THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE VARIATIONS AND VARIETIES IN READER’S DIGEST

A. Introduction

Man is constantly using language- spoken, written, and printed language. Every time we investigate a language, it is variable and in a state of change (Milroy and Milroy, 2007: 52; Fishman, 1976: 45). This reflects in the language we use in everyday living. We will find out that it remarkably varies since an individual can use language in variety of ways and for many different purposes (Goodenough, 1981: 1; Wardhaugh, 1986: 5, 7; Downes, 1998: 1). It changes in different ways in a wide variety of places and times. Moreover, it varies according to the setting of its use (Wallwork, 1978: 23; Bright, 2007: 81). The variation covers a number of structural levels- in phonology, morphology, and syntax in particular (Milroy and Milroy, 2007: 48). Moreover, the variation may also include the semantic and symbolic levels (Goodenough, 1981: 5).

What is done by the speaker or the language use is a form of social behavior or phenomenon (Downes, 1998: iii).  It may imply a choice of a particular form of social behavior. This choice may be influenced by personal, social, and cultural factors. (Wallwork, 1978: 27).  Thus we change our way of speaking depending on whom we are talking, where we are talking, and on what topic we are talking. Such changes are common and commonly recognized. This may occur in written or printed language as well. A well-known source for useful printed material to investigate the change(s) is any popular magazine such as Reader’s Digest. This magazine has the largest circulation since it is published in 50 editions in 21 languages. Reader’s Digest is a general interest, family-oriented publication known for positive, conservative and pro-American views. Its circulation reaches 85 million readers every month including 44 million in the United States.

Turning to more recent innovations in the Teaching of English as a Second Language (TESL) and Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL), the communicative approach sees language learning as a process of developing a capability to operate in situations of language use. The aim is to replicate actual social uses of language and make students aware of the processes where by meanings are generated and understood. In addition, the instructional materials should be tailored to suit the age, interests, social class, financial means, lifestyle, and aspirations of the group of learners. Moreover, the cultural constraints imposed by the society and the context in which the course will be taught must be fully taken into account. In addition, the instructional materials should be tailored to suit the age, interests, social class, financial means, lifestyle, and aspirations of the group of learners. Moreover, the cultural constraints imposed by the society and the context in which the course will be taught must be fully taken into account (Murdoch, 1989: 15).

By doing so, we can create courses of optimum interest, appropriacy, and relevance. A versatile source of printed material for those sorts of texts is the Reader’s Digest magazine. The texts can be used to illustrate structures, inspire discussions and dialogues, or for straightforward description. This can produce a further creativity for classroom exploitation. Besides that, in relation to the issues of the English language variation and varieties, this magazine offers the English language use in a wide variety of contexts written by various writers. To make the students aware of the diverse varieties of English will help them broaden their knowledge of the language, and they will be better equipped to deal with those varieties (Takagaki, 2005: 5).

This paper aims at exploring to some extent the range and depth of variation that exists in the English language in terms of some linguistic dimensions in which the variation is observed in the articles of Reader’s Digest magazine of the 2008- present Asian editions of the English Language version. In addition, the paper addresses the pedagogical implications of the observed variation in the teaching of English language. To be more specific, the paper addresses the following problems:

Ø                  What variation/varieties of the English language found in Reader’s Digest?

Ø                  What are the pedagogical implications of the observed variation/varieties in the teaching of the English language?

The scope of the study is the analysis of the English variation and varieties. The analysis of the variation/varieties limits itself on the three linguistic levels: phonological, grammatical, and lexical. Additionally, the source of data is the articles of Reader’s Digest magazine of the 2008- present Asian editions of the English Language version. The study also employs the definition of the following key terms:

Ø      A variation is differences in ‘ways of speaking’ a language in the levels of phonological, grammatical, and lexical systems.

Ø      A variety of language is a set of linguistic items with similar distribution, presumably a geographical area or a social group (Hudson in Wardhaugh, 1986: 22).

