Talk:Prestige (sociolinguistics)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
WikiProject Linguistics / Applied Linguistics  (Rated C-class, Low-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Linguistics, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of Linguistics on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
C-Class article C  This article has been rated as C-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Low  This article has been rated as Low-importance on the project's importance scale.
Taskforce icon
This article is supported by the Applied Linguistics Task Force.

This article has comments here.

Table of prestige dialects[edit]

The list of prestige dialects by speech community would probabaly be best presented as a table. --Theo (Talk) 18:06, 8 Mar 2005 (UTC)

I have never heard of 'Prestige Cantonese'. How widely is this name really used?

I don't think it can be flatly stated that northern Vietnamese is the prestige dialect of Vietnam. That is the view from the north, but it would, I think, be contested by southerners.

This statement is nonsense: 'Amongst the Min-speaking community, Amoy is the prestige dialect; it is also called Xiamen'. Xiamen is the name of the city. The dialect is not known as 'Xiamen'. The terminology needs to be fixed up.

Bathrobe 01:24, 14 May 2005 (UTC)

Received Pronunciation vs. Standard English - WTF?[edit]

It is a bit confusing why the article compares RP with standard English: “In the United Kingdom, Received Pronunciation is the main prestige dialect.… In many parts of the Commonwealth of Nations, Standard English is the prestige dialect.” For what it's worth, the Received Pronunciation is the pronunciation, and the page for Standard English says “Standard English refers to the words themselves and not to their pronunciation”. So how could you compare both in the same category of prestige dialects? :-/


I guess that the use of Castellano is confronted with the other popular kinds of dialects. In Peninsular Spanish are two main norms or standards: The one that involves the Centre - North of Spain and the other related to the South and the Americas, this is, the Castellana or Centro-Norteña and the Atlantic. According to RAE (Real Academia Española), both has an equal importance. But in the case of the media, or a general broadcasting to a spanish talking population, the upper class form of Cuban or Mexico´s dialect is the most common used.

US prestige dialect[edit]

There most certainly is a prestige dialect in the US, and I will offer lessons in it for a small price. Mike Church 06:38, 6 March 2006 (UTC)

I thought there was a prestige dialect in the USA too. Perhaps it's just an accent though. Isn't the accent in the North West generally accepted as more prestige? It's the accent of all the news presenters. Jookieapc (talk) 11:58, 28 January 2009 (UTC)

SE and RP[edit]

RP is not a dialectits an accent. I think the author has become confused between accent and dialect. SE is a dialect and does tend to hold high prestige. RP also holds prestige but as an accent. RPis the prestige accent in the UK. i think this artice needs serious editing.


I really think this article should be merged with Standard language as basically all of the examples of prestige dialects are the national standards. --Lesouris 15:19, 7 September 2007 (UTC)

Although standard varieties are generally high prestige, this is not necessarily the case. In cases of covert prestige, the opposite is true. Cnilep (talk) 17:35, 26 April 2009 (UTC)


What's the difference of this versus diglossia? --Voidvector (talk) 04:05, 16 August 2008 (UTC)

Diglossia describes a situation in which "high" and "low" varieties (which might have high and low prestige, though not by definition) are used in different contexts. For example, diglossia would hold in a situation where only Classical Arabic appeared in sermons and prayers, while a local dialect (e.g. Tunisian Arabic) was used for business etc. Cnilep (talk) 17:32, 26 April 2009 (UTC)


High German is the prestige dialect of German. It's spoken in Berlin and in the North I believe. Jookieapc (talk) 12:00, 28 January 2009 (UTC)

Redirect "Posh Accent" from Received Pronunciation to this article?[edit]

At the moment, "Posh accent" redirects to Received Pronunciation. Would it not be far more appropriate to have it redirect here? Crazy Eddy (talk) 04:24, 19 February 2010 (UTC)

Why? — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɛ̃ɾ̃ˡi] 06:36, 19 February 2010 (UTC)
Because when referring to a "posh accent", people almost always mean a prestige accent, one often associated with the upper class. Crazy Eddy (talk) 19:57, 23 February 2010 (UTC)

Clarity for the lay person[edit]

Please explain why standard Arabic is the exception per the lead. And what does this mean "are of the same order as those between individual touchable castes and certainly much less important than the variation between touchables and untouchable" (discussing Hindu and Muslim). I have read it many times and am struggling -Thats means something is wrong with it (or with me). --Halqh حَلَقَة הלכהሐላቃህ (talk) 10:29, 22 September 2011 (UTC)

Equal merit?[edit]

"judged on purely linguistic grounds, all languages—and all dialects—have equal merit".

