What are the practical uses of sociolinguistics

Preliminary remark

Applied linguistics is a scientific discipline similar to applied mathematics. It must therefore be distinguished from practice in which the results of applied science are implemented (in the case of applied mathematics, this is technology). For example, lexicography is the study of creating dictionaries. It is the applied counterpart of lexicology, a discipline of systems linguistics. On the other hand, however, it must also be distinguished from the actual production of dictionaries. The latter is not the task of science, not even lexicography qua discipline. Of course, this is not to say that scientists generally do not deal with such practical tasks; Of course, it also happens that a specialist in lexicography compiles a dictionary.

The applications of linguistics are as diverse as their subject area. In their sequence, constant reference is made to the sub-disciplines of “pure linguistics” presented in Chapters 3 - 12.

Language description is, strictly speaking, the same as descriptive linguistics. Here, however, language description should be understood to mean the creation of grammars, dictionaries and other linguistic materials for the end user, and that is certainly an application of what descriptive linguistics usually creates.

The acquisition of foreign languages, which will be discussed again below, plays a special role here. Language teaching and general linguistic materials have to be designed very differently depending on the consumer group: different for children than for adults, different for teachers than for schoolchildren and again different for self-taught people. A. educational grammar is something other than a systematic grammar reference grammar). There are also numerous types of lexicons, such as monolingual and bilingual lexicons, spelling dictionaries, synonyms dictionaries, or crossword puzzle dictionaries.

Since languages ​​became extinct in the world faster than they can be described by linguists, a special branch has emerged which has developed Language documentation is called. The aim here is to create a corpus of communication events (texts, video and audio recordings) from a language that is representative of traditional communication in the language community, and to process and archive it in such a way that it will be extinct after the language has died out can not only serve scientists for the evaluation and preparation of a linguistic description of language, but especially also for the descendants of the speakers to get a clear picture of how their ancestors grasped the world and communicated with one another. Since language documentation encompasses the entire language life of a social community, it is probably the most holistic application of linguistics. Incidentally, it often continues in the creation of teaching and learning materials for the language community.

Since corpora are to be created for this purpose, Text edition to the business of linguistics, which until then actually belonged exclusively to philology.

As far as it takes into account the social situation of the language community, language guidance is an application of the Sociolinguistics. Of course, this application is perhaps the clearest and most distant from the otherwise descriptive self-understanding of linguistics, because if you tell a social community how to use a language, you are of course doing prescriptive linguistics.

The purposes can be purely scientific. In fact, the roots of language criticism go back a long way in the history of science. For example, as early as the 17th century, the logicians of Port Royal established that the verb sein ’fulfills very different logical functions in natural languages, because it marks existence, identity, subsumption and a few other things. Alongside the logical purpose of precision is the moral purpose that language should not obscure its true intent or harm anyone. With this in mind, a jury of Germanists in Germany since 1991 has chosen the bad word of the year. This includes such words as Human material, free of foreigners, diet adjustment, flood of pensioners. Numerous social groups, from the Institute of General Semantics and the Mauthner Society to newspaper columnists, have committed themselves to combating semantic pollution. Behind a linguistic-critical facade, however, the efforts to “political correctness” that spilled over to us from the USA since the 1980s as well as the feminist linguistics that emerged earlier, both concerns of people who would like to force others to use theirs own preferred language. An objective analysis of language use in a society is the prerequisite for successful language planning, which will be discussed below.

In many language communities there is a linguistic norm that is to be codified (written down) and disseminated. To this end, academies for the national language have been established in some countries, such as the Académie Française in Paris and the Real Academia Española (Royal Spanish Academy) in Madrid. There is no corresponding national institution in Germany. The Duden is published by the academic advisory board of the Duden editorial team, which is a department of a Mannheim publishing house. There is also the Institute for the German Language in Mannheim, but it also has no standardization mandate. Finally, there is the Goethe-Institut. This is a state institution whose mandate includes the maintenance of the German language, but not in the sense of standardization, but in the sense of spreading your knowledge abroad.

So there are institutions whose purpose is to standardize a language. Most of the time, however, they concentrate on parts of the language system, preferably the lexicon and orthography. Numerous institutions for standardization, such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the German Institute for Standardization (DIN), have departments that standardize technical terminology in certain areas. Occasionally, institutions and companies whose mission is actually a different one also try to do this. So the Deutsche Post tried for a long time, the expression Telephone For phone to enforce, and similarly the Deutsche Bahn wanted us ticket instead of ticket say.

