Many language varieties exist

English Language Unit 3
SAC 1 Example
Many language varieties exist. We encounter obvious varieties as we cross
national boundaries. Even within nations, we see different speech communities
coexisting and enjoying similar status. Yet it is within single speech communities that
perhaps the most interesting varieties exist. Within English for example, we see
varieties based on age, gender, family, social status, region, profession and economic
status. In addition we see individual language users employing different varieties
according to the context, the audience and the function of their discourse. Most
language users have access to a repertoire of language varieties. Often the choice of
variety is subconscious and happens automatically as competent users of language.
On occasions, however, the variety is chosen consciously and purposely. As users of
language, we are aware of the attitudes that exist in our society towards certain
varieties of the language that we speak. Although often based on stereotypes, these
attitudes exist and often inform our response to the language variety user.
The text used for analysis here, demonstrates a variety of English and its
characteristics. The text is a monologue spoken by a comedian in the character of a
girl around the age of fourteen, named Kylie Mole. The overall function of the text is
to entertain and amuse listeners, therefore the characteristics of this variety are
exaggerated for comic effect. The participant is supposedly telling the story of how
her boyfriend broke up with her. She begins by introducing herself, therefore it would
seem she is not supposed to be telling a friend the story, but someone she has only just
met. The monologue depicts the characteristics of a specific variety of English and
prompts a range of attitudes towards it.
Kylie Mole’s language has been carefully chosen to reflect that of a
stereotypical Australian teenage girl. The variety of language associated with this
stereotype is often called ‘teenspeak’ and is reflected in Kylie’s lexical choices.
Items such as ‘spac’, ‘bull’, ‘guess what’, ‘cos’ ‘spewing’ are all word choices typical
of a teenage language user. Slang terms such as these are used by many young
speakers as a way of separating themselves from other groups such as adults.
Teenagers will often develop their own vocabulary and pride themselves in using
words incomprehensible to their parents and other adults. A further example of this is
Kylie’s use of the word ‘spac’. It can be assumed that the word is derived from spastic
and is used by Kylie to mean something is unfavourable and looked down upon, as in
“Amanda wears her school uniform on the weekends, awww so spac”. This word is
given further status when Kylie applies grammatical rules and adds the derivational
morpheme ly to form an adverb from the adjective, creating ‘spacly’; “Davo kisses so
spacly.” This novel usage is seen in her use of the word ‘spewing’ also. Kylie uses
this word in a non-standard context, as an expression of regret; “and what I’m doubly
spewing about is apparently she’s really nice.” Other language users, perhaps adults,
would consider this a vulgar word and would avoid using it in conversation and would
most likely never use it in this way. This is a further example of how Kylie’s language
choices reflect the variety she represents.
The phonology of this text reveals many things. The prosodic features often
associated with teenaged girls are evident. The most apparent of these is Kylie’s use
of high rising tone (HRT). Typically in general speech, HRT is used to signal a
question at the end of an utterance. Studies have revealed however, that the speech of
teenage girls often demonstrates this characteristic, not only to signal a question but at
the end of many statements. An example of this is the use of HRT, shown with the
symbol / in the end of the following statement: “I know cos guess what he can’t
write.. an even if he could it wouldn’t matter cos he guess what he can’t read.” This
use of HRT at the end of statements is used many times throughout the text, further
characterising Kylie’s language use as that typically associated with a teenage girl.
Other prosodic features such as the rapidity of Kylie’s speech are also typical of her
variety and of spontaneous speech. So to is the presence of non-fluency features such
as “yeah”, “um”, “but um”, “like no” etc. The speed and casual register of Kylie’s
speech also produces the weak form of words such as ‘and’ through the process of
elision. “an he goes”, “do ya know” are two examples. The weak forms of the words
and and you are used; a common feature of rapid speech. Kylie also uses the nonstandard pronunciation of asked / akst /. This could also be said to be typical of the
variety she represents.
The syntactic structure of the monologue is predominantly built upon
compound sentences. The conjunctions and and but are suggest the narrative content
of Kylie’s speech. She is telling a story and uses this syntax to link units of
information. She is not expecting or inviting audience participation and therefore her
syntax does not involve questions. Although she does use the following utterances to
engage her listener: “ Guess what?” “Do you know what I found out?”
The semantics of this piece reveals to us some of Kylie’s approach to the
Principle of Appropriateness. The topics she covers such as picking on other students,
her boyfriend, kissing and so on suggests that she believes her content and language
used, to be appropriate for her audience. We would therefore assume that her
audience is most likely to be a user of the same variety of language. Phrase such as
“he tries to stick his tongue down your throat” and “she spat blood badly” could
cause great offence to some audiences. However, in this instance, Kylie has deemed it
appropriate to use such language and this is therefore revealing of her audience.
This text includes many of the characteristics typically associated with teenage
girls. Of course ‘typical characteristics’ are often based on stereotypes and
generalisations and are therefore not apparent in all speakers of a specified category.
The text analysed utilised many of the characteristics associated with young teenage
girls. Features such as HRT, compound sentences, non-standard pronunciations and
notable lexical choices contributed to the identification of the speaker’s
characteristics. Exposure to language of this variety would also inform our response
and attitude towards the speaker. We shape this attitude according to the society and
the environment we are brought up in and it is largely a subconscious reaction. The
monologue is of course an extreme example, as it is meant to be a send up of this
particular variety. It has therefore served well to illustrate the features common to the
variety of spoken language associated with teenage girls.