ADVANTAGES

The work of sociolinguists complements work that divides dialect regions on the basis of lexical items (words). Sociolinguists often consider urban as well as rural varieties of speech and generally offer analyses of the quantitative differences between the speech patterns of various groups. For example, most Texas use ain't when speaking in certain contexts, but members of various social groups, whether defined by region, class, age, ethnicity, sex, or some combination of these, use it more frequently than others. Similar kinds of quantitative differences can be documented for the pronunciations of many sounds, such as the i in might, the aw in hawk, or the r in forty. Sociolinguistic research generally attempts to illuminate the changes in Texas speech brought about by social changes that have taken place in the state since . These social changes include the great influx of non-Texans, the growing availability of education for the majority of Texans, and increasing urbanization. Some of the sociolinguistic correlates of these changes include the development of new urban varieties of speech. Although these are characterized by the loss of some features associated traditionally associated with Texas speech, especially the speech of rural Texans, they remain distinct from urban varieties of English in other parts of the country. Such changes are occurring in the speech of Anglos, Hispanics, and African Americans, with the speech of these ethnic groups converging in some respects but diverging in others. Thus, although Texas dialects of English continue to change, there is little chance that varieties identifiable as Texan will likely disappear. Texans are, with rare exception, proud of their identity as Texans, a fact that is reflected in their speech. Despite the fact that certain features of Texas dialects of English are sometimes stigmatized by speakers from other areas as hicky or "incorrect," Texans will continue to use them, partly because people who live in Texas wish to distinguish themselves from other Americans. Language is a particularly appropriate medium for marking this sort of difference. Such uses of language, clearly symbolic in nature, illustrate a basic fact about language and about dialects: Speakers use language to communicate information not only about the world but also about themselves and the groups to which they belong or do not belong. To use a particular dialect is to lay claim to an identity. Hence, even as Americans from other parts of the country and immigrants from around the world continue to move to Texas in large numbers, they become part of the development of dialects in Texas. Newcomers to the state inevitably pick up such traditional Southernisms as y'all. Those who are not already from the South sometimes begin saying fixin' to and might could as the natives do. In this way, language enables Texans, native or naturalized, to identify themselves as such.

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