Spanish isn't easier to spell than English? And try discussing quantum chromodynamics in Gothic. "Equal merit" is meaningless, unless the criteria are stated. Paul Magnussen (talk) 19:37, 6 November 2012 (UTC)

Definitely an example of undue weight and POV. Margalit Fox, while she has a linguistics degree, is a writer for the New York Times, not an academic linguist. But even if she was an academic linguist, this would still only be her professional opinion. As it is, this is just the opinion of one writer in one column (note this is subtly disguised since it is cited as if it were research "Fox 1999"). The opinion of one writer isn't lede worthy (imagine how massive WP ledes would be if anything anyone had written in the newspaper on the subject could be included), but could be included in some section of the main body of the article as long as it was attributed to Fox rather than just stated as fact like it is now. Unfortunately, looking through the article there seems to be no appropriate section to put it in for now, so I will remove it.-- (talk) 18:10, 22 February 2014 (UTC)
Fox reports a fairly robust consensus among academic linguists; the multiple other sources cited on the page support this. The template {{who}} can be added to vague attribution to "linguists", but the reference on that sentence (Wardhaugh 2006) already tells who says so. Template {{fact}} can be added to assertions with no citation, but the sentence is attributed to academic linguist Rosina Lippi-Green as well as Fox's newspaper article. Cnilep (talk) 23:59, 22 February 2014 (UTC)
"Fox reports a fairly robust consensus among academic linguists" no evidence is presented for this, except for your vague assertion that "multiple other sources cited on the page support this", well then use them rather than just the opinion of Fox. If the statement, that all languages are equal, is accepted by almost all linguists something to this effect should be in, say, a linguistics textbook, rather than a just a polemical New York Times article. Rosina Lippi-Green is just one linguist, whereas the statement is presented as a fact, there is no support that it has attained a consensus in the subject. I am reinstating all of my edits, you are the one stretching statements from individuals into sweeping statements about the opinion of the entire field without any actual citations to support that claim.-- (talk) 01:33, 23 February 2014 (UTC)
Sorry, but that's just insane. Descriptive linguistics is more or less the only game in town in academic linguistics. It's basically a central tenet. It's sourced, it's a reliable source and it's a ridiculously robust consensus. I could find a hundred other sources for that being the widespread academic viewpoint. It really should stay in the article. 0x0077BE [talk/contrib] 01:39, 23 February 2014 (UTC)
Descriptive linguistics is a methodological standpoint, not a fact claim. Just because linguistics is conducted neutrally, without proscribing one dialect over another, does not mean almost all linguists believe that all languages are equal in all respects, think about Paul Magnussens example of discussing quantum chromodynamics in Gothic. But if it really is true that that fact claim is a "ridiculously robust consensus" and you have the cites to show it, then fine. I'm only removing stuff which is not properly supported, and pointing out the opinion of one writer in a column is not enough to assume an academic consensus exists from.-- (talk) 01:45, 23 February 2014 (UTC)
How is ability to discuss QCD in Gothic an argument about the merits of Gothic? It can easily be done - it was similarly impossible to discuss QCD in any language 75 years ago. Whatever. Honestly, though, even though it's the world's most standard disclaimer when discussing prestige, I'm not sure it fits stylistically with the rest of the paragraph, which is written as if you already know that prestige dialects have no inherent merits. Given that it's the overwhelming majority viewpoint (it's basically in every linguistics book and lecture when they get to the point about prestige, particularly the "debunking lay myths" type books), it should probably be actively represented, but maybe it should be incorporated into the "causes" section. Something like, "There is no evidence that prestige languages and dialects have any inherent linguistic advantages over their disfavored counterparts." or "Although these languages are often seen as 'worse', most linguists agree that they offer no impairment to communication" or something of that nature. A direct quote from an article probably doesn't fit the tone of the article properly. 0x0077BE [talk/contrib] 02:08, 23 February 2014 (UTC)
I'm not saying that prestige dialects are genuinely "better" than non-prestige ones. Just that the strong, absolute claim that all languages and dialects have "equal merit" needs proper support. If it really is so strongly supported in the field, then surely a textbook cite stating it should be easy to find. If it's as strongly supported as you say we should be able to do much better than a single column in the NYT from over ten years ago. That's all I expect, WP:V. But as the OP pointed out, what "merit" a language could be judged on needs to be defined in order to make the question meaningful. You point out "it was similarly impossible to discuss QCD in any language 75 years ago" which kind of seems to implicitly concede the point that nowadays, it would be easier to talk about QCD in some languages than others. I mean, I've read that many languages don't even have dedicated thesauruses, that English supports them because it has many synonyms. That seems like a difference with some measurable real world consequences (the existence or lack thereof of a thesaurus industry).-- (talk) 02:19, 23 February 2014 (UTC)
