, pumpkins/jack-o-lanterns, witches, etc. These symbols have become a part of my family’s
traditions. Every year we decorate the front of the house. This year has got to be our best yet!
Thanks to my amateur gardening skills, we have mums (a symbol of fall) lined across the side of
the house. Amongst them are styrofoam tombstones and lights that look like tiny black cats,
pumpkins, and ghosts. In the middle planter, we have an inflatable ghost with a bucket of candy. Soon our decorated pumpkins will join the ensemble. We decorate so that it can feel more like Halloween; when we see these symbols, we are pleasantly reminded of the holiday that we celebrate.
I believe our need to communicate is linked to our innate mode of survival. As
individuals, we can sustain ourselves with food, water and shelter. But without the ability to
communicate, we wouldn’t be able to signal our thoughts and needs or exchange information (to name a few). This is just one of many occurrences where the use of language is crucial to our
wellbeing. Established languages have a system of rules and symbols that serve a type of
meaning. One of those vehicles for meaning is an icon, or an image that has no other subliminal
meaning other than what it depicts. I love to travel, and I once traveled to Brazil by myself. Even
though I was going to be met at the arrival gate, I still had to transfer to my connecting flight in
an entirely different city. When I was in Sao Paulo, I was able to navigate my way to the correct
gate. That is because airports are infamous for their use of icon signs. This is because icons do
not pertain to any language- so any multi-language passenger can easily navigate. If I saw an
icon for a plane in a take-off direction, I knew it meant departures. Or if I would see a suitcase
icon, I knew where to go to get my baggage. I still think that in such a situation it is still important to ask for assistance, but for the most part, societies can reference icons as they are
Icons are something that we are surrounded by every day. They assist us in understanding
what we are looking at or what we are looking for. An icon is a literal representation of what it is
depicting. For example, on your computer, the Google Chrome icon opens up Google Chrome.
The icon is showing you what you are looking at. The back button will take you back to your
previous screen. Icons can even be photos because a photo is showing you everything within that frame. A photo of the ocean is showing you the ocean, thus it is an icon of the ocean. Icons are very useful as they can replace words or sentences and can be understood by anyone. For
example, if you are in a foreign country and need to use a restroom, you can simply look for a
restroom icon. This can work for foreigners in the U.S. also there are many icons everywhere for
A symbol can be understood as something that must be learned to have attachment to it’s
meaning rather than being universally understood. When I think of symbols I can see a ton of
them right on my computer keyboard. The design and shape of the power button has nothing to do with “power” itself. This is something that we have learned as a society to accept as the
symbol for “this button turns the device on and off”. I also think about the symbol for a bluetooth connector. When you think about the “b” made of triangles you can immediately look at it and say that means bluetooth. This is only because we assigned meaning to this shape to signify bluetooth but in reality nothing about that symbol is representative of the power to connect wirelessly from one device to another.
An index helps us understand what takes place around us in our everyday life. The index
is known as the “signifier” and must exist to signify the “signified”. The index works as evidence
to represent the object/concept being “signified”. Indexes can be learned or understood innately.
For example, about a week ago, I was at work and was heading to the bathroom. About 12 steps
away from the bathroom, I was hit with this crazy potent smell of urine, feces, and death. As I
approached the area where the bathroom is located, I saw wet footprints going the other direction and were accompanied with a 1.5 inch deep puddle. Naturally I assumed that the toilet had flooded and overflowed with whatever remnants were present in the pipe lines. The index was the puddle and horrendous smell which signified that the bathroom was flooded. The index and “signified” go hand-in-hand, despite not having a resemblance among one another.
In conclusion, indexes, icons, and symbols are used every day, and everywhere. These
language tools make it easier for us to understand and interact with the world.
Symbols are widely constructed based on the society that gives them meaning. When we
recognize symbols, we only do so because our society has labeled them as so. But objectively,
symbols have no connection to the items that they are meant to represent until we give them that power. Icons make it easy to understand what a person is looking at because of its literal sense. Icons are very useful tools due to their simplified indications. And indexes also help a person understand what they are looking at. Although the index and the concept/object have no resemblance to one another, they help build on what is taking place to help gain understanding. Icons, symbols, and indexes allow for interaction among one another and help us grasp an understanding of the world around us without word usage.
