Social Class Analysis

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Evaluate the idea that language is determined by Social Class

The term ‘social class’ describes historical divisions in society based on a person’s economic and social status. Nowadays, these divisions have become blurred, due to the introduction of the technical middle class and other sub-divisions within the class system. Despite some elements of speech still being affected by a person’s social class, it can also be affected by contextual factors, such as location, or who else is participating in a conversation.

Firstly, the characters Jess, Toff and Mark use many more standard forms than the characters J and C, from The Only Way is Essex. For example, when Toff says the adjective “divine”. This formal Standard English could be considered
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Deixis cannot be understood by those not involved, or aware of the context, and the lack of it used in the transcript from Made in Chelsea means that the conversation is less context bound. Bernstein’s theory suggested that upper classes have a more elaborate code, which can be seen in the innuendo used, such as “let alone inside me”, and the hypothetical “it would just be so weird”. This is could be due to the different class pressures placed on the two groups of people, as the characters in Made in Chelsea are still being rude, however it is somewhat more intelligent, and therefore socially acceptable type of rudeness than simply swearing. This could be linked to the stereotypical middle and upper class values of attempting to establish a good social standing within the community, and so making blatant rudeness something of a taboo. The children in Bernstein’s experiment could have been more used to being tested, and therefore more aware of what was being asked of them, due to middle class pressures being placed on them, which could be similar to the characters in Made in Chelsea, with class values and pressures being placed on them. J and C, who may not have had the same pressures placed on them as children, and so, may be comfortable using…show more content…
As both groups are doing activities together, and appear to be fairly close, it is logical that they will speak similarly to each other, regardless of class. For instance, both J and C use the colloquialism “reem” on different occasions. As this is an adjective largely associated with Essex, it could be used due to where the speakers grew up, and their home environment, however it could also be an example of CAT. As they are clearly close, they will converge to speak like each other. This can also be seen when both Jess and Toff frequently use the word “like” as a filler. Convergence shows that class is not the determining factor of the language used in a conversation, as it is also affected by who else is speaking. However, now that class lines have become blurred, class is somewhat determined by social circles, and so it is likely that the friends are in the same social class, as they have the same social circles. This means that both the people you spend time with, and your social class both affect the language used, rather than only the social class a person belongs in.

In conclusion, social class will affect a person’s language to a large extent, through both the vocabulary and formality of the language chosen. However, other factors also affect this, such as the context of both the location and the participants, and where the speaker grew up, and their home environment.
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