Saturday, December 1, 2012

Sociolinguistics and the Sociology of Language

Master’s Program- Applied Linguistics
Academic Year: 2012- 2013
Course Title: Sociolinguitics
Instructor: Dr. Mohamed Jabeur
Student: Nada Mrabet 

1.       What is the distinction between sociolinguistics and the sociology of language? 
2.       What is meant by sociolinguistics or communicative competence? 
3.       To what extent is sociolinguistics a dissatisfaction with structural linguistics? 

1) Sociolinguistics- also called Micro- Sociolinguistics- is, as Hudson (1996, p.4) states, « the study of language in relation to society ». Therefore, the focus here is emphasized on the structure of language and the way society with its different aspects from social classes and culture, to gender and ethnicity, influences the kind of linguistic structures we use and the way we talk. This leads us to conclude that Sociolinguistics studies, for example, how social situations require a change in the way we talk as there is a difference between ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ speeches, ‘discussions’ and ‘arguments’, and ‘requests’ and ‘demands’.
The Sociology of language- also called Macro- Sociolinguistics- is, as Hudson (1996, p.4) affirms, « the study of society in relation to language ». Accordingly, we study the language of a particular community with the aim of discovering and understanding the use of the social structures and the way the people of this community use them to communicate properly. This leads us to the idea that the Sociology of language studies, for example, the way linguistic structures are formed when different members of a tribe, including the Chieftain, address each other to identify the different social classes of that tribe.

2) Sociolinguistics is considered to be a young discipline as its actual growth started to take place with William Labov who is often regarded as « the founder of the discipline of variationist sociolinguistics ».
Another name for sociolinguistics is micro-sociolinguistics. This should be borne in mind when examining the statement of Coulmas (1997, p.2) which states that « micro- sociolinguistics investigates how social structure influences the way people talk and how language varieties and patterns of use correlate with social attributes such as class, sex and age ». This means it is society that determines how to use language in an appropriate way; how to address certain people with different social variables (gender, ethnicity, social status, etc.), and what words and types of intonation and attitudes must be used to express ‘request’, ‘order’ and ‘certainty’.
Let us take an example that investigates the appropriate usage of the words ‘black’ and ‘nigger’. We all know that the latter is racist; but, only when it is used by nonblack people.  In fact, it is allowed to be used exclusively by black men. In this case, it is the social variable of ethnicity that determines which word to be used by which people.

 3) Structuralism appeared in the early 20th century with the Structural linguistics developed first by the Swiss linguist Ferdinand De Saussure, and afterward by the American linguists Leonard Bloomfield and Noam Chomsky.
De Saussure’s main interest in language is deviated to the study of grammatical rules rather than the act of speech itself. In fact, his focus is on the common feature of a language, which is structure, in place of the variable feature which is speech. To make such thought more explicit, he uses the terms ‘langue’ and ‘parole’, about which it was said that “La langue denotes the abstract systematic principles of a language, without which no meaningful utterance (parole) would be possible”. This means that ‘langue’ makes the ‘infrastructure’ of language especially with the fact that De Saussure makes a distinction between language and speech, as if to say that speech is not really part of language or even speech is an incorrect and distorted version of language. Likewise, Chomsky’s competence holds that the most important aspect in the linguistic theory is the abstract knowledge of grammar rules; a competence that, later on, comes to be contrasted by Hymes (1972) with his communicative competence.
After modern linguistics became the focus of attention of many linguists, the latter became more and more involved as far as to consider De Saussure’s theory of structural linguistics out-of-date, as it is stated by Jan Koster (1996, p.115-120) that “Saussure, considered the most important linguist of the century in Europe until the 1950s, hardly plays a role in current theoretical thinking about language.” Similarly, Chomsky’s theory of competence was refuted by Hymes (1972). The latter held that Chomsky’s theory is ‘sterile’, and led to the final conclusion that the communicative language is much more developed and effective for language learners than that of Chomsky’s as it includes both knowledge of grammar rules (Chomsky’s competence) and the ability to apply those rules in real life usage, i.e in society.
In a nutshell, sociolinguistics comes with a revolutionary ‘triangular relation’ between communication, society and language. Each of the previous elements complete each other as language is studied in context of communication as well as of society. This makes us look at language not from a mere mental point of view, but also a social one. Here we refer to an argument developed especially by William Labov (1972a: 8) who states that we cannot study a “language X” without both referring and studying “the group who speak X”. Another view supports this argument is the one of J. R. Firth which affirms that as speech is part of language, the former is so important in communication that it enables us to identify and classify different speech communities. And the fact of excluding society in the study of speech will definitely lead us to finding less developed explanations to the linguistic structures of language than the ones we would find when studying speech in the context of society.

