Social Hierarchy Expressed Through Language

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Speakeasy
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Re: Social Hierarchy Expressed Through Language

Postby Speakeasy » Sun Sep 08, 2019 2:17 am

badger wrote: … when I was a youngish child one of the first grammar rules that was drummed into me was that saying "Dave and me went to the park" was wrong & that "Dave & I went to the park" was correct…
Many descriptivists would argue that the formulations are equally correct because both “occur naturally” in the language. Should a nature speaker learn to say "Dave and me” in their natural surroundings, then this “cannot be wrong”; native speakers cannot make mistakes in their native languages. Similarly, should another native speaker use this formulation, but require correction to say "Dave & I”, then this unnatural speech, the proof being that outside intervention was needed to generate it. Thus, "Dave & I” would only be “correct” in cases where the native speaker have learned this formulation naturally; that is, without the need for correction. Uh, er, that is my understanding of their customary position on such matters.

Coming back to the central theme of this thread, assigning a nature speaker an inferior status in the social hierarchy based on such minor distinctions of language would be tantamount to elitism. Using language, coded or otherwise, or other social signalling to convey this inferior status to the speaker and to the surrounding community would be paternalism and unjustified discrimination. However, as well all know, the real world frequently operates well outside the bounds of justice and fairness; we’re all human, after all.
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Re: Social Hierarchy Expressed Through Language

Postby Random Review » Sun Sep 08, 2019 6:59 am

Speakeasy wrote:
badger wrote: … when I was a youngish child one of the first grammar rules that was drummed into me was that saying "Dave and me went to the park" was wrong & that "Dave & I went to the park" was correct…
Many descriptivists would argue that the formulations are equally correct because both “occur naturally” in the language. Should a nature speaker learn to say "Dave and me” in their natural surroundings, then this “cannot be wrong”; native speakers cannot make mistakes in their native languages. Similarly, should another native speaker use this formulation, but require correction to say "Dave & I”, then this unnatural speech, the proof being that outside intervention was needed to generate it. Thus, "Dave & I” would only be “correct” in cases where the native speaker have learned this formulation naturally; that is, without the need for correction. Uh, er, that is my understanding of their customary position on such matters.

Coming back to the central theme of this thread, assigning a nature speaker an inferior status in the social hierarchy based on such minor distinctions of language would be tantamount to elitism. Using language, coded or otherwise, or other social signalling to convey this inferior status to the speaker and to the surrounding community would be paternalism and unjustified discrimination. However, as well all know, the real world frequently operates well outside the bounds of justice and fairness; we’re all human, after all.


I used to have this impression from reading popular linguistics books and I think many linguists are happy to give that impression in books/articles/podcasts for the public (presumably as a counter to prescriptivism); however having read a lot of actual linguistic and SLA research lately (in a bid to try and understand my students better), it turns out native speakers definitely can and do make mistakes (see performance vs competence). I guess this squares with common sense. For me lately, every day's a school day :lol: ; but hopefully the short-term damage to my self-esteem will be worth it in the end.

However, in this case, it seems to me that's not the issue and it's actually an issue of register. As a person that makes mistakes in both directions, I find it less helpful to think of extremely formal and extremely colloquial structures as being "unnatural" to me (though I guess it is legitimate to look at it that way) and more helpful to think of my competence in these registers being lower than it is the middle. It gives me somewhere to go with the observation (it's clear what I need to do), rather than just expressing a feeling.
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Re: Social Hierarchy Expressed Through Language

Postby AnthonyLauder » Sun Sep 08, 2019 8:37 am

About twenty years ago, I had an opportunity to play social hierarchy judo on a pompous professor.

I was an academic back them. Actually, a post doctoral research fellow. At a gathering of academic staff, I approached one of the professors, and the conversation went like this:

Me: "Hello Peter, could I ask you a question about your research?"
Peter: "It is Professor Linington to you, Anthony"
<this infuriated me, so I was compelled to play him at his own game>
Me: "It is Lord Anthony to you, Professor Linington"

To my delight, he blushed, looked down, and shuffled away.

I rarely use my academic title (Dr) and I think this is the only time I have ever used my Lordship, but it certainly felt damn good to pop the pomposity balloon of Professor Linington.
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Re: Social Hierarchy Expressed Through Language

Postby Speakeasy » Sun Sep 08, 2019 9:10 am

AnthonyLauder wrote:About twenty years ago, I had an opportunity to play social hierarchy judo on a pompous professor...
Might I suggest another metaphor, something more akin to nuclear strike? :o
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Re: Social Hierarchy Expressed Through Language

Postby cjareck » Sun Sep 08, 2019 9:44 am

AnthonyLauder wrote:I rarely use my academic title (Dr) and I think this is the only time I have ever used my Lordship, but it certainly felt damn good to pop the pomposity balloon of Professor Linington.

This was an excellent action!

I personally also do not use my Dr hab. other when it is necessary (like peer-reviewing a book or article), but some people just rate others by what title they achieved.
Unfortunately, I saw enough examples that even "full professor" (in Poland prof. dr hab.) does not guarantee either wisdom or intelligence.
Last edited by cjareck on Sun Sep 08, 2019 5:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Social Hierarchy Expressed Through Language

Postby Random Review » Sun Sep 08, 2019 10:13 am

AnthonyLauder wrote:About twenty years ago, I had an opportunity to play social hierarchy judo on a pompous professor.