B. The Theoretical Framework

To start with this discussion, we take a look at some definitions of language variation and varieties. Hudson in Wardhaugh (1986: 22) defines a variety of language as a set of linguistic items with similar distribution, presumably a geographical area or a social group. We thus recognize many different ways of speaking the same language. In other words, we find speakers with different dialects or accents.

A variety can be something greater than a single language as well as something less that what traditionally referred to a dialect. The following is some examples of varieties: English, London English, the English of football commentaries, Standard English, lower-class New York City speech, Oxford English, and so forth. Another definition of a language is a body of standards of speech behavior. The standards comprise of several systems or levels of organization: The phonological, the morphological, the syntactic, semantic, and symbolic (Goodenough, 1981: 4). The language variation may take place simultaneously on all three linguistic levels: phonologically, grammatically, and in terms of its vocabulary or lexically (Bright and Ramanujan, 1972: 157; Downes, 1998: 17).  The present study follows the latter classification.

As Saussure (1967:45) suggested that language is first and foremost most a spoken system while writing is a secondary one, the study of language variation and change starts with performance data and thus employs methodological instruments appropriate to the study of spoken records. There are areas of study, however, for which the spoken records are not readily available it is usually in such instances that variation and change has to be investigated on the basis of written documents only (Schneider, 2007: 67). This case occurs in the present study. The study, therefore, investigates the English language variation and varieties in the largest-circulated magazine, Reader’s Digest since there are available for the writer during the study.  The following part extends the discussion of the English language variation and varieties found in Reader’s Digest in the above-mentioned linguistic levels: phonological, morphological, syntactical, and semantic/lexical levels:

1. The Phonological Level

The phonological system includes standards for discriminating the differences in sound, intonation, and stress that are consistently associated with differences in meaning. This system involves a set of discriminations by which speakers perceive what for that language is meaningful distinctions in sound. (Goodenough, 1981: 6). The English language variation may take place in the phonological level. For instance, the working class Londoners (Cockney) pronounce ‘with’ as /wiv/ whereas the middle-class Londoners pronounce it as /wiđ/ (Wallwork, 1978: 32-33). The following is some more examples of the variation or varieties in this level:

Ø      butter, budder, bu’er

Ø      fishing, fishin’

Ø      farm, fahm

Ø      width pronounced like wit or with

Ø      Cuba pronounced as Cuber

Ø      ate pronounced like eight or et

Ø      been pronounced like bean or bin, etc. (Wardhaugh, 1986: 23)

2. The Morphological Level

The morphological system is built up from combinations of a language’s phonemes are the minimal units. These units carry specific meanings in that language called morphs. This system comprises the various principles by which morphs are combined to form words (Goodenough, 1981: 6). The following is some examples of the variation or varieties in this level:

Ø      ice tea for iced tea

Ø      smoke fish for smoked fish

Ø      can drink for canned drink, etc. (Bright, 2007: 82).

3. The Syntactic Level

The syntactic system comprises its principles of syntax, the principles by which words are ordered into clauses and sentences. There are various functional categories (part of speech) into which words and phrases sort themselves. There are principles governing their sequential arrangements (Goodenough, 1981: 9), for instance, ‘I don’t have any.’, or ‘I haven’t any.’, or ‘I ain’t got none.’ The following illustrates some more examples of the variation or varieties in this level found in the American Negro English or ‘Black English’:

Ø      ‘Jim he was fakin it and makin it.’

Ø      ‘Laying in the cut till I’m hipped.’

Ø      ‘Man that dude was really stroking.’ (Wallwork, 1978: 65)

Ø      ‘He ain’t got none.’ (Wardhaugh, 1986: 52)

4. The Semantic or Lexical Level

The semantic system has to do with the standards by which people select particular words and expressions to convey particular meanings (Goodenough, 1981: 9). The following is some examples of the variation and varieties in the semantic level:

Ø      elevator – lift

Ø      petrol – gas

Ø      carousel – roundabout (Wardhaugh, 1986: 42)

