Community of Practice

In this essay I will explore the factors which influence my way of speaking English. Dialect is defined by Trudgill as the ‘combination of English words, pronuciations and grammatical forms'(1994, p2) so to explore my dialect I will need to take these in to account. Geography will play a large part in the way I speak English as ‘the way you speak English has a lot to do with where you are from – where you grew up and learnt your first language. ‘(Trugill 1994,p2) In relation to this I need to not only look at where I grew up to asses my language use, but also what was the first dialect I spoke.

Before attending nursery I spoke with an Irish dialect as both parents are from the Republic of Ireland. This still influences my current dialect, for example my use of sure in a sentence like ‘sure, you wouldn’t want to go anyway. ‘ The pronunciation of sure in this context differs to my pronunciation of sure in a sentence like ‘I’m sure they went this way. ‘ In the first example sure is pronounced /?? / but in the second sure is pronounced /??? /. One of the strongest geographical factors influencing my speech would be the place I live.

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Having lived in Wolverhampton for fourteen years I have found that my speech is influenced heavily by Black Country dialect. In my speech I use Black Country idioms, some of which are mentioned in Ed Conduit’s The Black Country Dialect (2007) like, for example, ‘all round the Wrekin’ and ‘kick the bucket’. Page 38 of The Black Country Dialect has a table of Black Country negative contractions. Within my own speech I have found that I use the ‘BCD affirmative bin’ /b? n/ and the ‘BCD negative ay’ /e? /. I use dialect words like bostin (meaning good) conk (meaning to fall asleep) and riffy (meaning dirty).

I have also found that I use the displacement of ‘o’ for ‘a’ in words like ‘man’ or /m? n/ and also smash or /sm?? /. However, I have found that I would not use these in either formal situations or with people I don’t know. Trudgill explains this by stating that ‘No one uses the same kind of English when they are taking to their friends in a cafi?? or pub as when they are talking to strangers in a more formal situation. ‘ In the case of my own speech though, I wonder if some of these Black Country uses are more idiomatic. If I take my use of ‘mon’ I find that I would only displace this word when I use it with ‘me’.

So I would only use the displaced version of ‘man’ when saying /mi? m? n/ or /ma? m? n/ (my man). I would not use it if I was saying for example ‘that man over there’ in this example ‘man’ would be pronounced /mi?? n/. I have found that I ‘h’ drop for a few words like ‘him’ and ‘her’ and sometimes ‘home’ and ‘horse’. I find, however that with ‘h’ dropping in ‘home’ and ‘horse’ I only use it to create a jokey tone to my speech. This idea leads me on to context and how that influences speech. When analysing speech Graddol, Cheshire and Swann write of how important it is to consider the ‘speech event in a context of situation’ (1994,p15).

Therefore to analyse my own speech I must consider context and what context may result in. The context of a situation may result in things such as code switching. One theory of code switching claims that a speaker’s choice of code is determined by situation. Therefore, the choice of code itself is communicatively meaningful’ (Stockwell, 2002 p9). In relation to my own speech I have found that I will use an exaggerated Black Country dialect to create a jokey, humorous tone but will switch back to my ‘normal’ dialect when speaking seriously.

Stockwell explains that this is done because anything said in this way ‘would be taken as a joke. ‘ (2002 p9) For example if I wanted to say to someone ‘your not coming’ but wanted this to be taken as a joke I might say /ja? i??? c? m? n/ but if I wanted to make this statement seriously I may say /j? : n? c? m? n/ I may also look at Lave and Wenger’s idea of the Community of Practice and how this influences the way I speak English. Eckert and McConnell-Ginet define Community of Practice as ‘an aggregate of people who come together around mutual engagement in an endeavour'(1992 p464).

Within Communities of Practice we should find shared vocabulary. If I look at my work community I find that there is specific vocabulary that may not be understood by those outside of the speech community. For example, the names of equipment such as ‘kanban’ and ‘york’ would be unknown outside of the workplace vernacular. Also phrases for different jobs, like for example ‘tying up’ meaning to tidy up the work area by taking most mail away but not all, and ‘tying off’ meaning to take all mail away, would be specific to a certain area of the workplace.

This may not be known to those within the workplace who do not work in this certain area. Within the workplace I have also found friendship networks lend themselves to vocabulary that is used in relation to the workplace but may only be used within this friendship sub-group. For example ‘lifer’ is used within my work friendship network to describe someone who has no prospects outside of the workplace and will spend their life in this line of work. However, I am unaware of this term being used outside of this network.

This helps to reinforce the idea that individuals typically negotiate multiple memberships (Eckert and McConnell-Ginet. 1992 p464). Not only through membership to different networks but through membership to networks within networks. I have found that I also use more Black Country dialect in accordance with Giles’ (1977) Speech Accommodation Theory. When speaking to someone who uses a very distinct Black Country dialect I may also use more Black Country dialect. This convergence may be used to create a bond with the other speaker or to ‘signify solidarity’ (Dyer, 2007)


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