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O M. A. K. Halliday


Irirst published in Grear Britain 1978 by Ldwrrrtl Ar rrrld (Publishers) Ltd. 4l Bcdford Square, London WC1B 3DQ
Firsr published in paperback 1979


Reprinted 1979 Reprinted 1984 Reprinted 1986

Edvard Arnold (Australia) Pty Ltd, 80 Waverley Road, Cauleld East, Victoria 3145, Australia Edwad Arnold. 3 East Read Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21202. U.S.A.


The sociolinguistic perspctive 1 Language and social man (Part 1) 2 A social-functional approach to language



British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data Halliday, Michael Alexander Kirkwood

Language as social semiotic.

II A sociosemiotic
3 4 5

interpretation of language

1. Sociolinguistics




Sociological aspects of semantic change Social dialects and socialization The significance of Bernstein's work for sociolinguistic


I ()8

Language as social semiotic

ISBN 0 7131 6259 7 papet All rights reserved. No part of this publication may
permission of Edward Arnold (Publishers) Ltd. Printed and bound in Great
be reproduced,


The social semantics of text 7 The sociosemantic nature of discourse Language and social structure 8 Language in urban society 9 Antilanguages


stored in a retieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior


tain at The Bath Press- Avon.

l0 An


interpretation of the functional relationship between

language and social structure Sociolinguistics and education I Sociolinguistic aspects of mathematical education 2 Breakthroughto literacy:Foreword to the American cdition 3 Language and social man (Part 2)
l{c Itrences


\-\ / a

105 III .l ltr

lrrdcx of subjects


lndcx of


Sockrlogical aspects of semantic change 61

Sociological asPects of semantic

of 'correct' designations (such as those involving geographical or personal eference points), the adequate or, as he puts it, 'right' semantic options, they are making use of the relevant particulars of the context of situation: i1 Schegloff's own lbrmulation, 'interaclants are context-sensitive.' This is
another instance of the general principle of presupposition that is embodied in the text-forming potential of the linguistic system. Just as the speaker selects the appropriate infornation focus, distributing the meanings of the text into intbrmation that he decides to treat as recoverable to the hearer (given) and information that he decides to treat as non-recoverable (new), so in Schegloff's example the speaker selects the appropriate coordinates, and their degree of accuracy, in specifying where things are. Schegloff appears, however, to leave out the important component of'rightness'that consists in the participant's option of being'wrong': that is, of selecting a semantic configuration that violates the situational-contextual restraints, with a spccific communicative ef'fect - an option which, at least in the case of information tbcus, participants very readily take up. (Cf. the discussion of information structure, and information focus, in Halliday 1967b.)

Text, situation and rgistr

1.1 Let


with the concept of a text' with particular r:fere.nce llle^ ;-;ii;;t;, which mav be regarded as tlte basic un-it.of .semantrc
us start

t tp"ttt' act' speech event' topic unit' iliiii"i'...'.T";;; it;;v '"tt' exchangt', ePisode. narrative and so on'



certarn "." participants in an encounter accord each other the text' by meansof al teltiol t-:.r.h: "r;.;;;;;;;1;:,h" statuses and roles, anrt they do so partly know out'.we :::::.*'';;; ;; "*ctraneed Ylt, as iicourel hai pointed linguistic interac:h",;;.; ii;;A; it: wc have no real theorv of X:;l'iii,; are and ":,;;;, ;v*tit u"iu'io'r is interpreted.' .meaningswith li"JJ indiui< ihe trat ),.",i";. i.c;;"i'sugg"st' (lqoq,'iso-l o' u"'*ption'' which he calls'reciprocitv ol ii]l:i;;,;;;;"';-; f,ii'ipr"'' ':::",::;;.:".:"';";-,t to'rms'.'the etcrera principle'and'descriptive vo-

is what itle-aves point ol view, the main interest of the text

1.2 From a sociolinguistic standpoint, a text is meaninglul not so


because the hearer does ro know what the speaker is going to say, as in a mathematical model of communication, but because he dos know. He has

or meaninss- the indiin anv '*'t''nge experience are shared (others sec vidual assumes (i) that interpretations ol principles oI selection and orgartiii"-t i" .r*.';ay): (ii) lhal there are feconstituting and sup' rrriit""""r ..r"i"g. anrl therefore also (iii) of and the othe r fills it io out' on *ha( to leave nle menling om ission, l*" with shared'key'or 'g"" omissions' :'it;';rE I ;t"k encodirigs rather than wgrd.:' (iu) tlal. ;,;cedures),- ,nJ identically to past experlercc' i"-rit."i.."t] riiguistic foims, are referred the sPeaker-hearer for asrigning ii.t.- pr.rpi.t"act as 'instructions forsocial scenes '.The sPeaker-hclrcr intinitely possible meanlngs to untolding the sociil svstem for the decoding ol tcxt' ;i;;;rltt;" 'that begins with thc Cicourel argues fo' a 'gtn"iative semantics' assigning trreatring ltt tbr sourcc ."';;;;t "ueiyduy world is the basic this kintl or approacl to tnc rirtrtrc irn(l #;:1';i;;;;;''irsq, lqrlt "rr ethnonrcthotioltlgicirl lingrtislic sttrrlits ()7 function ol text is a charactenstic of schcgloll's ( l 1 ) cxamT lc .is .."""r',t.r. .i sacks ancl Schcgkrlt. An wltich tevcitls sotllc ol lltc gctlcltl account of how peoPle rclcI ru-iu!"'t'n' itt lltc ptotlrtetiott rrttl trtttlet ,tl"afrLt'a" -fj"h'lhc srcrtkct'ltcitl'et'tclics soll\' ll r I t ol rlrtr't s lrltrlol lx t ( I str'ttiilu tl tlisctttt\c I c litl ll8l() lllc t' t I I c t.t t1 rt rt tttrtlrt t tt rt lr.ttt \' r lc( rrr\ r ( il)ir ' ll:il,ii i':;,';i;;;;.'"""' ir''.,i"r'.." l"r r


abundant evidence, both from his krowledge of the general (including statistical) properties of the linguistic system and from his sensibility to the particular cultural, situational and verbal context; and this enables him to nrake informed guesses about the meanings that are coming his way. The selection of semantic options by the speaker in the production of text (in other words, what the speaker decides to mean) is regulated by what

ol the comflrunity

when, where and to whom, etc.'; in other words, to know the'rules of spcaking', defined by Grimshaw (1971, 136) as'generalizations about relaI

Iymes ( 1967) calls the 'native theory and system of speaking'. The member possesses a'communicative competence' that 'enabes when to know to speak and when to remain silent, which code to use, lhirn]


:' liil:' l::1:

ionsltips among components' of the speech situation. Hymes has given a list, lrow very familiar, of the eight components of speech, which may be sumnrarized, and to a certain extent paraphrased, as follows: form and content, \ctting, participants, ends (intent and elTect), key, medium, genre, and nlcrlctional norms. We may conpare this with various earlier lists, such as thrt of Firth (i950) which comprised the paticipants (statuses and roles), rclevant teatures of the setting, verbal and nonvebal action, and eftective r csult. ()ne ol thc dilficulties with such lists is to know what theoretical status to ssign to thcrn in rclation to the text. Hymes includes'lbrm and content of ,r)essirge'. i.c. thc tcxt itscll, as one ol the components; compare Firth's '\ ( rl)rl ilcli()r()l

: t

silrlrtiorrl Ilrct()rs rs rlclcrrirrtls ()l the tcxl.'lhis is cxcnrplilictl in the lrirrtlic lirrrrlrr rrsctl lrv llrrllirlrv. Mclnl()slr lrttl Slrtvtrs (l()().1), wilh ils

thcl)ii[ticipnts'.Anultcrnativcappro chistoconsidcrtl]e

62 A socioseniotic

interpretation of language

Sociological aspects of semantic change 63

the choic between ca and dog lhaf is a matter of the system _ wheeas a distinct theory was needed to account lbr the choice beteen cct and mog fzog being a slang term lbr,cat'in certain British aiatJq. eut Uottr ttrese choices are choices that are made withir the linguistic system; what is needed is a theory which accounts fo both. This points in the direction of a functional semantics, towards a furthcr elaboation of the theories of the prague school, who have always explicitly

level which are regardetl as determining rather than as including the text; they represent the situation in its generative aspect. Field refers to the ongoing activity and the particular purposes that the use of language is serving within the context of that activity; tenor refers to the interrelations among the participants (status and role relationships); and mode covers roughly Hymes'chaonel, key and genre. There are some theoretical advantages to be gained from working with a triadic construct, advantages which relate to the nature of the linguistic system, as suggested in chapter 7 The categories of field, tenor and mode are thus determinants and not components of speaking; collectively they serve to predict text, via the intermediary of the code, or (since 'code' has been used in a number of different senses) to predict what is called the register (Ure and Ellis 1972). These concepts are intended to make explicit the means whereby the observer can derive, from the speech situation, not the text itself, of course, but certain systematic norms governing the particulars of the text- These norms, taken together, constitute the register. In other words, the various subcategories of field, tenor and mode have associated with them typical semantic patterns - on the assumption, that is, of what Fishman calls congruence (1971a, 2,14-5); so that if for a given instance of language use thc situational features are specified, in appropriate ferms, typical linguistic features can be specifiecl by derivation from them. (Note that we are conccrned with the semantic properties of the text and not with the ritual lexicogrammatical variatts that are associated with levels of formality and the like, although these form one part of the total picture.) If the ohsever

categoies of field, tenor and mode. These are categories at a more abstract

can predict the text from the situation, then it is [rot surprising if the participant, or'interactant', who has the same inlbrmation available to him, can derive the situation from the text; in other words, he can supply thc relevant inlormation that is lacking. Thus the'register'concept provides a means of investigating the linguistic tbundations of everyday social interaction, from an angle that is complementary to the ethnomethodological onei it takes account of the processes which link the features of the text, considered as the realization of semantic patterns, to the abstract categories ol the speech situation. lt is these processes which embody the'native theory

and system ol speaking'. How fa ae such concepts relatable to the linguistic system? The lteature of sociolinguistics abounds with references to the linguist's practicc of treating the linguistic system as an invariant, by contrast with the sociolinguist's interest in variation;but all linguists are interested in variation, an(l the distinction is a largely artificial one. The underlying question is that ol the nature of linguistic choice; specifically, of the various typcs oI choicc.

concerned themsevcs wilh raliation. Hymes (lg6q. ll-l) recrnrzes rw<r types of meaning, 'social eaning, and .referential ..rning,, .Lougrug"t; have conventional units, structures and relations . . . that are ;hat I shall call "stylisic" (serving social meun ing) as well as refe ren tial., Elsewhee he tscs tne term 'soco-expressive'lor tlte tbrmer. ln my own work I have used a triadic system, with ideational, intetpersonal and textual components (thc first two probably equiyalent to Hymes,s referenrial t" i.t"_ ational being then further resoluble into experienrial and "n,n.lull. logicat (Ualliday 1967c,1972).If we assume for the momeni that rhe linguis;c systenr is in fact esseutially trimodal at the semantic level 1ancl therJ is stroig ntcrnal evidence for this), then on the basi\ of the rhree_way categorizarlrn ol Ihc situational determinants of text into field, tenor and moae] *e lun ,nut" ,, tentative correlation between the situation, the text, and the semantic sys_ tem; by and large, it is the ideational component of the system thirt is activated by the choice of field, the interpeisonal by the tJnor, antl thc textual by the mode. There is, in other wor'ds, u gan"l tendency whcrcby the speaker, in encoding the role relarionships ii the situation (ihe tcnor.; Hymes's'participants' and ,key,), draws on the interpersonal component irr the semantic system, realized for example by mood; in encoding thc act ivity. including subjeclmatter (the fiekJ; Hymesis .se rring. and ..n?,j, ir"*s ,,,, the ideational component, realized for e xample by tr"a nsitivity; auJ rn cncrxling the-teatures of the channel, the rhetoiial rnode and ao .rn 1ilr" ,r,,r't.; .genre') draws on rhe lexlual .,,i,r,,,",,,. l]lf_.:'..]".lrrr"ntalilie\'and rcttzed for exampie by the intormation focus. These are approxil]ritli() s only; but they^ are suggestive given that the two sets of Jatcgolies, rlr. components of the speech situation on the one hand and fhrisc ol tlr. s.cma-ntic system on the other, are established independently ol c,,.lll ,,t1,,.,. 'lhe following passage provides an illusrration ot rtris poinr; Nig..l, ,,r I y,.,,, ll months, is exchanging meanings with his mother (Hntiidui iil.l:.,
Mother lio bathroom, Nigel sitting on chair]: Now you wait thc.c lill I g(.1 y()rr faceclolh. Keep sitting there. LBut Nigel is already standing up orr thc clrirr. Nlge/ lill cxact imitation of mothe's intonation pattern, rrot_in corrcctrrrg irrto nationl: Kcep standing thre. put the nug on the flor. -rlo Mothert Prt thc Inug on the floor? What you wnt? Vitrr: Ir(l,l) li ' Mtltr: ()l you want Dddy.s kx)thl)rush (l() yo(, Vlq,/ \ts. .1,'rr I llwr,,rt 1,, p t tlrt. t,r i lh(. I rf. Mot,/r1; ,,r lllc ll.(U is rrxr big lirr thc rrrrrg. Nrr,/: \'cs yorr c:rrr l)lt tlr(.(lurk il tlrc rtill . .illtcIrulrlrlc ltit\(. l)ll)lrl(.