The creation, standardization and maintenance of a writing system is essential for communication in modern societies. For numerous languages ​​that were previously only used for oral communication, more or less adapted writing systems have been developed since the invention of writing. A particularly successful historical case of Font development is the Hangul ([haŋ'gɯl]), an alphabetical system that King Sejong had developed for the Korean language in 1446. The Latin alphabet has been used for most languages ​​since the age of colonialism. However, a writing system is much more than an alphabet and requires linguistic analysis of the entire language system. Cases of neglect abound in the world. In Mexico, for example, the Secretaría de Educación Pública (SEP) has been trying to enforce an alphabet for the Yucatec Maya since 1984 that is not accompanied by a writing system, let alone based on a linguistic analysis of the language system.

But even with languages ​​with a centuries-old written tradition, maintaining the writing is a complicated linguistic business. The last German spelling reform kept numerous linguists and German scholars busy for over a decade. The challenge for the linguist is that it is not possible to implement system linguistic principles in their purest form, but that one has to take various social and cultural factors into account.

The application of sociolinguistics to a language as a whole is called Language planning or - since politics is always involved when the status of a language is to be changed - Language policy. For example, in countries with great linguistic diversity, such as Mexico (62 indigenous languages) and Ivory Coast (65 languages ​​in 2008), the problem of communication must be resolved on a national or at least supraregional level. In some of the languages ​​concerned, the choice has long been made in favor of the former colonial language. In Mexico, for example, it is only about how Spanish as the national language can be implemented as smoothly as possible everywhere. In other countries, however, the native languages ​​compete for official status. In Ivory Coast, for example, the Baule (a Kwa language) is the language of the largest ethnic group and therefore has the most native speakers (2,130,000 in 1993), but the most common lingua franca is the Djula (a Mande language). Recommendations resulting from sociolinguistic analysis can easily come into conflict with the political balance of power. In the European Union, too, decisions are made about the scope of languages ​​and their role in international communication. The regulation here is quite liberal: the member states themselves bring the official languages ​​into the Union, the Union cultivates multilingualism. Regional and minority languages ​​are protected. The European Commission, however, only works in three languages, English, French and German.

If a language is to be expanded in terms of its status and functional areas, it is primarily about technical communication, i.e. expanding terminology and phraseology. Linguists can help here by examining how the relevant functions (e.g. abstraction) are fulfilled in language, what the available linguistic resources can do and how they can be expanded.

The methods of communication analysis are used to diagnose and solve problems of oral and written communication in various areas, including communication in authorities or between doctor and patient. For example, in the psychiatric diagnosis, the patient's formulations conclude that something has been repressed. The subject of communication analysis is also the Mass communication, e.g. the use of language in advertising and the mass media as well as the maintenance of "public relations".

Linguists are also active in education and training in the communicative field.

  • In the oral communication are here on a general level Speech training and the rhetoric to call. For example, conversation training is aimed at more specific areas of application, for example for the purpose of social counseling or personnel selection.
  • In the written communication The design of different types of text is examined, principles of successful writing, e.g. in technical editing, are worked out and in the Writing advice conveyed.

A completely different branch of communication analysis is that Forensic linguistics. The areas of work include determining the authorship of texts, e.g. from anonymous calls or letters, determining the ethnic origin of asylum seekers, but also analyzing communication in court or contracts.

As far as linguistics is concerned, it is an application of Psycho- other Neurolinguistics as well as from phonetics, but also a part of medicine, neurology and pedagogy. Speech disorders can occur in adults who have already spoken; however, they can also affect the primary language acquisition of children.

  • Central language disorders (or speech disorders in the broadest sense) are triggered by brain damage in the broadest sense, be it through injuries, strokes or diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, etc., which affect the central nervous system. The total or partial loss of language ability is called aphasia, a deficient language Dysphasia. Common manifestations are paraphasias (incorrect choice of words), dyslexia (reading disorder), agrammatism (impairment of grammar).
  • stood next to peripheral language disordersaffecting the articulatory and sensory organs and their neurology. So that's on the one hand Speech disorders like stuttering, stammering, lisp, but on the other hand also hearing loss.

