By Graeme Trousdale
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What might be some of the disadvantages of using English as an official language? One issue concerns the perceived status of English in the community, or, more accurately, the perceived status of users of English. If it is the case that English is perceived as the language of an elite, it may be the case that there is some resentment towards using that variety as, for example, the medium of education, because it will automatically privilege an already privileged group, and serve to marginalise those who do not come to education with the added advantage of having a good command of the medium of instruction.
We use more than just language when we identify a series of individuals as belonging to a particular group: we might make reference to clothing, conduct, and so on, so we need to be clear whether or not we want language alone to be the sole criterion for establishing a speech community. To return to our farming community, do we include people who own farms, and not those who work on the farm but do not own it? If we include both, then we are already invoking things other than simply farming as criteria for membership (that is, ownership vs.
Now repeat the exercise in (1a), (1b) and (1d), but this time note down whether you use a particular variety of English in the different contexts, and whether you mix between different varieties in the same context. Why do you think you use different varieties in different contexts? Further reading For a discussion of the concept ‘native speaker’, see particularly Davies (2003). Useful discussions about language and dialect are found in most introductory textbooks on sociolinguistics (see references in the further reading section of the introduction).
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