She actually did define it, she said, "from a linguistic standpoint", meaning from the perspective of linguistics. Ancient Norse obviously is a less meritorious way to communicate with someone who speaks only French than, say, French. It's probably even less meritorious than using Spanish or Romanian or something. It's obvious that what she was saying as that no language is any worse at being a language. My point about Gothic was that there's nothing inherent in English or French or any modern language that makes it easy to discuss QCD, it's just by accident of the fact that those languages are still spoken in a time when people want to talk about that stuff that they have a temporary advantage. Gothic would be equally amenable to such a conversation, despite lacking a vocabulary. Everyone would figure it out pretty quick if you used loan words, or just made up new words. And obviously I'm not going to dig up citations to support what she wrote given that I explicitly stated that I don't believe it fits the stylistic tone of the article to include that specific quote anyway. 0x0077BE [talk/contrib] 02:27, 23 February 2014 (UTC)
Yes, Gothic would be amenable to such a conversion, but right now, it is easier to discuss to QCD in English or French than Gothic. Of course any language can adapt quickly. And as I (and the OP) stated earlier, it would of course never be possible to rate languages without some criteria (such as talking about QCD, for example). Talking about evaluating languages "from a linguistic standpoint" but without specifying what is being communicated or talked about actually seems meaningless. But anyway, I poked around Google a bit and I think I have found at least some indication that there is no strong consensus on this among linguists see here. Now before you point out that it is written just by an undergraduate, I posted it because it has links to and quotes from academic linguists, and links to books at the bottom. It demonstrates there is at least a modicum of controversy, with linguists on both sides, about the "pros and cons" of teaching Standard English in schools. Don't say this has nothing to with it "from a linguistic standpoint" as I've already said of course you need some other criteria (in this case teaching in schools and its consequences). Check out the links at the bottom of that, there is one to a book published in 2009 with many linguist authors (and praise from other linguists) the blog post has a quote from it: they say Standard English allows people from "different walks of life to communicate more easily than if only regional dialects were available". Another thing I've found, also on a blog, is this upcoming book from a Professor of English at U of Michigan with a faculty appointment in the Department of Linguistics. According to the blog post, in this book "Anne Curzan demonstrates the important role prescriptivism plays in the history of the English language".
Maybe I'm totally misreading all of this, but it seems there is no completely solid consensus among linguists for the strong claim that all languages and dialects are completely equal in all respects. As usual on WP I get the impression I'm being given a certain view of experts views, rather than just having all expert views on display, since in like 10 min with Google I can find other expert opinions than the only one presented on WP as fact (and seeing that, again like many WP articles, the article is drawn from relatively few sources and reuses the same experts doesn't help this impression).-- (talk) 16:31, 23 February 2014 (UTC)
I would venture to guess that no one anywhere claims that all languages and dialects are "completely equal in all respects" as that is an EXTREMELY broad thing to say. Swahili is not equally good for communicating with Navaho speakers as Navaho is. The fact that you can find some links to academic linguists doesn't mean there's a controversy any more than the Discovery Institute's petitions indicates that there's no academic consensus on evolution. There are always fringe people out there saying stuff, especially stuff that feeds into extremely common misconceptions. I take "from a linguistic perspective" to mean the largely uncontroversial statement that no language that is actually used has a core structure that is "missing" anything and can be used to communicate just fine.
As for explaining QCD, I think the point is that from a linguistic standpoint Gothic isn't inherently worse just because it lacks a native vocabulary for those things. You even admit that any language can adapt quickly to a changing situation - that's really part of the point, even languages that don't explicitly mark the subject of the sentence have a way of doing so when it comes up, etc. I think you're underestimating the qualifiers she put in that sentence - she's saying from the point of view of linguists, all languages have equal merit, not that they are all equally good at every task, just that none is inherently less worthy than another. 0x0077BE [talk/contrib] 04:17, 24 February 2014 (UTC)
Just a comment from a civilian reader, not a linguist. This whole argument is centered on the qualification "judged on purely linguistic grounds..." The conclusion may be true based on those grounds, but it seems that that viewpoint misses a very important point, that languages and their use are NOT judged, in day to day use, on purely linguistic grounds. They are judged by lay users of language. Some other factor, quality, or prestige or whatever it may be called, MUST be considered. A non-English speaker will not get a job in company that speaks mainly English. Even if a person with relatively poor English skills lands a job in that company, his chances for advancement will definitely be hampered. If a person grows up in ghetto America speaking what amounts to a dialect of English, sadly he will do poorly in school, and his chances at college and professional life will be severely limited. To this cultural conservative, the idea that all languages and dialects have equal merit sounds like multicultural idealism. In my opinion, and I think it would be hard to counter this argument (feel welcome), this claim is functionally meritless. Brownwn (talk) 19:43, 2 November 2014 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── These supposed counter-arguments are essentially what the article says: "Generally, there is positive prestige associated with [certain types of language in certain situations – tons of detail omitted here]. Despite common perceptions that certain dialects or languages are relatively good or bad, correct or incorrect, 'judged on purely linguistic grounds, all languages—and all dialects—have equal merit'." That is not contrary to the suggestion that language use is judged on non-linguistic social factors; it's the same suggestion. Cnilep (talk) 01:47, 4 November 2014 (UTC)

