Hi. Language variation and language change are two sides of the same coin. That was the main message of the previous video. In that video, I discussed one study by the American social linguist William Labov who studied one tiny aspect of a language change. The way in which the ou vowel in south was moving towards the front of the mouth and becoming eo like in south. But we saw that from just studying this one tiny aspect, we can learn many things about how language functions. How it varies all the time, and how it changes all the time. I'm going to discuss this topic more now with my students Inge and Marten. >> So I had a question first about the variables that Labov used. He used three variables, gender, age, and social class. But, these variables seem very different from one another. >> Why, how are they different? >> So for age, for example, that seems to be something that is absolutely fixed at any point in your life. >> Well, well, I don't know. People have their birthday. >> [LAUGH] >> Yes, they do, but then, and then does it change from one day to the next? >> All right, no, it's, so it's less flexible, you could say, right? >> Yeah. >> You are stuck with the age you have at some given point in time. You might want to become, I don't know, 27 again, but you never will unless you're 26. >> Yes. Yeah. So that, that is one type of variable and then there is gender. So with gender, there is not one fixed point. But there are two possible fixed points that you get from birth? >> Right, yeah, okay, so you would say, typically, for gender, you're also stuck. Well, I mean nowadays, with medical science, some people can change their sex. But there is something about it there, and that's, so people think it might be a little bit more social. Because, what it means to be a man or what it means to be a woman, can differ from one culture to the next, to the next. So, typical masculine behaviour might be very different in one part of the world than it is in another part of the world. And then some men can be more masculine, and other and also some women can be more masculine for that matter within a given culture. So it seems more of a scale in some sense where you can also choose to some extent where you want to be. >> Yeah. >> On that scale. That's right. >> And that is also reflected in language then to some extent. >> How is that reflected in language? >> Well, if you are more masculine in your identity, then maybe your language would also be more masculine? >> Right. Yeah. So in the Labov study- >> Yeah. >> You could think, well, maybe, so what we said is, there's a difference between girls and boys, because when they go to school, the girls will all look at their peer group and the boys won't. >> Yeah. >> But maybe that's exaggerated. So maybe there are some boys for whom actually the peer group is very important. And there are some girls where this is not the case. But typically for girls, girls will behave in this way and boys will behave in another way. But maybe that's not true for everybody, and even if it's not true for everybody, our explanation would still work in the same way, as long as it's the majority of boys and girls who go in a certain direction. >> Yeah. >> Right. >> And then finally we have the variable of social class and that to me seems the most problematic because that's not something that you're born with. Or, well, maybe actually, maybe you are. >> Well, what do you think, you are or you're not? >> I don't think you are because, well, you have a certain sex when you're born, but it's not that you're born and you can see oh, this is somebody who is lower-middle class or this is somebody who is upper class. So, that's the one thing and then also it may change during the course of your life. >> Right. Well, yeah, both of them, both of those two things are true and not true. So it's definitely true if you see a baby, you will see that it's a baby, so you'll see the age. You'll see that it's a boy or a girl, and you don't just see what the class of the baby is. On the other hand, as soon as you know a little bit about the context, you will know, and there are certain things which will never change for that baby. If that baby is born to some very rich and highly educated parents well that is going to determine some aspects of the class, of that baby, as well. So it's maybe not the biological thing, but it is something, which to some extent is still fixed. >> Okay. >> And then you can maybe change your class in the sense that you are the first person in your family to go to university. And you will become extremely rich and wealthy, whereas the rest of your family is poor, but still you will have part of your background will be that which is given by your parents. So all of these three things, well age maybe not so much. >> Hm. >> But the other two definitely, they are to some extent changeable and malleable, and to some extent also fixed. So it's, it is true. It is more complicated than it would just look at first sight. So. >> Yes. >> Yeah. One thing I was wondering about is if you look at this variability of these factors like gender and social class, well how culture specific would they be? The results that Labov found, they could be very culture specific, right? >> Well do you have any specific result in mind? Is there anything with what we talked about which you think might be culture specific? >> Well I was thinking about the results for gender. So when you look at the graph, you can see that for men between the age of 20 and 60, I think they spoke all sort of the same language, right? >> Right. >> So, this could be specific, I think, for the culture or the time that the research was done. >> Yeah, okay, right, I see what you mean. So men between 20 and 60, they more or less pronounced this one vowel in the same way. Whereas for women between 20 and 60 there are actually quite some differences in the way they pronounce it. And our explanation actually was about career, having a career, so men have a career between 20 and 60, and then one thing about having a career is you go to the workplace and you try to adapt. So everybody tries to adapt to how everybody else speaks. So they will all speak more or less like average, and the average between 20 and 60 is 40. So it means basically everybody will speak like 40. For women we didn't observe this effect. Now the question is why didn't we observe it? Is it because women didn't have a career at the time? This was like 30, 40 years ago in the United States of America. Or, maybe, they did have a career, or if we would redo the study now, they do have a career, and they don't care. They don't, they don't have the same kind of social instinct. So I think it's interesting to compare it also to this first stage of their life, when they were just boys and girls. Well, they I mean, they are five years old. They are already maybe socialized at school. They are already told that they are boys, boys and girls. But I don't think they are told that they have to pay attention to their peers, the girls. Or the boys shouldn't pay attention to their peers. So there might be something biological in this as well. So again I think you're absolutely right. There might be a culture specific component. We don't really know. We would have to redo the study now to really find it out, but there might be and there will also be something biological still about this. >> Yeah, so if we do the study again, we could maybe find different results. >> That's right, so if we would re-do it now, in Philadelphia again, in the same town, maybe we find different results. Maybe if we do it somewhere else, if we do it in some other part of the world, if we do it in Cairo or some other town. Well actually that has been done, and it looks like you find more or less the same effects. It's of course always difficult to tell, because you're not going to find any other part of the world where it just happens, that now people are starting to pronounce ou like eo. So there's always going to be some other change when it's, so there's always going to be some other independent differences. But if you disregard them, yes, indeed, it looks like- >> There is a pattern. >> Yes, there is a pattern. Yes. >> And would this be the same for social class? Would you also, would you think that for social class, Labov would find different or similar results in other places? >> Yeah, that's actually, it's interesting, I think it's interesting that he found these results in the United States of America to begin with. Because typically, people around the world tend to think of America as a place where class doesn't play such an important role. Indeed, you can become rich and famous and, you know, so you can change your class just overnight. But even there, even in this society it turns out, well first that this may be a myth because we do find something like social class, right? So even in such a society, we find it. So the fact that we do find it there might be an indication that it's, I don't know whether it means that it's universal, but it might be quite widespread. So, I think, one thing to take away from this discussion is that all of these different factors, age, and gender, and social class, are actually more complicated than they look at first sight. And they're more complicated because there's always some interaction between things which are fixed. For instance, they are fixed because of their biology. And things which you might change. And all, no, age you cannot change but all the other things you can change to some extent. That's, I think, an important finding. Labov has sometimes been criticized by making these things too fixed. But still, remember, we do find all these patterns, so he has done something right, in that respect, as well. In the next video, we're going to look at another aspect of the way in which language behaves in society and which we use language in society and that is the fascinating topic of politeness.