Raciolinguistic Ideology focuses on how race can be constructed or deconstructed through language. Judgments and affiliations can be made based on the vernacular the individual uses to express themselves along with their physical attributes. Meaning that people connect either language to race or race to language . Jonathan Rosa’s podcast “Looking like a language and sounding like a race” suggests that by making an assumption based on generalizations creates these ideologies. Furthermore, he explains that thinking about language ideologies is a tool that can be used to bridge the gap for thinking about race from a contemporary and historical lens.
When I was a Sophomore in College I took a Latin Diaspora course, part of the class participation was to group up with fellow classmates to discuss a certain topic presented by the professor. I regularly participated in class to get a good grade, and spoke to my professor with my best english vocabulary. The day that we grouped up, I heard my fellow classmates speaking in spanish to each other saying how they did not want to work with “the very American girl”. At that moment I realised they judged me based on my phenotype and my english linguistic abilities. Little did they know that I am a fluent spanish speaker and that my parents were from Cuba. Shortly after I decided to show them not to judge a book by its cover, and answered them in spanish saying “ I am not a very American girl, my parents are from Cuba and Spanish was my first language, so if you want to discriminate against me please at least be upfront about it.”
Vignette – Adam
I was born in Brooklyn, NY. My parents both came from the Philippines. When I was in elementary school growing up, I was often criticized by my phenotype because people thought I was Spanish. I told them I am not Spanish even though my last name came from Spanish ancestry. I told everybody that I am Filipino and my parents were born in the Philippines. The Philippines did take part in the Spanish-American War and claimed our independence from Spain and America. Yes, Filipinos do look a lot like Spanish people because of their phenotype. Furthermore, they are often compared to their Southeast Asian counterparts such as Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. Do not judge a book by its cover. I am proud to be a Filipino-American and discrimination will not be tolerated.
Personally, I can’t say that I’ve been extremely judged based on my phenotype in regard to my Hispanic background. I look Hispanic, and I am. Sure sometimes people looked at me and couldn’t necessarily guess what my background was/is, but that never bothered me. The main thing that I can say that I was always (and will always be) judged for, is my “physical” appearance, but more in a sexual way. Even though yes, sometimes people talk to me in spanish, and while I can understand most things, my spanish speaking is not quite the best. However, it never really bothered me. Yes people criticized my spanish speaking, but more in a joking manner because I never try saying anything serious or longer than a few words. Although sometimes I did feel a little bad when someone tried talking to me in Spanish and I couldn’t fully understand or respond, but I always found someone who could help them more than I could. My mom kind of always warned me about how some people could treat me based on my looks and my background, so I guess that’s why I’ve always just kind of brushed off whatever someone could have said about it.
Faith Newman Vignette:
“You don’t sound Black” or “Why are you talking like a white person? Are two questions that I frequently got growing up. It often left me feeling confused. I would ask them, well, what does that mean? How does a person sound Black? After thinking a lot about this, I realize that the media, news, television, and film significantly contribute to the ideologies about how people speak.
In film and television, especially, I would often notice Black people’s portrayal in a way that is often negative and problematic. The way that people of color speak is often regarded as unintelligent and or less articulate. If a Black person uses slang or African American Vernacular English (AAVE) and or sounds “ghetto,” it is considered improper or not the right way to speak and communicate in the real world. When I considered the media and entertainment industry’s role, it is not surprising that people link language to a race or ethnicity because they allow for this thinking to be mainstreamed in society.
We see examples of this “on sight” discrimination like with Faith and how she “doesn’t sound like her race”, or like how Danielle faced discrimination because she has paler skin and therefore is not assumed to be Spanish. Like how Adam continuously felt like he needed to prove that he’s Philipino and not Spanish, and then how with me and how people could assume I was Hispanic, but then also would easily dismiss that and think I was something else. We can then bring these reactions to how language is embedded in racial identity according to Jonathan Rosa. His podcast explained how thinking about language ideologies is a tool that can be used to bridge the gap for thinking about race from a contemporary and historical lens. From our vignettes, we explained how our culture, race, and ideals taught us about how we adapt to our own racial ideologies and try to pull away from those damaging stereotypes.