ERIC Number: ED252073
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1975-Mar
Reference Count: 0
Wolof Speech Styles and Social Status. Working Papers in Sociolinguistics Number 23.
Irvine, Judith T.
African Wolof society is divided into a number of ranked status groups or castes, the largest of which is the high-ranking noble caste. Wolof conceive of two styles of speaking, the restrained or noble-like and the elaborated or "griot"-like, and the two styles are connected by the presence or absence of "kerse," honor and self-control. The linguistic phenomena relevant to social rank are found in all aspects of speech performance: paralinguistic phenomena (such as intonation), phonology, syntax, and lexicon. Intonational features provide the most striking differences in style. Phonological differences seem to be related to differences in speech tempo. The griot style uses syntactic devices that lengthen the total utterance but add little or nothing to its meaning, while the noble style uses shorter, blander forms and intentional errors as a sign of high rank. The variants can also signal high and low rank within a caste. The use of intentional error can create confusion between a high-ranking individual and a linguistically incompetent foreigner. The linguistic system as a whole may have shifted in the direction of the high-status variant, and the reduction in surface elaboration is consistent with high-rank restraint and nonfluency, possibly arising from the general population's desire to appear more high-ranking. Thus the cultural valuation of speech can influence both the form and the direction of language change. (MSE)
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Sponsor: Social Science Research Council, New York, NY. Committee on Sociolinguistics.; National Inst. of Education (DHEW), Washington, DC.
Authoring Institution: Southwest Educational Development Lab., Austin, TX.