and their accommodation and interaction in the linguistic systcnr. llt(' distinction is unfbtuate since it implies that'code choicc' ir lllc scttsc ol ritual variation, tlte choice ol approPriatc lcvcls ol lirrnrirlily clc. is lo l)(' isolatetl fr<m othcl ilspccts ol chllicc. SocitlilSttislie rliscttssirllts llirv(: ()llcll rcstcrl on llrc litcil itssllnll)liol) lllill lherc wits llolllirlll rrl lrll 1o lx''tirltlxrttl

64 A sociosemiotic

interpretalion of Ianguage

Sociological aspects of semantic change 65

speech situations, a situational typology such as is embodied in Fishman,s notion of 'domain', defined (1971a, 248) as ,the large-scale aggregarive

Mothert 'l'ooow. Nearly all the water's run out. NEel: You wrnt Mummy red tothbrush . . yes you can have Mummy old red

We might identify the situational leatures in some such terms as the following:

Field: Personal toilet, assisted lmother washing child]; concurrently [child] exploring (i) container principle (i.e. putting things in things) and (ii) ownership and acquisition of property (i.e. getting things that belong to
other people) Tenor: y'rother and small child interaction; mother determining course of action; child pursuing own interests, seeking permission; mother granting pernission and sharing child's interests, but keeping her own course in view Mode: Spoken dialogue; pragmatic speech ('language-in-action'), thc mother's guiding, the child's furthering (accompanying or immediately preceding) the actions to which it is appropriate; cooperative, without conflict

of goals
Looking at the text, we find that the fld tends to deternine the transiti\' it] patterns - the types of process, e.g. relational clauses, possessive (6et,hava) and circumstantial: locative (pul), material process clauses, spatial: posturc (sit, stand); also the minor processes, e.g. circumstantial; locative (r); perhaps the tenses (slrzple present); and the content aspect of the vocabulary, e.g. naming of objects. All these belong to the ideational component of the semantic system. The ,eror tends to determine the patterns of mood, e.g. Imother] imperative Onu wair, keep silting) and of modality, e.g. [child] permission (walf k). car, and nonfinite lorms such as naft e bubble meaning' l want to be allowctl to . . .'); also of person, e.g. [mother] 'second person' ou), [child] 'first person' (yoa [: 1]), and of key, represented by the system of inlonatiorr (pitch contour, e.g. child's systematic opposition of rising, demanding ir response, versus falling, not demanding a response). These are all part of the
interpersonal component.

if nontbrmal, non-intimate. If the setting is nonrural, nonformal. intimatc and serious, the choice of language depends on other variablcs: laDguagc order (i.e. which was the mother tongue), language proficiency ancl scx (Rubin 1968). Here the situational criteia are Jxtrmily mixed. Gencrtizations of this kind involve the relating oI situation types ,upward, to thc general 'context of culture', in the sense in which that term was useil bv

Guarani is used in settings which are rural, ancl, among the nonrural, in thosc which.are (the intersection of) nonfomal, intimate and nonserious. Spanish is used in settings which are (the intersection ot) urban and eithe formal or,

regularities that obtain between variables and societally recognized functions.' A macro-level sociology of language pays attention to a .more generalized description of sociolinguistic variation,, in which there is association between a domain, on the one hand, and a specific variety or language on the other. A domain may be defined in terms of any of the components of speech situation: tbr example, in paraguay it is found that

Valinowski ( 1923.). Typically in such 'macro-level' descriptions the concern is with comrunities where there is bilingualism or multilingualism, or at least sornc
tbrm ofdiglossia. The shift that takes place

'high' and 'low' (classical and colloquial) varieties of the same langtagc; irntl this is seen to reflect certain broad categories of situational vaiatrlc. l.hc situational features that determine'code shitt'may themselves bc highly
specific in nature; for example Gorman. studying rh use of English. Swirhili ad the vernacular by speakers of eight of Kenya's major languagcs. lorrrrrl

between languages, or bctwccrr

that 'Swahili is characteristically used more frequently thin Englislr

The mode tends to determine the tbrms of cohesion, e.g. quest()rr and-answer with the associated type of ellipsis (What do youwant? Dadtlt toothbrush)l the patterns of voice and theme, e.g. active voice with chil(l iis subject/thcme; the forms of deixis, e.g. exophoric Isituation-ref rring] l,/rr I and the lexical continuity, e.g. repetition ol mug, toothbrush, put n. All these fall within the textual component of the semarltics.

1.3 Thus one main strand in the sociolinguistic labric cotrsists in irttertt' lations among the three lcvcls ol (i) soci l irltcritcli()rl' tcl)lcscrrlt(l ltrr
t ir I i(),r; irrl(l ( iii) I lrc lir rll t risl ic sysle rrr Thisinterrcla{i()nslil)c()rrslillrlcsll)esyslcllilli(:tsrtcl ol r.r'r.ryrllrysxcclt Frorr thc sociologitltl lx)irrl 1)l vi(w. lll( l(\'lr\()l illl( rlli()ll ltttr'isol lltr' 'ricto' I vel. l]v c()rltit\1, llrr' ' t ' t ' ' r ' I trrrrtlrt s it lll lll( l clll\\ilvill,l ol

guistically by thc text; ( ii) thc srecch sil

t r

t r

I r

turn partly relatable to the topic of the conversation. It is the relative impermanence of these situational factors whiclr l(.r(ls to the phenomenon of 'code-switching', which is code shilt ictrrrlizcrl rr.,;r process within the individual: the speaker moves from one cotlc t() l tr,llr(.r and back, more or less rapidly, in the course of daily lifc, irr(l oll( r rr tlri. course of a single sentence. Gumperz (1971) describcs cor[. slrlt ,llrrl code-switching as the expression of social hierarchy ilr its vrrIiors l{tllrr.,, notably caste and social class. The verbal repefioire ol t hc spcrr lir.r . lr rs r'or i. rotential, is a function of the social hierarchy and ol h is own r llrt r. ir it I rv lr ilc thc paicular context of interaction, the social-hiearch icir I l)r.()l)c f tics oI tlr(. situation, dctermine, within limits set by other variablcs (irDil irlwrrys irlLrw ing fbr thc individual's rolc discretion; there is pcrs()nll irs wcll lrs tlrulsircli()Drl switching, in Gumrerz's tcrms), thc selcction tl)l llc ll]irkcs lrrrr wilhin t lrirt lcpcrtoilc. IIcncc lhis l)itrlicrlr cotrccpt ol lr 'c<ttic', in llrc scrrsc ol Iirngrrrrgc or lirngrrirgc v;rIicly cocxistirrr.: willl ()tller lltnguiu.lcs or lirrrgrtlrge vrrir.,lies ir r ( tr II i I lrrrl nrultirli;rlcclirl) socir.,tv. slrlt tlritl llle irrrlivirlrrrl tyrit.rrlly I

conversations with fathes and less fequently in conversations witlt silrlirrlls. although there are exceptions . - .' (1977,21 3) - exceptions whiclr wr. r,





rri r

66 A socioseriotic interpretation

of language

Sociological aspects of semantic change 67

groups in all contexts (Labov 197 Oa,2O4), but simply that the effect of such variation on linguistic change cannot be studied in isolation from the social system which determines the sets of values underlying the variation.

controls more than one code, extends naturally and without discontinuity to that of code as social dialect - dialectal variety in language that is related to

social structure and specifically to social hierarchy. The situation may

determine which code one selects, but the social structure determines which codes one controls. The limiting case would be an ideat diglossia in which every member has access to both the superposed or'high'variety and one regional or'low'variety. In general, however, the speaker's social dialect repertoire is a function of his personal caste or class history. 'I'heoretically a social dialect is like a regional dialect, in that it can be treated as invariant in the life history of the speaker. This in fact used to be regarded as the norm. [n practice, however, it is misleading; as Labov remarks in this connection (1970a, 170): 'As fa as we can see, there are no single-style speakers.' Labov efers to 'style shift' rather than 'code shift', understanding by this a shift in respect of certain specified variables that is governed by one particular situational restraint, namely the level of formality. The variables he finds are grammatical and phonological ones, such as the presence or absence ol bc in copular constructions, e.g. he lis)wildl negative concord, as displayed in the music-hall Cockney sentence l dor',

-1.4 Discussion of language and social structure usually centres around the influence of social structure on language; but in Labov's perspective any such effect is marginal, in terms of the linguistic system as a whole. 'The great majority of linguistic rules are quite remote lrom any social value'; 'social values are attrbuted to linguistic rules only when there is variation' (1970a, 204 5). ln other words, there is interaction between social hierarchy and certain teatures of the dialectal varieties that it gives rise to, such that these leatues are the object of variation; but no general principles relating language and language variety to the social order. Such principles are to be found, in a very dilferent perspective, in the work of Bernstein. Here the social structure, and social hierarchy, is shown to be related to variety in language; not to social dialect, however, but to register. This distinction is a fundamental one. Whereas social dialects are different
grammatical and rhonological representations of a semantic system, registers are different semantic configurations (leaving open the question whether they are deived from identical semantic systems or not). Hencc Bernstein's tbcus of attention is the relation of social structure to mean ing that is, to the meanings that are typically expressed by the members. Benstein (1971) has drawn attention to principles of semiotic organization governirg the choice of meanings by the speaker and their interl)rctation by the hearer. These he reters to as'codes'; and there is a considerable source of confusion here, as the same term 'code' is being used in raclically differcnt senses. The codes control the meanings the speaker-hearer attctr(ls to (ci. Cicourel's 'socially distributed meanings'). In terms of our gcnclirl picture, the codes act as determinants ofregister, operating on the selcctio of meanings within situation types: when the systemics of languagc llrt. ordered sets of options that constitute the linguistic system - are activittc(l l)y the situational determinants of text (the field, tenor and mode, r>r whtrtevr..r conceptual framcwork we are using), this process is regulated by tltc erxiL.s. A unique feature of Bernstein's work is that it suggests ltow tltc s()(.ill structure is represented in linguistic interaction. According to Bc lstc in. tlre essential element governing access to the codes is the family rolc syslc r, I lrr system of role relationships within the family; and he finds two nririll tyl.]es. the positional role system, and the personal role system. In thc lot.rrrcr. tltc part played by the member (for example in decisionrnakirg) is largcly ir function ol his position in the family: role corresponds to ascritctl stl us. ll the latter, it is more a function of his psychological qualitics irs irrr inrlivitlrrirl; here status is achicvcrl, irrrtl typicrrlly there are anlbiguitics ol r.olc. 'l he two typcs arc liruntl in irll sociirl clitsscs, l)ut si:cti())s ()l'lllc trirkllc clirss llvorrl t llc pe rso-()r icr l( r I lvr'r. rtt tr I \l r rrtt,llv lx)sil i()rti rl lrr ll ilics r re lirrr tl tltir itr ly it llre ltlwct'wotltirr)l('lil\',,llrrr\ tlr( r( i\ir rl( ( lt.fllrrtI lor lltr't.llur.l ol sot.itl cllrssorr r 1 r '.r' , \ rir llrt rrlr'r rr'lirlror ,rl r lir',,,,rrrrl ltr t lilv lvPt..
I rrr