C. The English Language Variation and Varieties in Reader’s Digest

This section presents the findings of the study. They address the English language variation and varieties found in the articles of the Reader’s Digest magazine. The diversity covers all linguistic levels: phonological, grammatical, and lexical. The grammatical levels consist of the morphological and syntactical levels. The following table summarizes the findings:

Linguistic

Levels

The English Variation/Varieties

Sources

Phonological Ø       ‘organisation’ for ‘organization’ (p. 5)

Ø       ‘realised’ for ‘realized’ (p. 30)

Ø       ‘organisation’ for ‘organization’ (p.46)

Ø       ‘organised’ for ‘organized’ (p. 51)

Ø       ‘customised’ for ‘customized’ (p.72)

April-2008 edition

January-2009 edition

Grammatical Ø     Is the XXL-ing of America.. (p.46)

Ø     Who Ya Callin’ Baby? (p. 23)

Ø     Comin straight outta crib-town! (p.23)

Ø     One Foundation is hoping to act as an “enabler” … (p.46)

Ø     “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” (p. 16)

Ø     Want to hear? (p. 57)

April-2008 edition

January-2009 edition

Lexical Ø     ‘Bishawa Ijtema‘ (= a religious pilgrimace)

Ø     Is the XXL-ing of America.. (p.46)

Ø     ‘Zamboni’ (= ice resurfacer) (p. 23)

Ø     ‘Gangsta’ Babies (p.23)

Ø     Pookie and his ‘homies’ Benjino, ‘Rey Rey’ and Big Deuce

Ø     She signed it “smoochykins” (p. 26)

Ø     This dhobi ghat (= washing place in Hindi) (p. 32)

Ø     This dhobi-wallah (= washerman) (p. 32)

Ø     Don’t shoot! Bueno hombrey! Good guy!” (p. 53)

Ø     Want to hear what this jerk just did? (p.57)

April-2008 edition

January-2009 edition

Fig.1. the English language variation and varieties in Reader’s Digest

The findings reveal that the variation and varieties covers the three linguistic levels: phonological, grammatical, and lexical. This ranges from Standard English to Non-standard English. In the phonological level, we find out a phonological variation, the /z/ sound is converted into the /s/ sound, such as ”realised‘ for ‘realized’, ‘organisation‘ for ‘organization’, ‘organised‘ for ‘organized’, and ‘customised‘ for ‘customized’.

Whereas in the grammatical level we discover that there some grammatical variations the speakers of Black English usually employ, such as ‘Who Ya Callin’ Baby?’, and ‘Comin straight outta crib-town!’ The expression of a curse is found as well, for instance, ‘…damned if you do, and damned if you don’t!’ Also, we find out the simplification or reduction of a yes/no question, such as ‘Want to hear what the jerk just did?’ In addition, there is a grammatical variation dealing with the formation of a noun, such as ‘XXL-ing‘.

In the lexical level, we discover some lexical variations. One variation shows that there are some vocabulary borrowed from Hindi, such as ‘Bishawa ijtema’ which means ‘a religious pilgrimace’, ‘dhobi ghat’ which meanswashing place in Hindi and ‘dhobi-wallah’ which means ‘washerman’. The other words are from non-English language, such as ‘zamboni‘ which means ‘ice resurfacer’, and ‘bueno hombrey‘. We also discover that there are some vocabulary which speakers of Black English typically use, such as ‘gangsta‘ which means ‘gangster’. Another lexical variation is the reduplication of a proper name, such as ‘Rey Rey‘.

To sum up, all the variations and varieties of the English language employed in the articles of Reader’s Digest show that Standard English can be used in a variety of ways. The existence of these different varieties is interesting. As a language changes, it may well change in different ways and in different places.

D. The Pedagogical Implications of the Variation and Varieties in the Teaching of the English Language

The issues of language variation and varieties fall under the area of study known as Sociolinguistics. The Sociolinguistics is important in language learning. It can broaden the students’ knowledge about the target language as they will encounter the varieties of the language. Moreover, the students will be better prepared to cope with those varieties. Therefore, they will develop increased tolerance for speakers of different dialects (Takagaki, 2005: 4-5).