I was an academic back them. Actually, a post doctoral research fellow. At a gathering of academic staff, I approached one of the professors, and the conversation went like this:

Me: "Hello Peter, could I ask you a question about your research?"
Peter: "It is Professor Linington to you, Anthony"
<this infuriated me, so I was compelled to play him at his own game>
Me: "It is Lord Anthony to you, Professor Linington"

To my delight, he blushed, looked down, and shuffled away.

I rarely use my academic title (Dr) and I think this is the only time I have ever used my Lordship, but it certainly felt damn good to pop the pomposity balloon of Professor Linington.


:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

You live by the sword, you die by the sword. :lol:
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Re: Social Hierarchy Expressed Through Language

Postby Random Review » Sun Sep 08, 2019 10:26 am

FWIW I always ask my students to call me by my first name. In China, some did so and some insisted on calling me "teacher". I quite like being called "teacher", though, so I didn't mind. Here in Indonesia, they insist on calling me "Mr" or "Mr Martin", which Indonesians feel is more respectful. I absolutely hate both of these. Both make me feel like they don't really like me very much, even though I know that isn't the intention. Except from very young children, "Mr" feels actually disrespectful (the exact opposite of its intended effect) and indeed would be in British English (I can't speak for Americans); and "Mr [first name]" just feels utterly bizarre.

Getting them to stop is impossible, because most of them refuse to call me by my first name and I haven't taught them the correct expressions they are actually looking for ("sir" and "Mr [surname]), as these would make me feel even worse. Also my attempts to suggest the use of "teacher" as a compromise have fallen flat. :lol: I guess I just have to live with it.
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Re: Social Hierarchy Expressed Through Language

Postby Speakeasy » Sun Sep 08, 2019 11:27 am

Random Review wrote:FWIW I always ask my students to call me by my first name… Here in Indonesia, they insist on calling me "Mr" or "Mr Martin", which Indonesians feel is more respectful. I absolutely hate both of these. … Except from very young children, "Mr" feels actually disrespectful (the exact opposite of its intended effect) … Getting them to stop is impossible, because most of them refuse to call me by my first name …
You raise an interesting point. However, is it possible that, owing to your having internalised the increasingly wide-spread notions of egalitarianism in Western societies that you have become uncomfortable with your own status in society? A status which, let’s be honest here, you deliberately sought out?

As to what is respectful and what is disrespectful, these concepts exhibit enormous differences both across and within cultural groups. Would you not agree that your rejection of your students’ sign of respect (in addressing you as Mister) is based solely on your own notions of what is correct and that your reaction is a form of paternalism towards the students and to the culture from which such signs of respect are derived? ;)

Nevertheless, you might appreciate the following anecdote. Many (many) years ago, my last assignment in the RCN was that of Instructor at the Fleet School. I remember, on the first morning of a new class, inviting my young charges, who were rapidly approaching the end of their training and who would soon be assigned as junior officers aboard one the RCN’s destroyers, to call me by my first name. I explained to them that, within a few months, we could easily find ourselves serving together and that, despite our differences in rank, we would likely be on a first-name-basis amongst ourselves (the ship’s Commander and Executive Officer were not included in such familiarity and we, as officers, would never address a subaltern by his first name both as a matter of military etiquette and as a matter of respect: doing so would be perceived as an unpardonable affront). To my surprise, during the coffee break, two of my students approached me and suggested that my invitation to the group was inappropriate. In their view, as I had successfully passed the examinations necessary to commanding a sea-going vessel, as I had served at sea, as I possessed greater knowledge and experience than did my students, and as I had been entrusted by my superiors with the responsibility of instructing them, I had “earned” their respect and that my invitation to an unwarranted familiarity with them was a debasement of my rank. Oops, I hadn’t seen that one coming! Here I was, being “called to task” for showing “disrespect” towards a codified system of hierocracy which my students (who were civilians only 12 months prior to these classes) had internalized. I gulped and replied (sheepishly): “Ahem, yes, I see your point.” :oops:

EDITED:
Typos.
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Re: Social Hierarchy Expressed Through Language

Postby Adrianslont » Sun Sep 08, 2019 12:06 pm

Random Review wrote:FWIW I always ask my students to call me by my first name. In China, some did so and some insisted on calling me "teacher". I quite like being called "teacher", though, so I didn't mind. Here in Indonesia, they insist on calling me "Mr" or "Mr Martin", which Indonesians feel is more respectful. I absolutely hate both of these. Both make me feel like they don't really like me very much, even though I know that isn't the intention. Except from very young children, "Mr" feels actually disrespectful (the exact opposite of its intended effect) and indeed would be in British English (I can't speak for Americans); and "Mr [first name]" just feels utterly bizarre.

Getting them to stop is impossible, because most of them refuse to call me by my first name and I haven't taught them the correct expressions they are actually looking for ("sir" and "Mr [surname]), as these would make me feel even worse. Also my attempts to suggest the use of "teacher" as a compromise have fallen flat. :lol: I guess I just have to live with it.

Do they call you Mr Martin or Pak Martin?

I actually like Pak Adrian but find Mr Adrian weird. If they are indeed calling you Mr it might be easier to get them to call you Pak Martin? I am of course assuming that you would like that.
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Re: Social Hierarchy Expressed Through Language

Postby ryanheise » Sun Sep 08, 2019 1:04 pm

In Australia, social hierarchy between adults is mostly a foreign concept. For a humorous example, see Australian Cricketer Dennis Lillee meets the Queen, and says...

I also found AnthonyLauder's story hillarious :D
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