Various disciplines are responsible for the diagnosis and treatment of such disorders:

  • The Speech therapy deals with speech disorders insofar as they are not based on anatomical impairments of the organs involved but on neuroses, i.e. can be influenced by training.
  • The Phoniatrics is the medicine of the organs of speech, and secondarily also of hearing speech. Hence she also operates Deaf-mute training.
  • The Clinical Linguistics is the medical application of neurolinguistics. It deals with the diagnosis and therapy of neurogenic speech and speech disorders, i.e. aphasia, dysphasia, but also dyslexia.

It is based on a comprehensive concept of mastery of a language, as presented in the relevant chapter. The results of language teaching and learning research, on the other hand, have an application in language didactics.

The first part of training in mother tongue didactics is Linguistics, an applied discipline that combines phonetics (voice training) with rhetoric and orthoepy. Orthoepie (= Orthophony, “legalization”) is the teaching of the correct pronunciation of a language. It tells us, for example, that the German / r / on the one hand is not rolled as [r], but on the other hand is not completely vocalized in syllable rhyme [ɐ], or that the suffix -ig in the syllable rhyme indeed [ɪç] and not [ɪk] is spoken. Orthoepie is not only found in the training of native speaker teachers, but also plays a significant role in the training of actors and news anchors.

Language development tests will also be developed to help diagnose whether a child's language development is normal or slow. This is where the compensatory language education discussed in the chapter on sociolinguistics can start. When reading ability is determined, dyslexia can be diagnosed, and those affected can be referred to speech pathology.

The writing lessons start with, of course, with. The letter method and the whole word method can stand as representative of the type of psycholinguistic problems in this area. It continues in Die Writing didacticsAs it is reflected in the essay lessons at school, for example, is also inspired by the above-mentioned analysis of successful written communication.

The linguistics of second language acquisition examines the conditions and the course of the uncontrolled acquisition of foreign languages, be it through immersion in the language community, be it with autodidactic methods, as well as the methods and successes of Foreign language teaching. Levels are defined at which someone can master a second language, e.g. in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages; and it will be Language proficiency tests that allow a person's language ability to be assigned to one of these levels.

Contrastive analysis is an application of descriptive and comparative linguistics that confronts the systems of two languages ​​that play the role of first and second language in language acquisition. From the similarities and differences one tries to predict learning difficulties and to derive maxims for the development of learning material. Opposite her stands the Failure analysis (not to be confused with error linguistics), which examines the products of foreign language learners, which systematizes and tries to explain errors and derives maxims for the development of learning material from them.1

With these methods, language teaching and learning research comes to results that are relevant for mother and foreign language didactics. For example, the meaning and nonsense of the use of language laboratories in foreign language teaching is questioned, and it is shown that the teaching of the language teacher must be linguistically well-founded, but not consist in imparting linguistic knowledge. In the most favorable (not all too often realized) case, applied linguistics also influences the formulation of educational standards and school curricula.

Translation studies ("Translation Linguistics") is an application of comparative linguistics, which is based on theories of systems linguistics and the intercultural communication clarifies the requirements of any translation and - with reference to the contrastive linguistics just discussed - examines the conditions and possibilities of translation between certain languages. Linguistic varieties, and here again the technical languages, play an important role. Numerous translators specialize in certain subject areas, because after Technical translation there is the greatest demand.

The subject of discipline is both. Incidentally, this also includes interpreting between spoken and sign language, which has grown in importance. In the training of translators and interpreters, including simultaneous interpreters, the teaching of techniques and routines plays a significant role, because in a certain sense it is only about expanding procedural language proficiency to include a further mode in addition to the productive and receptive direction.

The text that has been translated into most languages ​​is still the Bible. Behind this stands the Christian mission as a powerful engine for the dissemination of this text. The Summer Institute of Linguistics (currently “SIL International”), the largest private linguistic organization in the world, is the linguistic branch of the Wycliffe Bible Translators, a missionary organization that aims to translate the Bible into all languages ​​of the world. Since the 1950s, the SIL has been producing linguistic descriptions of numerous languages ​​of the world, which are a prerequisite for the translation of the Bible, but as a non-profit organization also provides global linguistics with aids for describing languages.