As the research findings have shown, Standard English can be manifested in a variety of ways. This may pose certain difficulties for the teaching of English in non-English speaking countries, in particular, for the teachers of English with little knowledge about the diverse varieties of English that are spoken throughout the world, and what type of variation exist in those countries. The teachers, therefore, should incorporate activities regarding language varieties, language styles, and the role of English as an international language into the classroom. As educators as well, the teachers should not simply have a good command of English but also be informed speakers of English. They thus can provide direct answers to questions which considerations of language diversity may raise by allowing a deeper appreciation of the uses to which English may be put (Preston and Shuy, 1984: 1)

A basic understanding of sociolinguistics is also essential for English learners who wish to take full advantage of job opportunities in the new global economy, where they will undoubtedly encounter different varieties of English. Additionally, they will have a good understanding about the role of Global English and will be aware of important issues such as multilingualism and the functions of English as an international language. This will, accordingly, familiarize them with how varieties of English are actually used in the global communities.

E. Conclusion

Based on the previous discussion, we can draw a conclusion that, like many other languages that contain a great deal of variety, the English language used in everyday living is remarkably varied. The variation and varieties are investigated by using written or printed material, i.e., the Reader’s Digest magazine. It turns out that it can indeed serve as a valuable source of data in the quantitative investigation of language variation and change. We then find the diversity within the language on all levels- phonological, grammatical (consisting of morphological and syntactical), and lexical.

Analyzing the pedagogical implications of the English language variation and varieties employed in Reader’s Digest, this paper will hopefully bring about a greater understanding of the English variation and varieties to teachers whose primary interest is English language instruction. Also, it will develop their awareness of the variation and varieties will aid and promote their performance in the teaching of English. Finally, this standpoint will help the learners of English better understand the nature of the English Language and to help foster healthy attitudes toward language in general.

Finally, since humankind is a most unstable and variable being, language cannot be long-lasting or stable. Like other human things, such as customs and dress, it has to vary in space or time. This remains perhaps our greatest challenge to gain a profound understanding of how language is employed by human beings as long as they live their lives in the diversity of this world.

REFERENCES

Bright, W., and Ramanujan, A.K. 1972. Sociolinguistic Variation and Language Change. In Sociolinguistics, ed. J. B. Pride and Janet Holmes. Middlesex: Peguin Books Ltd.

Bright, William. 2007. Social Factors in Language Change. In The Handbook of Sociolinguistics, ed. Florian Coulmas, 81-91. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Downes, William. 1998. Language and Society: Second Edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Fishman, J. A. 1976. The Sociology of Language. In Language and Social Context, ed. Pier Paolo Giglioli, 45-58. Middlesex: Penguin Education, Penguin Books Ltd.

Goodenough, Ward H. 1981. Culture, Language, and Society. California: The Benjamin/Cummings Publishing Company.

Milroy, James and Milroy, Lesley. 2007. Varieties and Variation. In The Handbook of Sociolinguistics, ed. Florian Coulmas, 47-64. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Murdoch, George S. 1989. A Pragmatic Basis for Course Design. In English Teaching Forum, Volume XVI, Number 3, p.p.15-18.

Preston, Dennis R., and Shuy, Roger W. (eds.). 1984. Varieties of American English. Washington: English Language Program Division, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, United States Information Agency.

Saussure, Ferdinand de. 1967. Cours de linguistique generale. (Translated into English by Wade Biskin, 1974). Fountana: Collins.

Schneider, Edgar W. 2007. Investigating Variation and Change in Written Documents. In Handbook of Language Variation and Change.eds. J. K. Chambers, Peter Trudgill, and Natalie Schilling-Estes. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Takagaki, Toshiyuki. 2005. Raising Students’ Awareness of the Varieties of English. In English Teaching Forum, Volume 43, Number 2, p.p.4-7.

Wardhaugh, Ronald. 1986. Introduction to Sociolinguistics. Oxford: Basic Blackwell Ltd.

Wallwork, J. F. 1978. Language and People. London: Heinemann Educational Books.

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