B. Leitch, V. Structuralism. <> [accessed 26/10/2012]
C. Richards, J. 2001. Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Koster, J. (1996) "Saussure meets the brain”, in R. Jonkers, E. Kaan, J. K. Wiegel, eds., Language and Cognition 5. Yearbook 1992 of the Research Group for Linguistic Theory and Knowledge Representation of the University of Groningen, Groningen, pp. 115-120.
Philips, J. Langue and Parole. <> [accessed 26/10/2012]
Trudgil, P. 1983. On Dialect: Social and Geographical Perspectives. Oxford: Blackwell.
Wardhaugh, R. 2006. An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. Blackwell.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Here's to Dialects!

    It is very often that I get harshly criticized for using the Tunisian Arabic dialect when commenting on posts on Facebook or other social networks and go as far as to saying that only illiterate people use dialects instead of the standard languages. Eventually, I started to use Standard Arabic, French or English more often, not because I am convinced with their point of view; but, only to avoid their criticism.

   Well, thanks to the courses that I am taking on Sociolinguistics, I came to realize that thinking of dialects as a threat to standard languages is nothing but a stereotype that needs to be reformed. Dialects are neither inferior nor illiterate versions of standard languages. In fact, they represent speech communities and societies that are now studied through their dialects. Therefore, why not instead of promoting for standard languages only, also promote for the dialect(s) we use, as the later has become like a cover photo for the societies we live in.

   Standard Arabic is what unites all Arabs around the world. I know. However, it is merely a common thread between them. Otherwise, how are we supposed to differentiate between- for example- Tunisians and Egyptians? And for those who would say that there is no need to differentiate between them as they are both Arabs, then why do not we go as far as uniting our cultures, traditions and ways of thinking? Oh yes, I know. It’s impossible! And I would personally consider trying to do so as trying to erase a characteristic feature of every human being’s identity.

   Therefore, I am Nada Mrabet. I am a Tunisian Arab Muslim. And I refuse to be blindly criticized for using Tunisian Arabic instead of Modern Standard Arabic. Now, I no longer feel ashamed of posting my poems written in the TA dialect. Here is one of them. I hope you enjoy.

قاسات و عانات 
و في الحب الخير ما لقات
كيف رضات بيك،
يا هم علاه ما رضيتش بها؟
عذبتها، خنتها و كذبت علاها
حبتك، ذليتها
ذلتك، حبيتها
حبتك، راجل ردتك
عذبتها، مرا و للة النسا رديتها
تغلط ياسر، تغلط برشة
تغلط إنت كان يمشي في بالك
انها بعدك ماهياش بش تحب
راي بش تحب و تحب و تزيد تحب
على خاطر اكتشفت إنو
فما برشة رجال خير منك،
أرجل منك،
و تستحق انها تتحب...
Written by: Nada Mrabet.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Wish List

Today, I read an interesting story about a couple who fell in love with each other. Eventually, they got married and started to live happily ever after till one day they found out that she suffered from cancer. 
He never left her side. It was not long till she died leaving behind her nothing but a wish list and a lawfully wedded husband. He never spelled a word; only silent tears. After her funeral ended, he was asked about his future plans. He took a deep breath and answered with a mysterious twinkle in his eyes: "My plans are making my wife's wishes come true."

This inspirational story -true or not true- had deeply affected me. Therefore, I have decided to make my own wishlist. That way, maybe if I would die sooner than later, someone who cared enough would make them come true for me or at least try as I do realize that they are not that easy to fulfill. 

1- Get a Masters Degree in Applied Linguistics.
2- Get a PhD.
3- Enrich my writing skills and have online courses abroad.
4- Become a best selling writer and a very talented journalist.
5- Travel abroad especially to Angola, England, Paris and finally maybe settle down in Dubai.
6- Get a great job as a TV show presenter in Dubai.
7- Launch my own Magazine and Radio in Tunisia in the English language.
8- Establish one of the largest libraries in my home town Kairouan to make it the favorite destination for bookworms.
9- Get piano lessons.
10- Learn other languages other than English, Arabic and French.

For now, this is my wishlist. Short, I know. But, it can take me very long years to make some space for it on the land of reality. I hope that I can live long enough to do that.