A special branch that has almost nothing to do with the rest of translation linguistics is that Decryption of unknown languages. Whenever written documents are found in the world that cannot be assigned to any known language, the two problems of deciphering the writing system and understanding the texts arise. In those cases where this has been successful - for example with the deciphering of the Egyptian, the Hittite and the Classical Maya - the combination of linguistic with philological, historical and archaeological methods has led to success. Linguistic methods can be used, for example - if enough material is available - to determine whether a phonography or a logography is available.And with historical and archaeological methods one can make well-founded assumptions about what the content of the texts might be. By the way, there are still various written documents in the world to be deciphered, including those in Iberian, that of Mohenjo Daro and the Minoan texts in Linear A and in Cretan hieroglyphics.

Interlinguistics is the doctrine of the Planned languages (also world auxiliary languages ​​or inter languages), an application of comparative linguistics. It is about artificial languages ​​that were and are designed with the aim of international understanding. Here are a few examples:

  • In 1879 the pastor J.M. Schleyer (Litzelstetten near Konstanz) the Volapük. It is i.w. English-based, but has agglutinative-suffixal morphology. E.g. is the structure of the word vol-a-pük "World GEN Language".
  • In 1887 the ophthalmologist Dr. Ludwik Zamenhof from Warsaw learned Esperanto. It is predominantly based in Latin, but (like the modern Western European languages) it has to a large extent. analytical morphology.
  • In 1951 the International Auxiliary Language Association (I.A.L.A.), in which world-famous linguists such as Otto Jespersen (Copenhagen) and Edward Sapir (Yale University) had participated, presented the Interlingua. She is basically Roman or Neo-Latin and the best planned language proposed so far from a linguistic point of view.

Working out a planned language is undoubtedly an activity of applied linguistics. However, there are already hundreds of them, and by far the most widely used international lingua franca is English.

Under Communication and speech technology All technical applications of linguistics are summarized here, which of course are also applications of more technologically oriented disciplines such as computer science and communications engineering.

The Communications engineering is an application of mathematics and physics to the ways in which information is transmitted technically. As an example, take the question of how much the transmission of sound waves of spoken language loads a telephone line, which of the acoustic properties of the speech signal the listener actually uses and which properties of the signal can be cut off from an economic perspective before transmission.

Subject of linguistic computing are questions of the storage, generation and analysis of linguistic expressions by the computer. The results of mathematical linguistics, as presented in the relevant chapter, are directly incorporated into these tasks. Descriptive linguistics contributes the concepts for the linguistic units and operations, computer science finds efficient ways of implementation. In particular, it involves tasks such as the following:

  • Automatic speech recognition is the analysis of acoustic linguistic input and its conversion into a written representation, which is then further analyzed linguistically with the aim of opening up the information content of the text. Recognition grammars are used here.
  • Automatic speech synthesis is the generation of linguistic utterances by the computer, from the semantic representation to the representation of the significant and its implementation in sound waves. Generation grammars are used here.
  • The combination of automatic speech recognition and synthesis is used in the Man-machine communication used, e.g. when devices are controlled by spoken language. Numerous companies are already using machines with these capabilities on the phones that handle customer inquiries.
  • Automatic (or machine) translation is the translation between two languages ​​by the computer. Efforts to achieve this date as early as the late 1940s and were shaped from the start by naive expectations of success. The results are modest to this day. Slow progress is possible when linguists and computer scientists work together.
  • Artificial intelligence is the collective term for the representation of knowledge and operations of cognition on the computer. The information to be extracted and stored is in linguistic form, and the representation that the computer gives it is linguistic, albeit in a formal language. As a result, artificial intelligence has had a lot to do with computational linguistics. E.g. information in Conceptual networks which are essentially based on the paradigmatic lexical relations. Knowledge of the world and the current state of the universe of speech, which are required for machine translation, are also represented in models developed by artificial intelligence research.
  • Speech technology also goes into Text and media technology, e.g. the development of documentation systems, hypertext systems and learning software. Word processing programs integrate, e.g. in the hyphenation, spell check, grammar check and in the “thesaurus”, ER results of system linguistics.
  • After all, the development of Programming languages primarily a domain of computer science. But in addition to the machine-level languages, languages ​​such as Prolog and PHP have also been developed, the expressions of which are sometimes quite similar to English and which are therefore easier to learn.

1 Thus, contrastive linguistics and error analysis are a fine example of demonstrating that independent methods in science complement each other.

Gadler 1986, Heringer & Feuerstein (eds.) 1982, Kaplan (ed.) 1980, Knapp (ed.) 2004, Kühlwein & Raasch (eds.) 1980, Wardhaugh & Brown (eds.) 1976.