suppose you don't know nobody what don't want to buy no dog, or its absence;0 v. rd v. I in initial position, e.g. in rrtin k; plus or minus postvocalic r, etc. Labov's work has shown that one cannot define a social dialect, at least in an urban context, except by having recourse to variable rules as well as categorical rules; in other words, variation must be seen as inherent in the system. Labov's own earlier definition of an uban speech community, as a group of speakers sharing the same linguistic attitudes, which he arrived at after finding that speech attitudes were more consistent than speech habits, could therefore, in the light of his own studies ofvariation, be revised to read 'a group of speakers showing the same patterns of variation' - which means, in turn, reinstating its original definition as a group of speakers who share the same social dialect. since social dialect is now defined so as to include such variation (cf. Wolfram 1971). However, as Labov remarks, although'there are a great many styles and stylistic dimensions. ..all suchstyles can be rangedaLong a single dimension, measured by the amount of qttention paid to speech' (1970a). Hence, for

example, the five stylistic levels that are postulated in order to show tt.r variation in postvocalic r: casual speech, careful speech, reading, word lists

and minimal pairs. In other words the type ol linguistic variation that


associated with these contexts, through the 'amount of attention paid to speech', is itself largely homogeneous; it can be represented in the lorm ol points along a scale of deviation fom an implied norm, the norm in th is citsc being a prestige or'standard'form. The speaker is not switching betwccn alternative forms that are equally deviant ad thus neutral with rcgartl ttt prestige norms (contrasting in this respcct with rtrral Pcirkcrs in (l:tlcct boundary areas). Hc is switching [)clwccrr vitt.iitttts that ltt'c vitlttc-cltitrgeti: they have diflcrcntial vtlucs irr lltc s()cill syslcrl. l'llis by rro lcillls rcces sirrily inrrlics 1lt it I t ltc so-crtllcrl 'Pt r'sl igc' lirt'ttts it t e tttost lt iglt ly vltlrrctl lo r irll


68 A sociosemiotic

interpretation of language

Sociological aspects of semantic change 69

Bernstein postulates two variables within the code: elaborated versus restricted, and person-oriented versus object-oriented. The idealized sociolinguistic speaker-hearer would ccntrol equally all varieties of code; there is of course no such individual, but the processes of socialization of the child do demand and normally Iead to - some degree of access to all. It appears however that some extreme family types tend to limit access to certain parts of the code system in certain critical socializing contexts: a strongly positional family, tbr example, may orient its rnernbers away from
the personal, elaborated system in precisely those contexts in which this type of code is demanded by the processes of formal education, as education is at present constituted - which may be a contributory factor in the strongly social-class-linked pattern ofeducational failure that is lound in Britain, the USA and elsewhere.

o[ sentence

are not included in this summary. Among other things, a sociolinguisric theory implies a theory of text: not merely a methodology of text dscrip_ tion, but a means of relating the text to its various levels of meaning. ln van Dijk's (1972) account of a 'text grammar', text is regarded as ,continuous discourse' having a deep or macro-structure ,as a whole,and a suface or micro-structure as a sequence of sentences; a set of transformation rules relates macro- to micro-structures. In other words, text is the basic linguistic unit, manifested at the suface as discourse. It cannot be describecl bv means
gram ma rs.

adult linsuittic sysrem:

It is important to avoid reifying the codes, which



are not varieties of the sense that registers and social dialects are varieties of


o,"---. I r,---""



language. The relation of code to these other concepts has been discussed by Ruqaiya Hasan, who points out that the codes are located 'above' the linguistic system, at the semiotic level (1973, 258):
While socialdialect is defined by reference to ifs distinctive formal proper ties. the code is delined by rel'erence to its semantic properties . . . the semantic properties of the codes ca be predicted from the elements of social structure which, in Iact, give risc to them. This raises the concept'code'to a more general Ievel than that of language variety; indeed there arc advantages in regarding the restricted and thc elaborated codes as codes of behaviour, where the word 'behaviour'covers both verbal and nonverbal behaviour.

=-lzlclrl | l !

The code is actualized in language through registcr, the clustering ol semantic features according to situation type. (Bernstein in fact uscs thc term 'variant', e.g. 'elaborated variant', to refer to those characteristics of r register which derive from the choice of code.) But the codes themselves are types of social semiotic, symbolic orders of meaning generated by the social system. Hence they transmit, or rather control the transmission o[, thc underlying patterns of a culture and subculture, acting through the primary socializing agencies of family, peer group and school. At this point we can perhaps set up some sofi of a model i which thc linguistic system, and the social system in its restricted sense of socirl structure, are represented as integral parts of the wider reality of the soci l system in the more all-embracing sense of the term. F'or analytical purposcs we will add a third component, that of'culture' in the sense of the ideologicll and material culture, to serve as the source of speech situations and situuti()
types. Malinowski's context of culture (and context

ol situirtion) is tlrc

product of the social structure together witll tlle culturc in th is linr ite(l scnsc i so are Fishman's domains. Figurc 4 (abovc thc linc) atlcnlpls lo l)rcscnl in schematic lirrrr thc analytic rclirtions thirl wc lrirvc scl ul).

1.-5 Nirlrrritlly llre rc iir( ()lhcr'(onrlxrr(nl\()l



Schomalb ropresenlalion ol lan(ugo as social somiotic, and child,s modo ol rr)coss lo it

70 A sociosemiotic

interpretation of language

Sociological aspects of semantic change 7l

the text as a Now the last point is worth un<lerlining The-notion of a\ a supersent!'nce the of suoer-sentence is essentially comparable to that by rcillrilTlon' related ilre two pttnem.l it ignores the essnrial lact that [he unit' I.iiv'ti.. ri.-"ue uclopt",l here the view of the text as a semantic as the unit' grammlicijl (and other \entences irresoective of size. with tat of relatins' no'macro' ;.;i';;"";',:" .'*"ii"i pi"t'rtm' then' isbut one.levcl (srratum) to size)' ;;;;; li*.t"t (which cliffer in the sentences which another: of relating the text not only 'downwards' to which it is itself nt ,""rir" ii rrr, ,it"':ip*aros to o high' teuet 'neanitg' of context' this a s.ciolinguistic in ;; ;;i;t"" ;t projection Tvfricattv'are rcrlizetl bv texts of vervdav ;;i";.I;;;il.ttgial -eonigs thai the text in. its.role in cul;;;;;;,;;;,;;;t ap'i esp.cluttv ihose involving in kind frorn others tural transmission; but these are not cssenlially dlfferent L'bo' and waletzkv 1e67; (van Dijk \el2' 273rt; ;;;;;.;.;;;;ii,"; "C;iil 'i even literarv texts' i;;i), t;ituaing "t'ita'"n'' narratives' antl is to say no more than text of i" *v ii"iJ.iolinguiltics implies a thcory ttre-1.'^"].1'::l:'-""t ;'et that it implies a linguistic tneorvl'ne w15lr " of the.tcrms' at all soccifvins both svstem and process' in Hjclmstcv's scnse thc rorm and so on which i;;""'ioii it'"" '""'""ces' clauses that is already' of (material -"i"ii]' J .r"tvuy iing,itti.,-ini"-'u"tion in these.terms) are to be ."lrr", irgi,r1, ir,*rr.u, n"" it tan be referrcd to the realization of meani;;;i"? d"ih "s realizations and as instanccs; as meaning potential is a The inss which are instances oftne rT e-aning potential

tent/expression pairs, having rneaning in certain culturally defined and possibly universal functions. Thcse functions can be enumcrated tentativcly as follows: instrumental, rcgulatory, interactional, personal, heuristic, irlaginative. Figure 5 shows Nigel's protolanguage at 10j months (Halliday
1975a). Such expressions owe nothing to the nother tongue; this

thl: stagc


at which, in rnany fblklores, the child can talk to animals and to \pirils. but adults cannot join in. Then comes a discontinuity, round about l8 months: a point whcrc thc child ceases to recapitulatc phylogeny and begins to adopt the adult modcl. From now on thc spccch around him, the text-in-situation which is a morc 0r' lcss constant fcaturc of his waking environment, comes to determinc lris languagc developmcnt. Hc is embarked on a mastery of thc adult syslcnt, which has an additirnal lcvel of coding in it: a grammar (including a vocabulary), intermediate between its meanings and its sounds. Functionally, howcver, thee is no discentinuity; language continucs to function for thc child in thc same contcxts as before. But the intcrpolation ol' a grammatical system, besides vastly increasing the number of possihlc mcanings which the system is capable ofstoring, also at the same timc opcns up a new possibility, that of functional combination: it bccomes possiblc to mcan morc than one thing at oncc. How does the child help himself ovcr this stagc? Nigcl did it by generalizing from his function set an opr,rsiliorr
as doing and language as learning: the pragnatic Iuncti()n vcrsus thc mathctic function, as I called it. In situational terms. thc praAmatic is that which demands some (vcrbal or nonverbal) rcsponsc: thc mathetic is self-sufficient and does not rquire a response. Nigcl hitprnetl to make this distinction totally explicit by means of intonation, producing ir ll pragmatic uttcrances on a rising tone and all mathctic oncs on a falling t()nc i

bctween language

U"i"J.r"f,'.. t. t"laie

(tlr othcr such frame of relersystem, ideational, intcrpersonal and textual wherebv thc

i' in tt'" Iat resort 'l:'. tu"'11:::l "r ""^i of the semantrc the texi to the functional component

the chanel ;;.;).'';;" il;.,ionui "o,npon"nts prouidetext' via the scmantic conthe onio pr()Jected underlying meanings are ri*ri.ii"r",,", wc ic calling registers lshall not colnpli:il: ll:cxpositx)n orders various,o-ther

ir"rii.. iv itv.g,o

that are Projectcd on) thc ;;;";";,iidt"ry. psychokrgiJal anrl so forth' I should-like to add onc But semantic svstcm and thereby onto the textr bv the' learning-orlanguage thc #;:';i;:'":'':;,;;" ;i;t' iht"oncerns sociolinguistic interPretati()n oI in it'" tiiht of a proces

in.luae in-it Jp"cific

rc fere nce

to the


languagc ,.lcuelopme nt (Halliday la75a)'

as this


1. A child learning

a mcaning his mother tongue is constructing with its rcalizatiotls' togethcr that is, he is constructing u '"tuntii sYstem' rhe niddlc.rtc ts which s' phase tu[" ptutt in thrcc "f I) by dcvclopirrg a sc nr iot ie functionallv transiti.rnar. rnc Jr u"gin'iel"'" svstc.r rnirr ot'i"' f' thc dult linstri'rie sitllplc eott whosc clenrcnts itrc




that was his particular strategy. But the image of language as hirving :r pragmatic and a mathctic potential may reprcsent cvery child's opcratiorrirl rnodel of the s)stem at this stag(. Probably most children enter Phase II of the language-learning rrrcess rvith somc such two-way functional orientation, or grid; and this lunct iorrrrl grid, we may assumc. acts selectively on the input of text-in-situal io r. rs ir scnantic filtcr. rcjectingthosc particulars that are not interpretablc irr leIrrrr ol itsclf, and acccpting those which as it were resonate at its own [uncli,rrril licquencies. lt is perhaps worth stressing here, in view of thc prevrrilirr1 notion of unstructurcd or degenerate input, that the utteranccs tlre clilrl lcars around him arc typically both richly structured and highly grrrrrr nrirticrl, as wcll as being situationally relevant (cf. Labov l970rr); tlrc clrild docs not lack lor evidence on which to build up his melning l)()lc r