Attached is a "Wedding Vows" video sang by Jamie Foxx. I dedicate it to all those who have been lucky enough to taste the true and long lasting kind of love as well as to those who walked away with broken hearts. For the latter, do not give up. There is always hope.

                                                                                                         Written by: Nada Mrabet

Saturday, October 13, 2012

A Good Bye Letter

Dears sisters,

I am writing you this letter to give a spiritual good bye to the loveliest sisters and best friends I have ever had. However, this does not mean that I will never talk to you again. As a matter of fact, I will always be there for you whenever you need me and no matter what would be the circumstances!

Lately, I have discovered that the worst feeling ever is when I begun to realize that all those days I've spent with you; all those good times and even bad times were simply fake. They were never meant to last forever and at some point, I always had a little voice telling me that you knew it. But I didn't. 

Last night I couldn't sleep. I spent the whole night crying.. crying over the loss of those I have never expected to lose. It's funny how the closest people to you can change so easily. It is becoming like some kind of a phenomenon like chromosome mutation.

Every time I imagine my future, I see you in it. I see you when I graduate and on my wedding day. But maybe I should stop doing that as I've come to learn that high expectations can only be followed by disappointment. You have never loved and needed me as much as I did , and you will never find someone who would love you as much as I did.

If it hadn't been for the fight of the ex-clic, we would have never been close friends from the beginning. But here you go! You guys are back together and I'm the ex now. It's fine by me. I respect your decision. I actually got used to such situations. In fact, I took off the terms friends and sisters from my dictionary forever. If I hadn't luck with you guys, I will never have any with any one.

I guess this is it. I am not putting the blame on anyone. I suppose good stories are never meant to have happy endings. You seem like you want to end it with no farewell. But I am giving you one for old times' sake. 

I thank you for the good and the bad. I wish you happiness and success from the deepest wells of my heart. No matter what happened, is happening and would happen, you will always be in my heart, thoughts and prayers. 

                                                                       Yours Sincerely,
                                                                                    Ex- sister.

                                                                                                                             Written by: Nada Mrabet

Friday, September 28, 2012

Feminist? Me?

Random thoughts (2):

Feminism is not a dirty word. It does not represent women who post naked photos on Facebook, wear mini skirts, swear, smoke and drink. It is none of that. 

Being a feminist means being a fighter; fight those who seek to mute the voice of women around the world, imprison their thoughts and steal their rights.

Being a feminist means being independent, by letting no one own you for feeding you and buying your favorite perfume and expensive make up.

Being a feminist does not necessarily mean that women hate men. It does not also mean that female feminists are lesbians or male feminists are gay.

Being a feminist does not mean that women are of a better race than men. It simply mirrors the belief of the latter being equal.

Being a feminist means being a survivor; surviving social classification and sex discrimination; surviving after getting beaten till losing count. 

Being a feminist is proving to all misogynists that hell yeah! we can do it! all by ourselves.
So? Are you a feminist? 

                                                                            Written by:
                                                                            Nada Mrabet.. A feminist.

Inspired by:

Friday, September 14, 2012


Random thoughts (1):

Sometimes I feel like I think like a man. How?

I ask myself what most Arab women want these days and all days?! They want a good husband, a nice house and a couple of pretty and bright children.

Then I ask myself what do I want? I want to get my MA degree, study abroad for a PhD, make a great career as an efficient journalist and bestselling book writer, start my own business (Nad’Z company: the largest bookstore and the first English Magazine and Radio in Tunisia), buy my dream car, buy a big house with an inspiring corner for my writings, and maybe get married to a nice guy who both respects and appreciates me.

Simply, I want to be independent, successful, strong, independent and independent. I do not want to be in need for a man to buy me my rings and pay me my bills. I do not want to feel in debt for anyone. I want to take the piano lessons that I have always wished for. I want to be able to attend meetings and events in the association- I am part of- that strives to improve the well being of my city. I want to have a summer job so that I can pay my next year’s enrolling fees. I do not want to feel in debt for anyone, not even my old fellows!
I want to depend on me. 

How come that right is given to all men and not to all women? How come that right is given to my brother and not to me only because I was born with a Sorghastrom Endometrium?

                                                                                                           Written by: Nada Mrabet

Friday, August 31, 2012

Trust me! You WILL miss me!

Trust me when I say
That you will miss me!
You will miss that broken heart
That fell in love with you,
That was faithful to you.
You will miss those weary eyes
That shed tears for you.
You will miss those kind hands
That cooked your meal every day.
You will miss that baby face
That brought light into the
Blasphemous sick heart of yours.
You will miss that silly stupid girl
That made a man out of you.
That’s true. You were not one;
Not a decent enough one.
That bloody day I met you!
Nor would you be one
When I am no longer with you.
Trust me when I say
That you will miss me.
Every time you will look at her face,
You will miss me
And every riddle,
You thought you solved, in me.