After re-reading the intro, I believe you're correct. But the fact that a number of us have misunderstood it and cared enough about it to comment seems to indicate a problem with that text. My opinion: The bulk of the article and intro are about the fact that in use and practically speaking, some languages and dialects are qualitatively better than others, depending on the situation. As I said previously, In an English speaking corp. you need to interview in English. It's that last sentence in the intro that we are stumbling over: "Despite common perceptions that certain dialects or languages are relatively good or bad, correct or incorrect, "judged on purely linguistic grounds, all languages—and all dialects—have equal merit." One reads this with the thinking behind the rest of the paragraphs - that languages are different, and the conclusion of the sentence and paragraph conflict. Either the sentence needs to be moved out to it's own paragraph with some fleshing out to explain it, or it needs to be removed.

That all languages have equal merit is true from a linguistic point of view. It's not true from a socio-linquistic, prestige viewpoint, as this has to do with real world application rather than academic analysis. As I think about it, I don't believe the statement belongs in the article, especially without a statement of the differing contexts between the statement and that of the article. Brownwn (talk) 02:27, 4 November 2014 (UTC)

Ronald Wardhaugh is a linguist[edit]

A user at IP has placed the template {{who}} on a sentence reading, "Linguists believe that no language...." Since the cited author is a linguist and his book is a sociolinguistics textbook, I believe this template is unwarranted. However, the user reversed my edits to the page, and I wish to avoid edit warring. (See also comments at User talk:Cnilep#My edits User talk: Cnilep (talk) 02:00, 23 February 2014 (UTC)

I didn't realize it was textbook. Assuming it does make that claim with no elaboration, I suppose remove the tag since there is no more detail we can get on that.-- (talk) 02:06, 23 February 2014 (UTC)