;?;il;;.;;;n'it-"* surrounds him; it is a




|n)('ll! Scc in ihi connecti(ln Ztnrthor'\ chillllClfli/illi(!ll rrrx lk t'r r(' hrcuscs sonl lcs tcrl!s . f ,,". .' t"i r""tl rr'rr\' xi'itll lt\(ll(l\rh rl)s()lLtnrenl. irrr ooirrl(l-(\lorrr|cr.r",'i""'firlil"'In(\rlrrr I rh rrrr l'r rrr''l l"rr'lrrrrn ri.,r I'n 'l 'l' -'',,1'1.r'tl 'rr

ol llt(|i(vil|

lt)7,,. l7l): l(r \oI'tk llr ' rlrrrrrr



l'rtrlr' ( i\llr'rr

lrrs lrlso nlrslerctl thc plincillc of clial<tgtrc. nilmcly the atloptirrrr. irsriltttttr. trl itttrl (\'el)lirncc (()r n()n-cccplilrlcc) ol eontrnunicirlivc t'ok.s. rrlr'lr irrc rotirl lolr's ol ir sPccilrl kintl. llost llrirl (ont( iuto beinA orly

lrr l)hirsc II thc child is in transition k) thc adult system. Hc has ntirstclcrl tlrt. prirreirle ()l ltn itrtcrmcdirtc. lcxicogrammatical level of coding; trnrl hc

72 A sociosemiotic

interpretation of Ianguage

through language. The semiotic substance of the pragmatic/mathetic distinction, between language as doing and language as learning, has now been incorporated into the grammar, in the form of the functional distinction between interpersonal and ideational in the adult system. These latter are the 'metafunctions' of the adult language: the abstract components of the semantic system which correspond to the two basic extrinsic functions of language (those which Hymes calls 'social' and 'referential'; cf. above). At the same time the child begins to build in the third component, the 'textual'
one; this is what makes it possible to create text, language that is structured in relation to the context of its use (the 'context of situation'). These three components are clearly distinct in the system, as sets ofoptions having strong internal but weak external constraints. Here is the source of the complex nature of linguistic 'function', which causes some difficulty in the interpretation of functional theories of language, yet which is a major characteristic of the adult semiotic. On the one hand, 'function' refers to the social meaning of speech acts, in contexts of language use; on the other hand, it refers to components of meaning in the language system, determining the internal organization of the system itself. But the two are related simply as actual to potential; the system is a potential for use. The linguistic system is a sociolinguistic system. At this stage, then, the generalized functions which serve as the basis for various strategies whereby a child can learn the meanings of the adult language gradually evolve through three stages. At first, they are alternatives: at (say) 18 months, every utterance is either one or the other (either malhetic or pragmatic). Then they become differences of emphasis: at (say) 21 months, every utterance is predominantly one orfheother (mainly mathetic/ideational but also pragmatic/interpersonal; or vice versa). Finally they come to be combined: at (say) 24 months, every utterance is both (ol ideational ar?d interpersonal). What makes this possible is that both come to be expressed through the lexicogrammatical system; the 'functions' have changed their character, to become abstract components of the semantics, simultaneous modes of meaning each of which presupposes the presence of the other. And this apparently is what enables the child to structure the input which he receives so that any one text comes to be interpreted as a combination ofthe same kind. To put this anotherway, being himself (at first) on any one occasion either observe or intruder, he can grasp the fact that the adult Ianguage allows the speaker-indeed obliges him -to be bothobserver and intruder at the same time. When these processes of functional development are completed, the child has effectively entered the adult languagc system;the final phase, Phase III, consists in mastering the adult languagc. Phase III, of course, continues throughout life. I have attempted to incorporate the developmental componcnts of tlrc sociolinguistic universe of discourse into figure a (p. 69); this is thc rrrlt below the horizontal line. The double vertical bar crosscr.rtlirrS ths line, towards the left, represents thc poinl ol rliscontirruily irr 1hc cxrlc.sil,rr, where the child lcgins to tilkc ovcr tlrc glanrnlrl irrttl l)lx)n()l()gv ()l llre r(llrll

E =rg tlilisci E:;: EEFecra ."::3-P$rE$ I HEee:r:-e;i:F!g E a a ! I


,- ! ; j



E' E E E E .A F"

i_ 9.:



= b

Eaa -1. ;;E





; si g E tr:_:tttth
HEIE 9 .,:!Erl*S


F Silr:



: EE EE =

EEE ; LlLr=
'-I e

r I

E +


E ,

o 9 3

95t;HE<'o 3i3EHt EcEdlii

7,1 A

sociosemiotic interpretation of language

Sociological aspects of semantic change 75

language. In the content, there is a rapid expansion liom this point on

no essential discontinuity.

- but

2 Variation and change 2.-/ Much of the work referred to

above embodies a concept of variation. Typically, this refers to variation betwecn diffecnt forms oflanguage within a speech community: between languages or major sublanguages, between dialects, and between speech styles (i.e. minor dialectal variants, in Labov's sense of the term). If we distinguish terminologically between variety, meaning the existence of (dialectal, etc.) varieties, and variation, meaning the movement between varieties (i.e. varicty as the state, variation as the process), then the individual speaker displays variation (fhat is. switches) undcr certain sociolinguistic conditions; in the typical instance, thcse conditions elate to the level of formality (degree of attention paid to speech, in Labov's formulation), role relationships, topic of discourse and so on. But there may be variety without variation: this would be the idealized form of the situation studied in ural dialectology, where dialects exist but members do not switch between them. Just as there may be variety without variation, so also there may be variation without change. Labov has demonstrated the existence of this kind of stable variation, where the variants eithcr are not charged with social value o else are the object ofconflicting values which, as it wcrc, canccl each other out - a low-prestige form may also have solidarity function, perhaps. But whilc variation does not always imply change, it is usually presumed to be a fcature of sociolinguistic change change that is related to social phenomena - that it is preceded by, and arises out of, variation, such variation being a product of the interaction of Ianguage with the social system. Labov's formulation is as lbllows (1970a, 205):
In the course of change, there are inevitably variable rules, and these areas of

instances ae interpreted as the outcome of social processes; this question is clearly beyond our present scope. But if it is taken morc generally to mean that there are no other forms of linguistic change involving relations between the social system and the linguisric system, this would seem open to challenge, since it excludes the possibility of changes of a socioscmantic
kin d.

its elements. But, as Labov himself has pointed out elsewhere (1971), it i; difficult to make a rery clercul dilinction bclueen lhc system and its elements.) If this is to be understood in the limited sense that semanric changes are not brought about by accidental instances of morphological or phonological syncretism, it presumably applies whether r not such

place in thc expression, at the grammatical and phonological levels, it cannot affect the contcnt: the semnfic system re mains unchanged. (Sociolinguistic changes in the expression are usually presented not as canges in the system but as microscopic changes affecting certain elements of the system, the implication being that it is the purely internal mechanisms that bring about change in the system - including thc change that is required to regulate the balance which has becn impaired by socially conditioned changeJ affcting

generalization', to be explained as a kind of grammatico-scmantic equilibrium in which 'there is inevitably some other structural change to com_ pensate for the loss of information involved' (1970a, 183). An example given is that, in Trinidad English, the past tense gaye was replaced by iho present form giy?, and thcrefore the form do glve was introduced to dis_ tinguish present from past: instead of I give/I gave, the same system is realizetl as I do give,l givc. The assumption appears to be that, while sociolinguistic change takes

variability tend to travel through the system in a wave-like motion. The leading edge of a particular linguistic change is usually within a single group, and with successive Senerations the newer fom moves out in wider circles to other groups- Linguistic i?1r'aroJ which show social distribution but no style shift Ii.c. varicty without variation] rcprcscnt carly stagcs of this process. Markes which show both stylistic and social stratification rcprcscnt the dcvelopment of social reaction to the change and the attribution of social value to the variants con ccrned. .tereotypes, which have risen to full socialconsciousncss, may rcprcscnt
olde cases of vaiation which may in fact have gone to completion; or they may actually reprcset stable oppositions of liguistic forms supportcd by two opposing sets of underlying social values.

Taken as a whole, linguistic change involvcs, in Labov's wortls. 'oscillation between intcrnal prcssurcs and intcraction with tlrc socil syslcr'; i1
includcs. but is not lirritctl to. changc ol ir'sociolirrgrrislic'kiltl. lhc irrtL'r'rirl -rlcsstrtcsLirbovsccs-irsolltct lirtgtrisls lrirv( (lor(.ir\ir'l)r(x(ss()l slllrclrrrirI

Semantic change is an area in which no very clear boundary can be maintained between change that is intcrnal and change that is socially conditioned, although the two are in principle distinguishable; it bears our Hoenigswald's observation (1971.473) that 'The internal and the external factors in linguistic change are densely inteftwincd, but not. . . incxtricably so.'Thc existence of semantic variety is traditionally taken for granted in language and culture studies; but the instances that can be cited oaculturally conditioned semantic change are quite limited in their scope. These changcs are typically fairly microscopic, affecting specific subsystems, especially those concerned with the linguistic expression of social status and ole: well-known cxample is Friedrich's (1966) study of Russian kin terms, relating the changcs in the number and kind of kinship tems in general use to changes in thc structurc of social relationships in Russian society. Semantic field thcory, which takcs the thamp de significatbn as the constant and examincs thc changcs in thc mcrning of thci elemcnts of thc subsystem within it, also lcrcls itscll to sociocultural cxplanations (Tricr,s classic examplc 1)l thc Iicld ol 'knowiog'in nctlicval Gcrman). But it seens unlikely thirl rvc slxrrrkl cx)cel l() Iitl(1. ilt lhe scrrlilnlic lcvcl. .sociolinguistic,changc.s rll'lt rlole gcnelrrl ot nritctoseollic kittl. llo\!( v( r. il is rrol srr rrrrrclt rntrjol shills irr the linrristit systcrt I hirl ir( ilt

76 A socioserniotic

interpretation of language

Sociological aspects ol semantic changc 77

relate to general features of the social oucstion. as linguistic changcs u hich own validity apart from -'"r- ^r t^ qnciolosicll constructs that have iheir ,'"1;i ;::;" i; xl! i two tvDcs of fairlY Pervaslve se'm

:;;.,fJ",;"";;;iinl,ii'ut tt'ot..o'tominhere lhetirstisIhclarge-scale intoductionOfnewvocabulary,a"inperiodsofrapidtechnicalinnovation; speaking" or scmantic iil;;";'i;'.h;;g. in whor whorf caitLd 'fashions ol