                                                                               Written by: Nada Mrabet

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A "whore" she is no more

She used to be a « whore »
And now, she is no more.
She used to be in debt to him
Just because he said them;
Those three little words
With his beautifully sad grin.
She used to build castles in Spain
Where she made him a prince, a man
Converted him from a low-life,
“Lowfully” low-life farmer to
An honorably dignified King.
She gave him everything a man;
A true man would wish for.
But he turned out to be no man,
Not a little, not at all.
She refused to give him her body,
She gave him her heart, mind and soul
And nothing more
As she was no whore.
He did not want more. Thus,
She fell in love with him harder than before.
Do you see now why?
Why she used to be a « whore »?
He owned her heart, mind and soul.
That is why she used to be a « whore ».
And now that she loves no more,
Not him, not anyone,
She shall never be a « whore ».
                                                             Written by: Nada Mrabet

Friday, August 17, 2012

Statement of purpose sample

After my graduation, all that I was thinking about is to do my utmost to obtain both my MA and PhD degrees and become thereafter a competent university teacher. My academic goals revolve around the world of literature, specifically drama. I will be hopefully focusing on either medieval drama or modern theatre for the following reasons. At the outset, during my third year, I was deeply touched by Samuel Beckett‘s play Endgame and by the theatre of the Absurd in general. After that, during my fortnight in the Language Village in summer 2012, my fascination was further nurtured as I was heartily engaged in the drama workshop, moderated by such inspiring drama teachers. This exquisite experience gave me the opportunity to reconsider drama and to explore its new dimensions. To tell the truth, in the beginning, I was hesitating between linguistics and literature. Then, for the latter reasons, I finally made up my decision. Moreover, ever since I got my Baccalaureate, I have been dreaming of becoming a writer and starting my own magazine. To conclude, pursuing my studies with an MA degree in Literature will serve as a stepping stone both to enhance my educational level and to fulfill my future goals.

                                                                                                                          Written by: Nada Mrabet

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Let me be Me

I do not want to be someone that others want Me to be. I want to be someone that I want to be. It is up to Me to be the way I choose to be. "To be or not to be", that is NOT the question, as I already have the answer. I have already chosen to be because I want to be the way I want to be. And if I would have chosen to be someone that others want Me to be, I would simply be someone that I do not want to be, and that would not do Me any favors as I am trying to be someone that I want to be. I am just trying to be Me. Therefore, you be You, and let Me be!.. Me!


Friday, June 29, 2012

Dear Diary

Dear Diary,

I have disregarded my feelings, especially the bad ones, for so long to the point that I cannot know how I am supposed to feel in particular situations.
I want to feel again. I want to be able to reach out for my feelings again.I want to be able to express them in a way deeper and better than before.
I want to be able to know myself; know who I am, what I want and what I need.
I have put myself into denial for a long time to the point that I got myself lost.. lost in an endless sea with no lighthouse to guide me home.

                                                      Yours Faithfully,
                                                                Nada M.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Diabetes: What is it? How to prevent and treat it?

     It is true that your brains need glucose in order to survive. However, a high level of it in your blood will probably cause diabetes. Through this article, we will try to figure out: How do you get diabetes? How many types of diabetes are there? What are the warning signs of diabetes? And what are the possible preventions and treatments?

How do you get diabetes?
Scientifically speaking, a person becomes diabetic when his body becomes unable of producing insulin. In fact, insulin is a hormone produced by an organ labeled "pancreas". This hormone is responsible of the entering of glucose from the blood to the cells in order to maintain low blood sugar levels. Therefore, when the glucose reaches its highest levels in one's blood, it will get out of the body in urine. Eventually, the body cells will get no glucose, thus no energy and power to feed on.

How many types of diabetes are there?
Actually, there are three types of diabeties:
1) Diabetes Type 1: When you produce no insulin at all.
2) Diabetes Type 2 - when you do not produce enough insulin that fits the needs of your body.
3) Gestational Diabetes - When you develop diabetes just during your pregnancy.

