Demographic and Socioeconomic Differences in Linguistic Behavior

  • Jacob S. Siegel


Many of the categories of different demographic and socioeconomic groups—age/sex groups, race/ethnic groups, socioeconomic classes, marital and household types, and social networks--differ from one another in their linguistic behavior and characteristics, as do the inhabitants of different geographic areas and particular populations over time. The former variations are described as social variations, as distinguished from geographic variations in space and variations in time. Demographic and socioeconomic variables and linguistic variables may be associated with one another. A linguistic variable is a linguistic measure that has recognizable variants, such as proficiency in English (very good, good, etc.), literacy (yes or no), language spoken at home (e.g., Japanese, Italian, French, etc.), and degree of coherence in speech (Wardhaugh 1992). Linguistic differences between the categories of the social groups may be expressed also in any of the different structural features of a language, i.e., its phonology, vocabulary, or syntax. In this chapter I identify and describe the principal social variations in language that distinguish the leading categories of demographic and socioeconomic groups.

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jacob S. Siegel
    • 1
  1. 1.North BethesdaUSA

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