;"i;;l :llt t*:::xHj,l[:if:':x]""f



by thc appearance .f these processcs is chaacterized nt l!11e^""ine, non-exisre ; iig. n'*u"' of previouslv ,,;";;;i \ariety ol means rn a b1 rcalized s'r [.rth' .l;i"..;;'r.;.*;;'f. lrns anclintt'nn but not limitcd t() - the creaion thc lexicogrammatical structurc of ncw vocabularv' is a ,;i;;;;ri;rr. (T() call thi\ p'ot"t''in"duttion introduction of ncw thing-mean ings' Lli."it* r,t"irration I rathir iii' thcbv new lexical elements ) One maior




often held, at least irnplicitly. that thc semantic styles associated with the various rcgistcrs of the 'world languages', such as technical English or Russian, or political French, arc inscparable from the terminologies, and have to be introduced along with them whercver they travel. Certainly it is a common reproach against speakers and writers using a newly created terminology that they tend to develop a kind of'translationesc', a way of meaning that is derived frorl English or whateyer sccond language is thc main source of innovation, rather than from the language they are using. No doubt it is easier to imitate than to create in thc developing languagc semantic configurations which incorporate the new tcrminological matter
is not cxactiy the point at issue. There is no reason to expect all ideologies to bc modclled ot thc semiotic structurc of Standard Average Eurtrpean; thcre are other modes of meaning in literuture

into existing semantic styles. But this

which may or may not be cxpres'scd changc' in the .,rrr.. .,ii"tig, into thi: prt'ces' is prnned sociolinguistic pcneratconte'xtollunguog"ptunning.Thckcyconceptinlanguageplanning "tt is not entirclv clcar in.uhich sense i'ng'og" ,"i,;;i',:i:;;;;i,;rinfu irnplv that theic are underdcvcloped :1";;i,;: i,;"i;s'.1 rtt'* 'ri"t;i rhtt'ttt Ut rc[errcd t'r as'dcvel'rping' thty ,loubt n., r,.-^,,..^. I in
is a

betwcen devcloped languages and i:ffi:li:., lt,J" i'"e';t"'ai;tl"tion the tcrm bc intcrpreted rather in the vcry dubi

on"' o"ht'uld 'u' out what is alre acll ,tare ntly there? a scnse of developing tilm, urinling i"nBuase ' tvPicallv rL'rer'i ;;;;;;.;hri;;v ' 'a"u'topinfo Y":1!:]11 ims bv 'omc ucel:Y :y'h as a commrssron :.-;;;:i;;.;h. crL:ation oI nw relours" ufficiullv sponsored activitv of ;;t"il;;i;;rl;t at Ie ast in the 'om" textbooks;;;;;;;;;?A"ction of rcfeence w.rks and ^ viewed from a linguistic when oiru.t nutur. what is thc essenriul it ot ':"luuoration of function" and thc in "hange, .;;;i;;ti;r*cn ( I966)

than ths poctry and thc drama of Rcnaissance Europe. and it will not be surprising to find difftrcncus in other gcnrcs also, including the various ficlds of intcllcctual activity. This is not to suggcst that the scmantic styles rcmain static. Thc alternativc in thc develorrncnt ofa languagc is tlot that ofcither bccoming European or staying as it is; it is that ()f becoming European or beconring somcthing clse, more closcly following its own existing patterns ol cvolution. lt is very unlikcly that onc part of thc scmantic systcm would remain totallv isolated from anothcr; u'hen ncw meanings are being crcated on a
largc scalc. we shouid cxpcct sonre changes in thc fashions of spcaking. tt is la from clear how thesc takc place; but it is certily quitc inadequatc te interpret thc innovations simply as changcs in subject mattcr. Thc changes that arc brought about ir this rvay involvc media, genres. participants and participant relations, illl thc components of the situation. Ncw rcgisters arc crcatcd. u,hich activatc new alignments and configurations in thc functional components of the scmantic system. It is through tllc intermediary of the
socitl structure that thc semantic change is brought about. Senantic stylc is a

'"itit runctional one: the lansuase is to runc::t;il,';":.;i"p*"uni'' ' to which it .has previouslv bccn iirt"i"'r"*'tiir"', typ"r' oi"itunti'''n,is rcmarkablc how pe"ptcti" u t"e
irr""p,.a ftti. i,-c"'iuinly
ri,ir- i. r,.r

::::,::1":':il;:;;i ;J;;ii,, in languagcs' ii;,ututt ..1n technical innovation in Europcan ""i, g Wexlct (c and other tcrminokrgics "-""ti. lhe developmcnt ol tracing tcchnical on 'nOutitiuf and terminokrgv); i';;;.';;;" ";,;f"tl"n or e'J"i'' (lirlh 'ilwav cvcrywhcrc in languit1cs in existencc

rhout thc

,rof.'"t" in'nluttl'

especialll ahout thc nalurirl non-westcin ranguages rherc is it

lunction of social relationships and situation types gcneratcd by thc social structure. If it changes, this is not so much bccause of what pcoplc arc nou' speaking about as bccause of who thcy are speaking to, in whrt circumstanccs, through what media and so on. A shift in the firshions ol speaking will bc bettcr understood by retcrencc to changing prttcrns ()1' \()cial intcraction and social relationships than by the search fitr a direct link l)ctwccn thc Ianguagc and thc material culture. -1..i Onc phcnorlcn()n thitt shows up thc existencc

vocabularies as they are toun Basr) 1967) Bur stu(lic ol ;";;i;;; ". Fiake 1961; Conklin 196tt; arc rrrc A nrrtrthlc cxantrlc is lllt' innovation in non-Europcan i";;"'g"t 'r.i.r,r^lrrirri;l; tgu' inve stigrttittg h.rr I hc re nrhc Ls ol t r o6z) *utt onit llrir)A-rlr(rrlilrll\ irtrni""g,t"d*c"'ingc''nmttrtitsirlc'rrp'rrlrtcrr!'\\ outt littgttislic llrcir int() ti'"1 "tt'i'u'tni - ncw techuiqucs, n"* upptt"it't


l'lislerlslsillotll(sctrttlrl IrtIttIitIII

IIIIII !tl l:r\llrrll\r)l rrt'rrl'irl1


of an cxternal or 'socirrlinguistic'lctol irr scntattic change isthatofarcal affinity. Atdulaziz ( I ()7 I ) hirs rlr rrrr rr ll lc ll ()n lo t hc arcal scmtntic cffect whcrcby speakcrs of I rsl Aliiclr l:rrrgrtlrges. r,thcthc thcsc arc rcltcd to Sw.ahili or not. find Srrrrhili cirsitr to hlrntlle thrrn lrnglish bccusc ol lhc vcry high tlcgrce of rrlcrlri tslttitl)ilily b(.lwc(ll S\\'illtili rrtl llrcir orvrr lngUagc. Gunrpcrz and Wilsort s rrcr't)r||lt ( l') / l ) r)l tlrt, st.r|lrrnti( itlt.rrtitv ol Mlr.;rlli, Krrlrirtla and llrltt ts rllrklrr rrr rr tr'iiorr rl Sortl lrli rlonll tlx. l\llultllli Kiltit(lit

7il A sociosemiotic

interpretation of language

Sociological aspects of semantic change 79

border is cspecially rcvealing in this respect. Since such instances are typically also characterized by a high dcgree of phonological affinity, the idealized casc ofareal alfinity may be characterized in Hjelmslevian terms as one in which the content systems are identical and the expression systems are idcntical; what differs is sinrply the encoding of the onc in the other, the ()ne poinl of abitrarincss in the linguistic systcm. It sccms possiblc that the key to some of the problcms of areal affinity may bc found in a deeper undcrstanding of creolization, in thc light of recent stuclics. The devclopment of areas of affinity is itself prcsumably thc etTect of a crcolization proccss, and hence it is not csscntially different ticm historical
contact proceses in general, but rather is a natural conscquence of them. In the samc way thc large-scLlle scmantic innovation efcrred to above can also []e see n as ]n instance of creolization, onc leading to thc development of new Irnes rf scmantic affinity which no Ionger follow areal (regional) patterns. Neustupn! ( I 97 t ), in an interesting discussion of linguistic distance in which he attempts to isolate the notion of'sociolinguistic distance', proPosed to dcfine thc conditirn of'contiguity'in social rathcr than in geographical terms. It is not easy to sec cxactlJ' what this meas; it cannot bc maintainecl that a rcquirement tbr thc developmcnt of an area of affinity is a common social structure, since. quite apart from the Phenomenon of large-scalc technical borrowing (which is typically associatcd with the opposite situation. but might be excluded from considcration here), in fact the mosl diverse social structures are to be found within regions of established linguistic alTinity. Yct some concept of a cQmmon social syste m. at some vcry abstract level, is presumably what is implied by the more usual but vaguc assertion of a 'common cultute' as a concomitant ol areal resemblances. At an], rate. arcal affinity is a fact. uhich demonstrates' even though it docs not explain, that the semantic systems of different languages may bc alike - and therelbre that they may bc less alike. There is often difficulty enough of mutual comprehension within one language, for examplc bctween rural and urban speakcrs, simply because one is rural and the otllcl' urban. 'l'he diachronic aoalogue to this areal affinity is presumably gcnerational alTinity; thc generation gap is certainly a semiotic one, and is probatrly reflectcd i the semantic systcm. We do not have thc same systcol as our grandfathers. or as ourselves when young. Linguists are accustonlc(l to leaving such questions in the hands of specialists in communicatiorl, nlits mcdia. pop culture and the likc; but they havc implications for the linguistir' systen, and fbr linguistic changc. New forms of music, and ncw conlcxls (rl musical pertbrmance, demand new instruments' though thesc arc rtcvet trl

understood if we regard lhe semantic. \y\lem as being itselt the projec_ tion (encoding, realization) of sorne higher t.r"t of mean_ ing. "r-t.ulirguirtic

" functional or function-oriented meaning potentiali "t*oit of-Jption, fo, the cncoding of some extralinguisrc semirrtic system o, ,yri"rni in t"r_, of the two basic components of mean ing rhat we hive callccl it . i"iinrul ,na the interpcrsonal. In principle this higherJevel semiotic my bc-viewed in th.e tradition of huma nist thoug_ht ls a conceptual or ssgitire sys-tem, one of lntormatr,,n ahout thc rcal world, But ir mayequally be viewed asa semiolic of some other type. logical, i<leological, asthetic-o ,".iul. H.r" it i, t" social perspective that is relevant, the semantic ,ya,a_ u., ."oti-rution uf u social semiotic; in the words of Mary Douglas (1-971, 3g9),as a

From a_sociolinguistic viewpoint, the scmantic system can be detined

lf we ask of any form of communication the-simple question what is beig communicated? thc answe is: infolmation from the social .vr1",." exchanges which are being communicarecl constitute rhe



realized by, the lexicogrammatical sysrcm. tt i, in rt,i, p!rri".ili" tut t" sociolinguistic conditions of semantic changc may U".Jrn" ""rrif,l". Let us illustrate the notion of a context-spcific iemanti". i.o. i*n ,.."n, studies. In both cases for thc sake of slmp[ilty f \vitt ctroos" ,ln"11 ,"".i options,.sets which, moreover, form a iimpie ,u*onn_y. ".., ff,J iiri ,, ,rnrn 'I urncr ( 1973), somewhat modified. Tunr, on tf,. Uu'ri. ,rin

ii.n situation type or drmain. Thc semantic system is an interface,.berwcen the (rcsr of the) linguistic sy-stem and-somc higher-order symbolic systcm. f, li u pr.r..ilnn. or."uliztion, cf the sociat system; ar rhe samc rir. ir ir;;;j;.:;;d'or,,r, o,

bc a monosystem, a social semantics is and must be a poiy"syri.r, o r", of a",, of options in meaning, each of which is referablc ," u ,u.iui .ont"rt,

presenled in highly contexr-specific d,rses_ Whrcas a ltgical

Iuformation from thc social system has this properry, rhar ir is, typically,

*run,i.. rny

invcstigations by Bernstcin and his colleague, in


coursc totrlly ncw.