What are the warning signs of diabetes?
As glucose cannot pass through from the blood to the cells, the body will get rid of the extra glucose in urine. That is why diabetes go to the bathroom many times during the day. Consequently, they will feel dehydrated and need to drink more water than the usual.
Moreover, as the body needs glucose to get energy, diabetes will feel fragility and fatigue because they are deprived from the latter. So, no matter how much fruits they eat and fluids they drink, they will never feel energetic as it is a matter of insulin, not of how much sugar they consume.
The body needs energy to survive. Because it cannot get it in the usual way (through blood), it will start looking for energy sources from muscles and fat. That is when diabetes start losing weight.

Diabeties and Pregnancy:
When a woman is pregnant, she goes through hormonial changes and her body becomes in need for more glucose. When the Pancreas fails to deliver the extra insulin, the woman will be a Gestational Diabetes. The good news is that not all woman have it. And if they do (God forbid)
it will go away when they have their babies.

Diabeties and Obesity:
Being obese can cause your body cells to become resistant to insulin and this increases the risk for Diabetes Type 2. Most advanced researches concerning this issue state that most obese people are also diabetes. So, you do the math.

what are the possible preventions and treatments?
The preventions and treatments are almost alike. Here is a list that you may follow in order to keep your blood sugar level normal:
1) You have to watch your weight and maintain a healthy diet.
2) You have to do some regular exercising to keep your body healthy.
3) You have to quit smoking as soon as possible and lessen drinking alcohol.
4) You have to avoid consuming too much of the Three Poisons: Sugar, Salt and White Flour.
5) You have to check you blood sugar levels frequently.
Till this day, Type 1 cannot be prevented yet. However, Type 2 can.

      It is true that Diabetes is a really exhausting and complicated desease. But it can be treated and at times prevented. Indeed, you have to watch out you blood sugar levels and take a good care of your body before you will be obliged to use insulin syringes.

                                                                                                                 Written by: Nada Mrabet

How to Manage Stress in 3 Steps?

      As the Oxford Dictionary defines it, Stress is "a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances".
Almost everybody in this world is exposed to experiencing Stress. In a matter of fact, according to recent studies, around 75 percent of the population go through stressful events in their lives. What matters the most now is exposing the main causes, consequences, types of stress illnesses and techniques used in order to avoid them in our everyday lives.

      The first step is identifying the causes lurking behind feeling the tension. Ask yourself. What makes you stressful? Work? Committment? Too much responsibilities and duties? Housekeeping? Kids and family? Illness? Someone's death? Financial problems? All of these are considered to be "extrinsic causes of stress". Therefore, they are hard to avoid in order to skip the strain. However, by time you can cope with such stressful situations and learn how to deal with and react towards them. Also, there are some "intrinsic causes of stress" like pessimism, lack of determination,  negativity, colorless expectations, hopelessness, etc... Unlike the former causes, these can be treated, managed and why not treated.

       The second step is recognizing what are the usual consequences and illnesses of constantly living under stress without trying to manage it. They can be both mental and physical. Consequence number one? It is serious health problems! Being exposed to too much stress for too long agitates almost all of your body systems. It can cause the raising of the blood pressure, weekening of the immune system, the speeding up of the aging process, impotence, obesity, and heart attacks and strokes. These deseases are related to physical effects. The psycological effects can be for the most part: "Phobias" ( fear of certain animals like spiders and snakes, fear of heights, fear of open spaces..), "Agoraphobia" (fear of a public place to the point of never leaving one's home), and "Panic Disorder" (sudden and unreasonable panic attacks).

        The third and final step is learning about the different techniques used in Stress Management. In most situations medical treatments like Luvox, Aropax, Efexor, Tolvon, Tofranil and Prozac are not necessary as at times they may cause addiction. Hence, psychological treatments are highly recommanded. "Group Therapy" is very helpful. It is not made just for those going through severe cases of depression. On the contrary! It helps you share and discuss your problems with others like yourself finding it hard to control daily stress. "Cognitive behaviour therapy" is very efficient either especially for pessimistic people who are trying to get rid of their ways of thinking and behaviours. "Counselling" with a psychologist is another kind of psychological treatment. But it might cost too much money. That is why I recommande the "Relaxation Therapy" like doing  yoga, meditaion, picnics, sailing, etc...

         Long- term stress can cause serious illnesses. It is the result of both extrinsic and intrinsic situations. Some are easy to cope and deal with. Others need treatments; both medical and psychological. At serious cases, when the stress reaches its highest levels you have to contact: your doctor (if you have one), psychologist or counsellor, Community mental health service, your local hospital.. Nevertheless, the good news is that by time, you will learn how to treat, encounter, manage and at last prevent Stress. 

Written by: Nada Mrabet