Meaning and social structure

-1../ AswithothcllevclsolllrclitAttislicsvsltllt,lltt tottltlcrrrlrlitirrttol lllt' scIltnlic syslcrtt is otrt ol t ll:tttlt . l'll| srr','ilir rlrllll( (tl lll( ( llrlil( 5 lllill lltkr' rlrtr'r'. itrtrl tllr'i r( lirlir)ll l(r ( \l{ lllill Lrr lol'.. tllil\' lrr' rri)r' tt llrlily

ve' in11) oI loss of privilege. a nd 'rhreat of punirt rf"nif,-ooritinrul, irrto 'clisapprobation'. ,rulc-giving', .reparation_seet<ing; xrlrrirlion'. pcrsonal, into ,rccognition of intcnr,unA:p"iiorri"rpfrnu_ "rj t"ori,lo."l tirrrr'. Iigurctrshows1hcsystcmunrlcr.threutntor,fprluil""eii,i"r"ur" tlte ol'rlions thirl llivc bccn shown t,) lru xvilrble to ttre'mottre? wi sefects llris Iolr ol t,onlrol behivirrrr lr r.rlr lo slrru, lrow thesc ()l)tions lrre typically rcalizcd in the lexico_ lirrrrrrllrliclrl sy\l(,ll. ,(.irrtlir.lrlt, llrr,c()ltlril)nli()n lhill lllitl \llltrlut( ()l llt(. s(.nf(.ltcf (rr,li.crrc.r..s ,,,., ,,, ",,a1.,,rr,,fr.]r,u,fa r,,r,,l r;,rt,. i,,'tt,,g"t,.

c,r.regultive conrext;ithi; rh; ramity, ):)ll.l,,j:,i::l:-l]. lll,.:u,', r\ rt\.1ng gc nc r | care gorir..r of pare nlal.control sl ratcg : .impc ra tive.. .positi,,rrirl'rrntl n(rsr)nal'. Fach oI thcse is rhen trrrtcr ruiat.!ri..i.:irp"rr-

nriu". o L;r;, innit.u.ts u



A sociosemiotic interpretation of


Sociological aspects of scmantic change



material process, Roget 293 Departure or 287 Recession: Hearer you : Affected; Positive command:'middle' type; imperative, jussive, exclusive


either 'middle' type, or (rarer) 'non-middle' (active' Speaker I : Agent); indicative, declarative

rvhich are predominantly instructional. Figure 8 (p.85) shows some of the options unde the 'directive' heading; the tbrm oI presentation is adapted to match that of Turner. The unmaked modal realization ofthe 'directive'catcgory is the impera-


resolution: futuretense obligation: modulation.

deDrivation: material process, benefactive, Roget 784 Giving; 'nonmiddle' type: (oPtional) Speakerl : Agent; Hearer you = Beneficiary; indicative, declarative; future tense; negative

tive; but there ae makcd options in which the other moods occur. 'Proscribed action' ( 1 ) is a behavioural directive which may be realized through imperativc, declarative or intcrrogative clausc types. Directivcs relating to non-proscribed actions may bc (2) isolated exchanges (behavioural) or (3) parts of intcractions (procedural); thcy may be (4) requests, encoded in thc
various modal forms, or (5) references to an action which ought to havc becn

performed but has not been, typically in past tense interrogativc. (Cl.

Ervin-Tripp 1969, 56f1.)


(l) you go on outside (2) you're going upstairs in a minute (3) I'll have to take you uP to bed (4) you're not going to be given a sweet/I shan't buy you anything
T ihrt

) don't rattle / what are you laughing at / somcone is still whistling (2,4) will you open the door? / I want you to stop talking now (2,5) did you open that door? (3,4) you must all stop writing now (3,5) have you finished?
These illustrations are, of course, very specific in their scope; but thcy bring out the general point that, in order to relate the linguistic realization oI social meanings to the linguistic system, it is necessary to dcpart fr()m thc traditional monolithic conception of that system, at least at the semantic level, and to consider instead the particular networks of meanings that arc operative in particular social contexts. How these various semantic systems combine and reinforce cach other to produce a coherent, or reasonably coherent, world yiew is a problem in what Berger and Kellner call thc 'microsociology of knowledge'. In their analysis of the sociology of marriage, they interprct thc marriage relation as a continuing convcrsation, and observe (1970, 61), 'In the marital conversation, a world is nof only built, but it is kept in a state of repair and ongoingly refurnished.' This is achievcd through the cumulative effect of innumerable microsemiotic encounters, il the course of which all the various semantic subsystems are brought into





, .i toss +l

reieclo' -..........- |



Loepn,arion ra)

obliqal'on (3)

rhrr ol

punishenl d'saPprobaton rue-sivrg

i I 1 I F9. 6

f I I I



L pos,ronar ePraaton

a,""onnn,on o, ,n,"nt
Personar eiplnaton

Taken as a whole the system reveals correlation at a number of points with invessocial class, as well as with other social factors; for example, in the mothers iigation from which this is taken, significantly more middle-class itln *ort ing-ctass mothers selected the 'rule-giving' type of positional

3.2 Hymcs


The second example is taken from Coulthard et al' 1972' For a fullc representation of this semantic network' see figure 7 (pp 82-3) from Halliday in 1975c: see Sinclai et al. lg7 2 tot afuller report This is a study of semantics

made the point several years ago that 'the role of language may differ from community to community'(1966, 116). Hymes was making a distinction bctween what he called two types of linguistic relativity: crosscultural variation in the system (the fashions of spea king, or'cognitive styles' as hc callcrl thenr) and crosscultural variation in its uses.

theclaisroom. The socializingagentisthe school,where presumably rcgulativc and instructional contcxts irc inscparably associatcd Thc lttthols itrvestigated thc options oPcrl to tlrc tcacl'tct lirr t hc in itiitt ioll ol tlist ottt'st : Itc tlt ity sicct'.lirc.i'. rvhiclr is Pretirnlin:rntly regttllrtive in ittlctlt' r'l llt llllr\ \( l('l

But we should not press this distinction too hard. The system is mercly thc uscr's potcntial. ()r thc potential for use; it is what the speaker-hearcr'carr ncan'. 'fhis scmirntic potentill we are regarding as one form of thc prt jcclion ol his synrbolic l)chrviour potential: the 'sociosemiotic' systcm. to rrsc(ircinrirs's(I969)tcrnl.lnanygivencontcxtol usc a given situat iot'l typc,

Air'e tt socirlsl

Iuctlrrc tlrcnrcnthqrdisposcsol'rrclwrrlksolo'rtions,sctsrtl



E l
I ,

9 6a po E'E !

c5 Po

!o6 o




o I


E: ll ttt

EO 9 gP




; E





, *



_ t.

sE Eg sg E;Ei S fr 8s E f sg F _"E , I

l=/\ rt I * * c fi E
ot -

+i L;;

E 3E

o D




.t_t.t_r =

E3c :EE=
l II ,l _t


; :9





;i ;3



55 =




bE 6a

pd 5


E E: 99-:


I 38 {B







S EE I t



84 A

sociosemiotic interpretation of language

loss of ptivlege

Sociological aspects of semantic change g5 semiotic alternatives, and these ae realized through the semantic system. From this point of vierv, as suggested in the last section, the semantic system appears as a set of subsystems each associated with a particular domain, or





material process ('Deparlure, R 293; 'Recession', R 297); Hearer you : [edium; positive malerial process: benefactive ('Givng', R 784); Heareryo/ : Beneficiary (BecipienVClient); negatve middle; imperative: jussive: exclusive. Exi you go on upstairs; go up lo bed now indicatve: declarative lelthe middle o]' non-mddle: active/passive, Speaker / : Agent (optional in passive); middle* f rejecton, nonmiddle* if deprivationl future /: in present / present n present Ex: you're going upstairs; l'll take / l'm taking yor. upstairs Lrejectionl; l'm otgoing to byyou anything;you're notgoing to begiven a sweel ldeprvaton l
modulaton: passve: necessary Ex; l'll have to take yo upstairs; you ll have to go upsiars lreiectionl; you won't have to have a sweet; I shan't be able to gve you a sweet; next lime you won't be able lo go shopping with me Ldeprivationl

context ol use. What we refer to as ,the system, is an abstract con_ ceptualization of the totality of the use,s potential in actually occurring situation types.
u"t'o"o'o*'btd/ )


, L "",.nno p,oscfoed I

behvioura (,sotted) l2) Procedura (,nleracrional)

{3 )

Fig. 8

f .................*l

equesr (4r pasrobrsa.on (5)


fhreat of punshment


Authority tigure:


'if': 'because'l
'or': explcit reference to repetition:

material process ('Punishment', R 972; Heaiet you = redium; nonmiddle: aclive,* Speaker/ = Agent; indicative: declarative; future /: n present; positve Ex: I'll smack you; you'll gei smacked material process ('Punishment, R 972; Disapprobation', B 932 lparas. beginnng /epreherd. . ., sense of'verbal punishmentl; Hearct you : Medium; non-middle; 3rd person (father,* policeman*) = Agent indicative: declarative; future /: in present; positive Ex: the policeman wil tell you off; Daddy'll smack you 'you do that' hypotactic; condition in dependent clase, threat in man clause Ex: if you do that, . . . hypotactic; condition in main clause, threat in dependent clause Ex: don't / you mustn't do that because . . . paratactic; condition in clause 1 , threat in clause 2 Ex: don't / you mustn't do that or . . . agal, in condilion L I next te : if . . . agan l Ex: if you do that again, . . . i next time you do that . . . ; don't do that again because / or . . .

In othcr words, different groups of people tend to mean different things. ,_ Hymes is undoubtedly right in recognizing crosscultural variation in the system, and it would not be surprising if we also find intracultural (i.c. cross-subcultural) variation. One may choose to separate this observation from the observation that different groups of people tend to use language iu different ways, using the one observation to explain the other; bui ln-any case, the fact has to be accounted for, and cannot readily be accomodated in a conceptual framework which imposes a rigid boundary betwcen com_ petence and performance and reduces the system to an idealized competence \ hich is invariable and insulated lro lhe cnvironmcnt. Labov has shown how, under conditions of social hierarchy, social prcs_ variation and change. How far do such pressures also operate in the case ol. semantic change? Although Labov himself does not consider the scmantic level, his work on non-standard varieties of English has important implications for this question. In a recent paper (1970b), Labov gives a lively discussion of Ncgro Non-Standard English for the purpose of demonstrating that it is jusi irs grammatical and just as 'logical' as any of the ,standard, forms ol lhc
have rarely taken the trouble to deny the various myths and folk_bclicls about the illogicality of non-standard forms. There is no doubting thc logic of all linguistic systems. But although all linguistic systems ur" cqu,,lly 'logical', they may differ in thei scmrntic organization; and there havc Iccn scrious tliscussions about thc possibility of .dcep structure, _
language. This is not news to linguists, for whom it has always been a carrlirrirl axiom of their subject; this is why, as Joan Baratz once poi;ted out, lingrisl s
sues act selectively on phonological and grammatical variables, leading k)

Lexicogrammatical realzations of some categories of ControlStrategy'(see f9.7, 'imperative')

Numbers following Fl refer to numbered paragraphs in Foget's lhesaurs. * : typical lorm

rvhich wc may interpret as scnriullic tlillcrcnces



thc (liftrcnt of English (t.()llin 196(.)) ll rriry lrc lct l)tirA ti) lltke il li)rg|,lrrrlcrl lltirl irll'lir.s ol lr lirngrrirgc


86 A sociosemiotic

interpretation of language

Sociological aspects of semantic change g7 which each individual displays considerable variation: a fact which helps to explain some of Labov,s own findings.! Benstein would, I have no dubt, agree with the points that Labov purports ro make against him; but more important than that, Bernstein,s work provides the iecessary theoretical support for Labov's own ideas. Since this work has been misunderstood in some quarrers it mry he helpful to attempt a Uri"i ,"."fiiri",l", .f i,

must be semantically identical, since as wc know thcrc arc many pcoplc who misinterpret variety in evaluative tcrms: if two systcms differ. thcy hold, then one must be bcttcr than the other. It has bccn difficult cnough to persuade the Iayman to accept fbrms of English which ditTer phonologically from the received norm, and still morc so thosc which diffcr grammatically; there would probably be even greater rcsistance to the notion of scmantic

differcnces. But one should not be browbeaten by these attitudes into rcjccting the possibility of subcultural variety in the semantic system. In the words of Louis Dumont ( 1970, 289),
Thc oncness of the human species . . . docs not demaDd the arbitrry reduction of divcrsity to unity; it only dcmands that it should be possibe to pass from one particularity to anothcr. and that no effort should be spaed in order to elaborate a common language in which each particularity can be adequately dcscibed.



It is not too difficult to interpret this possibility of subcultural differences at thc scmantic level cn the basis of a combination rf Labov's theories with thrsc of Bernstein. Labov, presumably, is using the term 'logic' in his title in imitation of those who assefi that non-standard English'has no logic'; the meaning is'logicalness', the property ofbcing logical, rather than the kind of logic that it displays. There is no reason to believe that one language or language varicty has a different logic from another. But this does not mcan their semantic systems must be identical. Labov's findings could, with enough contrivance, be educed to diffcrenccs of grammar - thereby robbing thcm of any significance. What they in fact display are differences of semantic style, code-regulated habits of meaning, presumably transmitted through social and family structure, that distinguish one subculture from another. Bernstein's work provides a theoretical basis for the understanding of this kind of semantic variety, making it possible to envisage a social semiotic of a sufficicntly general kind. Some such theory of language and social structurc is a prerequisite for the interpretation of sociolinguistic phenomena, including Labov's own findings and the principles he deives from them. It is all the morc to be regretted, therefbre, that Labov included in his valuable polemic some ill-founded and undocumented criticisms of Bernstein's work; e.g. 'The notion is first drawn from Bernstein's writings that . . .', followed by a quotation from somebody else which is diametrically opposed to Bernstein's idcas. (Because of his misunderstanding of Bernstein. Labov assumes - one must assume that he assumes it. since otherwise his criticism would lose its point that the speech which q uotes from Larry is an cxample of restricted code; in other words, Labov appcars to confusc Bernstein's 'code' with social dialect, despite Bcrnstein's explicit distinction betwecn the two (1 97 1, 199, but clear already in I 97 1, 1 28, first publishctl in 1965; cf. again Hasan 1 973). It is my impression that in Larry's spccch rs
Labov represents it thc controlling code is predominantly irn clal)()r.r lc(l ()nc. although it is impossiblc to catcgorizc such sntall spr',.'ch sintplcs rvilh ltny rcal significartcc; truI in any casc. rrs I]crnslc irt hrs l)r'{ n irl lrrirts lo cslirlrlish, dilli'rcrrccsol corle luc rclrrlive llr( v irt('lr'r(lr'nur".. ir ,ulnlirlion\, \\,illrin

and came up with certain linguistic findings, oicsiaeraUte interest Uut still or a ra[her unsystcmatic kind. In the third stage he combinecl his twr.r ,nd soughr explanarions in terms of a ,ociui se-ioti", *tt in:igtt lllll"rt tIe lngursnc semrotlc. l.e- scmantics, as its focal point. ThiS has meant a st:p rowards a genuincly .sociolinguistic, tf,*.y _ on. inui i, ut on.. :nl{or both a theor) o[ language and a lheory of society.

We can. I think-. idenrfy three stages in the development ofBernstein,s tneorctcat ldeas. In the first stage, roughly prior to 1960, Bernstein examined the pattern of educationl failur! in ilritain, and aiiempted an explanation of it in terms of certain nonlinguistic projections of the social \yslem,.particulary modes of perception. In the second stage. roughly ryou-{5. he came lo grips nor only u ith language but also witlinguisiici.

corr"iat.-litn socirl tne lnld,s chances lreater ot tarlure. Clearly there was some incomptibility between lower_ working-class social norms and the middle_clasi ethos nd th" system based on it. The pattern emerged most starkly as "u.utloral a discrepancy between measures ofvebal and nonverbal intelligence; th" dis"."pon"y *as significanrly grearer in lhe ower uorking class _"rnd ir r.nd.JrJ in.r.ur. with ae. Therc was obviously. therefore,-a linguistic elem.nt i, th" p.o"".., and tsernstein deveopcd his [jrsf verrion o[ lhe .codc. theor\ to lrv ro account for it: 'elaborated code. represented rhe more u".Uuy context-independent type of language, one which maintained "*, social dis_ tance, demanded individuated responses, and made no assumptions about the hearer's intent: while the .restriited code,was the mor" ,"rO'uiiy i_pfi"i,, contexldependent, socially intimate form in w hich the hearcr.s intent could be taken fo granted and hence rcsponses could be based on communalized norms. Education as at present organized demanded elaborated code; thecforc, if any social group hacl, by virtue of its putt"rn. oi .o"iutirutlon,
! It is astonishing lhllr t_ bov finds in llcrnsrcin a ,bias againsr alt forms of working ctass .,n).rr,,r,r. lf,,,\r(.i,,.. rl nrrarhies *,,,,ld ,".,"-i; ;;li.;".ir,". *,r. a. u".y lll:::iil, .: l] l,r)rtri\ t)rr\ rt. \\ IilLr. rtr t:rr rt\ r\.,IL( r!.(t. B.,sit Birn\lcin bctra). a pr;tercn(r r(,r

distributed randomly in the population, tending to classl the lower the tamily in rhe social scale, tle


Benstein had begun with the observtion that eucational failure was not

,r," ((rtrirl\r\t., rir f(,( r:rr(.\ it ,. tiri(t t,ir,..t,.,r(,,.rti,\t(,(rr,,/r,.i,li,,ll;,irii::0,r,, 5.N()v(r'rt,( rl,/.,) trlli,\ ll.r\,.\t,r(.\s.,t r,.,,r,.rtor , r, $,r! s lI\,,* I r ri rcs trvc

iHr.i";,;;;,;,;1..,n.,,,r,. .,11,:'l::ll,,ll I,,\\ r!, \r/1.. (r ,r:r\\ t,rf(, r r, rr!,. ! ,r,r,t i \Ir(.( l!:,rr,l iun.j;rnrr ,rt u c( urnly irr( rrv.nt.,r It,. .t;,tx,,i,r((r (,(t(,5r,, r,,,,,rr,,,,,,".,,i,",,i.:,,,.i,i.,,',,,ni,.i,ii,"",

,.,,r*,r,.,,r,,r irr*rr:rr :rc:rrr

1,,,' I\,

, rl,r'

t.rtr,, ,,t |t,.1r.,t, Ir.\ $,,t1.


88 A sociosemiotic
disadvantage. ";;;;Ji;

interPretation of language

Sociological aspects of semantic change 89

Whatever [Bernstein] does, . . . he looks at four clemcnts in the social process. First the sytem ofcontol, second the bour|daies it sets up. third the justification or ideology rvhich sanctifies the boundaries. and fourth he looks at the power which is hidden by the rest... . I think Professor Bernstein's work is the first to argue that the distribution of
specch forms is equally a realization of the distribution of power'.

code' that group would be at only partial or conditional control over this

t:1::,]1 the linsuists, Bcrnstein attempted to define lh" progresstng and_ features of *irt inventories It"iltJir,;.giining :ivniuttit pi"oittion' according to which elaborated o'i

i:;J' "';;il0; ranse of svntactic choices' restricted code illi,.";;;;",:iized v a wideiiirt vt'ri"" catesoricallv reiccred this ;; ; ;;;;'t;;;'.r-,,g.'ft'o" earlv studics ;"te p'artlv confounded bv some interesting amount or tasks'.th ce'tain p"r-'un'" or 'i;;;;;;,i;; ;;lil';;:,;;;;;;' i; ;" was in the (i) modificati,rn of respccr found in thar ases' was o[various ""ri"ri,.rn children bv "r"rn.rii."i ..rf m'rdalities' il;i;;;;;rp;rJ ii) the use [t was clear' ho*"'"'' that any significant iri;;ifik" to social class be made would be at the semanric level'

It is a theory of society in which languagc plays a central part, both as determiner and as determined: language is controlled by the social structure, and the social structure is maintained and transmitted through language. Hence it offe rs the foundation for interpreting processes of semanlic changc.
3.4 In tems of the framework we set up in the first section, there
are two possible mechanisms of sociosemantic change: feedback and transmission that is, feedback from the text to the system, and transmission of the system to the child. As far as feedback is concerned, there is the possibility of changes in the meanings that are typically associated with particular contexts or situation types, taking place in the course of time. These changes comc

linsuistic generalizations that could

codes were manilested in language' .t"H'i;';;;;;;;;;h ."u'ing' that the 'critical s.cializing *3n, on to idcntify a small number of ;;;ililil; "-;;;a;' in the milicu of child' the which rituuti.,n it'""s from

;;;ir" peer sroup ang,"n::.119"'"t h't ," orirr1.-arzing ugtnci"' Jdfom ilv' fn" hypothesis was that' in a tytt"t essential information about tne social of the child's behaviour' various ;;;'.;;;r,. say thal of parcntal conirol *iit in thc semantic svstcm might tvpicallv be Eiit.;;;;':;;t;i.rn, -"" ,ne c'des'couldberhoughtrrfasdiffcrentialoricntationttr n"t]""..1, uiJrt ut r.rning in given social situations' is controlled by social It seemed that if in 'oln" t"nt" access to the codes of different family existcnce the i.-con,-f *as achieue throush .f within.the. family: the 'posi^r,-,t irr"r.'i.t". i" tcrms of rtrle rclatio"nships l'3 above) with important qualiliJ;;i "il';;;"nat' ramitv tvfes (cr' that stronelv positional il;ii;r;';"-il.ot.go'i'tili' it app'orcd forms of interaction.- at least in families would tend to*a'ds rettticted-ce do tonttoiin the re8'ulative context Frmilv tvpes il;;;;;;niut more the context' British in the thit' ,i,..t*t" *fitt;Iasses; but it is likely among the lower working frequentlv mos rounJ is ramilv ;;;;t, ;;;;.r"i thc proportion of eduwh-rc H:"'l ffi';;;; ',,t..ii;" "r the populationrhen ltroks something like this: l^1i"*ii",,rr" it f tigt".t. r'h.'rnodel

about, for example, through changes in the family role systems, undcr conditions which Bernstein has suggested; or through other social factr)rs changes in educational ideologies, for example. Such changes could relatc to rather specific situation types, such as those in the two illustrations given
above. We are familiar with instances of small subsystems realizing specifie urcas

of symbolic behaviour. A good example is the 'pronouns of powcr ancl solidarity' (Brown and Gilman 1960). The semantic system of moclcrn
English is quite different at this point from that ol Elizabethan English, so much so that we can no longer even follow, for example, the detailcrl
subtleties and the shifts which take place in the personal relationship of Cclirr and Rosalind ins You Like It,which is revealed by their sensitive switching between thou andoa (Mclntosh I963). This is simply not in our scnrallie

different) social classcs (ditferent) famil1, role \Ystems

(differenQ semiotic codes

uf meaning and relevance' is set out in the final papers The later development of Bernstein's thought arc-too rich to bc sunnrarizccl in a of(jirri,'lri", ,, conuot ' '''i' *hich ()f s'rciill lcrlllilll'' rrlrl cttllurtl short snirce. Rcrnstcin's tt""* " il lh(r)ry lr'rrr1 As Mrtt'v i;ilil1.',";,. ,;''.i r*"" .,r ""ii.l '..r'.i'teirce rttttl s"r'irtl ' f)otrglits l)rrls it ( l()7:, 1ll)' (different)


system. But such instances are limited, not only in that they rcprcsclll somewhat specific semantic options but also in that they reflect only lllrst social relationships that are created by language (and that do n\)r e\i5t independently of language: the formyor has meaning only as the cncotlirrg ol a purely linguistic relationship) - or else, as in the case of changcs in the use of kin terms, they aflect only the direct expression of the social rcltionships themselves. Bcrnstein's work allows us to cxtcnd beyold lhcse lim ited instances in two significant ways. First, it providcs an insight inkr hou, thc relations within the social systcm may comc to shapc anti ntotlity othcr' rncanings that lanSuage expresses, which nray bc mctnings ol irny kinrl socioscnrartic vrriation antl changc is not conlincd t() thc sc,rilntics ()l' irrlcrrcrsonal cornnrrrniclrlio). Sec()nd. in the light ()l a luncli()nitl ilceolItt ()l the scnrilnlic svsl(rr. llL\tr'in's \\()[k sul]l.lcsls horr llrr.'clr;rttges ill sPtr' l)itlltl\ lltlll itt( l)lrtltl,ltl tlrltttl it lltis it\ hccorttr' in(()flrrl( (l itlo tlt( \\'\l( rrr, ir\ ir r'srll l)l ltr' t t t t t ' t r r r' rIIirtrrIiIrr'()I sr)r'iitl inl( l lt('lirt|t. i||t(Isr
rt rr I I I


A sociosemiotic interpretation of language

Sociological aspects of scmantic change 9l

(whatever havc an effect on other options, not disturbing the whole system are functhat options on those .".1, but reacting specifically i't

tionally ---i" related to them. tn"r" is transmission. and here we have considered the chitd's view: suggestleaining of the mother tongue from a sociolinguistic point ol to be sought in are system the semantic of origins inn tu" .r"fopmcntal functions of primary ii! .rti"., ot ,."ning potentlal deriving from certain us postulate that a Lel i;;g;;; - instrumen-tI, regulatory and-so.on' set of one to favour tends family, oarticular socializtng agency, such ai the child's to the positively more respond il;.it;;; or", unni'h.i tht is, to significant socializing contexts' -"uningt in that area' at certainsuch contexts will show a clative with ass<lciated Then th"e semantic system An indication of how potential' meaning of areas those rientation towards inte.resting study by ihi;';;t."rn. about at an early age is given in.ancomhination of eduiirit"ri" Nelson (1973). whic suggests that the to diflead may family in ."il.r"i r"*l of parent with position of child functional child's the influence thus i"i.niiur t"-unti" orientationi and strategy "'iir.% for languagc learning. this; it would be surprising if it was othering lurprising-in it "o,t ttat is f interest is to what extent such functional *i;.-ih; qu"tti.i,


learnt the grammatical distinction between declarative and interrogativc. He locatcd it, correctly, in th{] interpcrsonal component in the system, and related it to contexts of thc cxchangc of information. But having at the timc no concept of asking yeS/no questions (i.e. isolating the polarity element in thc demand for information), he used the system to rcalize a semantic
distinction which hc did makc but which the adult languagc does not, namcly that betwecn imparting information to someonc who knows it alrcady, who has shared the relevant experience rvith him (declarative), and imparting information to rmconc who has not shared thc expericnce and so does not know it (interrogative). T hus, for example, on one occrsion while playing with his father hc fcll down; he got up and said to his fathcryou lbll tlowrt (vor rcfcrred to himself at this stagc). Then his mother, who had not becn present, came into thc room; hc ran up to her and said did you fall down'! 'I'he usc ofyoa for'mc'and thc use of the interrogative for giving intirrmation are of coursc connccted; thcy are both, in terms ef cognitivc dcvelopmcnt, features of thc phase bcfore role-playing in specch. But thc modal pattern revcals a small semantic subsystem, not prcsent in the adult Ianguagc, which is both stable in tcrms of the child's meaning potential at thc time, and transitional in the wider devclopmcntal contcxt. The functional contiruity that we have postulated, according k) which both thc linguistic system itsclf and its cnvironment evolve out of thc initial set of functions which define the child's earliest acts of meaning, accounts tirr the fact that the child's nrcaning potcntial may develop different oriuntations under differc nt environmcntal conditions - also, thereforc, undcr t hc control of differcnt symbolic codes. 'The social structurc becomcs the dcvcbping child's psychological rcality by the shaping of his act of spccch' (Bernstcin 1971, 124). If thcrc are changes in thc social structure, cspccially changcs aflecting the family role systems, these may lead to changss in thc child's orientation towards or away from certain ways of mcaning in ccrtlirr types of situation; and this, particularly in the environment of what Bc!.nstein calls the'critical socializing contexts', may lead to changes in lcarnirrg strategies, and hence to changes in thc meaning potential that is typically associatcd with various environments - i.e. in thc semantic system.'l'hcs(, changes in meaning potentialwould take place gradually and without cssc rrtial discontinuity. A sociosemantic change of this kind docs not ncccssarily imply, and probably usually does not imply, the complete disappcarancc ol a scmantic choice, or the appearance of a totally new one. It is likcly to mean rather that ccrtain choices bocome more, or lcss, dilfcrcntiatcd; ()r lllirl ccrtain choices ae more, or less, fequently takcn up. Thcsc thinlls l(x) ilrc fcatures of the systcm. It secms possihle, thcrcforc, thal scrrattic chitngcs nray be brought about by changes in thc social stltcturc, lhr()rrgh tlt(. opcration of the sort of proccsses dcscribcd by l,abov, in thc corrrse ol tlre tlirnsrission of lirrrgc to thc child. Whcthcr ()r n()t il is lllre lhtl. l|s Wcinreich. l.rlrr'ntl lltlzog clirirrr (196I.i, I.l5). 'tlre chilrl rtoltrlly ., rttilt s ltis ritt licttlrr (liirl( ( ! l)rlt( n. irtclurlirrg r. llrngr.s. lrrrrrr clriltllr'rr ,rrrly rlillrllr',lrI r llr,rn lrrrr,,r'll . il sr.t lts ck lr tlrrl ollv rr,lrr.r st inlt rr'l

.rii.rtutinn, b".o-e incorporated into the system We noted earlier that the U.g"n by invenring his own language, in which the expression is .t ii, t trail ""i.g ,n."ut.A t,ioOitt sp;ech, at a ccrtain point abandons the phylogenetic realization' in the discontinuity is a un ,rt", over the;dult system; theri

the child continues ;;, ;h;;. is (we suggestedl no functional discontinuity; out of his generalizing system, of the . Lrii ." it" t riitionui origins mathctic versus pragmatic of -a istinction of basic oriei;at turrctional set hearer' the from response a which demands 'doina' function, ;;.1';;i.. trr observation' nO? rn"tt

ot 'liarning' function, which is realized through prediction andwhich is self-sufficient: it demands no response recall and "ti. to transfrom anyone. This, in turn' is a transitional pattern, which serves language' adult of the core the fu.- thJ fun.tionul matrix so that it becomes semantic ,"i.i^g ,t. form of the ideational/interpersonal components in the same time the system'.At in the continuity is functional ."t*8ti; .*.,r,ere

types encounthe Drimarv functions evolvc into social contexts, the situation

function of calls and responses to those on whom the child was emotionally "iLn.nt O"r.fops into the general interpersonalcontext w-ithin the family



of dailv life' For example' the originat interactional

developsinb that of 1"", gt"tp' ,ti. imaginative function f sound-play continuity is functional "" Thus there so on and and sries; rnrg!

,h" , in thc contexts in which selections ;;".;,"."viri."


are made from within thc in othcr words' arc system' social the by engendcred ay.,"-. fn" meanings i.f,,ut thc child i; predisposcd by his own languitgc cxrctien(e to drPl lo thcnr' . the ' linguistic nrodc of mclrtritrg rtrt't rLtsrvhiclt ,itri,"tty. hc'trrakcs sctlrirrliic tlrislrkcs'itt lltt rtr"trr' II''"'r''rrrI l' rr Nil"tl t'ttrlol lllc l()witr(ls rre ofte t t'cveirlittg. lot'exittttple.

92 A sociosemiotic

interpretation of language

tanguage development in the contextofthe construction and transmissionof

ieality can we hope to find in it the sources and mechanisms of

Social dialects and socalization*

linguistic change.
We can call the field of study sociolinguistics; but if our goal is the pursuit of system-inJanguage (Fishman 1971, 8), this is surely linguistics, and Iinguistics always has, throughout all its shifts ol emphasis, accepted what Hymes ( 1967) calls the 'sociocultural dimensions of its subject-matter', the link between language and the social factors that must be adduced to explain observed linguistic phenomena. By the same token, however, we do not

need 'communicative competence', which has to be adduced only if the system has first been isolated from its social context. If we are concerned with 'what the speaker-hearer knows', as distinct from what he can do, and we call this his 'competence', then competence is communicative competence; there is no other kind. But this seems to be a needless complication. The system can be represented directly in'inter-organism'terms, as'what the speaker-hearer can do', and more specifically what he can mean. To shift to an 'intra-organism' perspective adds nothing by way of explanation. The sociology of language is a different question, as Fishman says; here the aims are wider than the characterization of the linguistic system. Sociology of language implies the theoretical relation of the linguistic system to

prior, independently established sociological concepts, as in Bernstein's work, where each theory is contingent on the other: the linguistic system is as essential to the explanation of social phenomena as is the social system to the
explanation of linguistic phenomena. In considering the social conditions of linguistic change. we are asking not only the 'sociolinguistic' question, to what extent are changes in the linguistic system relatable to social factors, but also, and perhaps more, the
'sociology of language' question, to what extent are changes in the linguistic system essential concomitants of features of (including changes in) the social system. Labov's work on phonetic change has not yet, so far as I know, been taken up by sociologists; but it reveals patterns and principles of intra- and inter-group communication which seem to me to have considerable significance for theories of social interaction and social hierarchy. And from another angle, Bernstein's esearch into language in the transmission of culture is equally central both to an understanding of language, including language development in children and linguistic change, and to an understanding of society, of persistence and change in the social structure. Here we are in a genuine interdiscipline of sociology and linguistics, an area of convergence of two diflerent sets of theories, and ways of thinking about people. Bernstein once reproached sociologists for not taking into account thc fact that humans speak. lf linguists seek to understand the phenomcna of pcrsistence and changc in thc linguistic systcm - how thc inncrnr)sl prltcrns both of languagc rncl of cttltttc arc lnttrs'illcrl lhr()tgl lh( (()unll(ss r'u icfosc m i()1ic ptrlccsscs ol socil irlll..rircli()rr rve lir'ot l)rrrl rrrr\l l( irnl l1) Iitkc ir(cr)uI()l ll)L lilcl Ilirl htnrrn\\Pl rt k. nrtl i srrlilttrL .l)rrl l() r';r( lr i)ll!( t

This book* is the record of a confercnce on social dialects organized by thc Center for Applied Linguistics late in 1969. It is'crossdisciplinary, in thc sense that, of the ten participants, two were invited as specialists in speech and crmmunication, two in psychology. two in sociolinguistics, two in cducation and two in linguistics/anthropology. Undcr each of these disciplinary headings, one of thc two contributes a paper and the othcr a response. Thc five papers are. in corrcsponding sequence, ,social dialects and thc ficld of speech'. by Frederick Williams; 'Developmental studies of communicative competcnce', by Harry Osser; 'Social dialects in deveiopmcrtal sociolinguistics'. by Susan M. Ervin-Tripp; 'Approaches to social dialccts in early childhood education', by Courtney Cazden; and 'sociolinguistics fronr a linguistic perspective', by Walt Wolfram. Finally, there is a contribution entitled 'The inadequacies ofthe linguistic approach in teaching situations', by Sicgfried Engclmann, who was specially invited by the editor ro commcnt on criticisms madc of the 'Bereitcr-Engelmann approach' in certain ol the papers contained in the book. Not surprisingly, thc cmphasis throughout is strongly pragmatic, rvith an orientation towards programme devclopment. The context fo such r conferencc is incvitablv the critical situation in American education;the crisis is not limited to the Unitcd States, of course, but it is the Amcrican sccnc which is unde focus hee. Thc Cente for Applied Linguistics, Urban Language Series rcflects the same growing preoccupation. In the ccntrc ol' attentiotl is'black English', and there is frerucnt relrence, especially in thc responses to the papers, to the negative aspects of study and intcrycntion programmes: the lack of understanding of black culture, languagc usc arrd language aspirations, the assumption that it is speech habits tht must be changed instead of the attitudes towards them, the reluctancc to Io()k objcctively into thc school as a social institution. and so on. In Claudiir M itchell Kernan's words, 'Reaction in the black community to black English as it is portrayed in somc grammars and readers has otien bccn ncgativc. . . . Mny rcprcsentatiitns of black English diffcr to such a dcgrcc ll.oDl tlle larrguagc us it is prcscntly uscd that they ought to prcsagc thc rcrclil)r). l'hc sclrlclr lirr ir ncrv iclcntitv underway in black communitics cvcrywltcrc iul(l llc sl)irit ol lcbcllion agaitst an icicntitv Llclincrl by outsidcls shorltl lx.

,\l't'lr,,l I rrrrrrntr,.)

l(r't(s ol \,\t,li fJt\tit\: i t t,\\tlir it'littt\ /,.Vr1lir, (Wl\tringl( . t)( i(i.nt.