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The social, cultural and economic influences on the learning and use of language

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Introduction

(1,512 words) The social, cultural and economic influences on the learning and use of language Introduction It is estimated that approximately one in five adults have low literacy skills. Low levels of literacy have been linked to poor acquisition of language skills at an early age and this in turn has been directly linked to social exclusion. This study will start by looking at the context in which we use language and how this shapes what we say and how we say it. It will also look at dialect and accent and examine their relationship with society. This raises questions about 'Standard English' and how attitudes to this have developed over time. The study will conclude by examining the direct link between poor literacy/language skills and social exclusion and how this impacts on society both in terms of the individual and the economy as a whole. The importance of context in language use The situation in which we find ourselves, who we are with, where we are, what we have to say and how we have to say it are all massive influences on our spoken and written language. ...read more.

Middle

In spoken form it is used in formal situations such as business negotiations, public announcements and news broadcasts. In written form it is used in such formal documents as essays, business letters, notices, reports and memos. In Britain, the prestige accent associated with Standard English is Received Pronunciation and all forms of slang, dialect and grammatical deviation have historically been regarded as non-standard. The notion of Received Pronunciation sometimes still persists as though there is some kind of standard we should aspire to and that any variations from this standard are in some way inferior. Whilst most educated writers use Standard English in all texts, more liberal attitudes have evolved with regard to spoken language. In a multi-cultural society, non-standard accents and word forms are increasingly acceptable and the concepts of Standard English and Received Pronunciation as standards of correctness have become less important. Standard English itself is now considered to be a dialect of English equal with regional accents. For example, it is fairly common for a speaker to use Standard English and deliver it with a regional accent. Crystal (1995) notes that although we have no problem enjoying dialect literature and laughing at dialect jokes, at the same time we still make harshly critical judgements about ways of speaking that are not the same as our own. ...read more.

Conclusion

Conclusion There are many influences on an individual's language. The social situation and the 'appropriateness' of language determine not only what we have to say but, just as importantly, how we say it. Accent and dialect reveal something about an individual and can be linked to regional, social or personal circumstances. Although historically 'Standard English' and 'Received Pronunciation' have been regarded as socially superior, this is now becoming less so. 'Standard English' is still important, however, as it is the written form most appropriately accepted in formal documents. Research has been done to support the notion that the primary carer/child relationship has a crucial influence on the language attainment of a child and that this attainment will have a huge impact on the learning of the individual more widely. People at risk of social exclusion and its associated problems of low income, ill health and unemployment are far more likely to have low language/literacy skills. Moreover, lack of basic skills is a major barrier to employment, training or progression at work and if we are to compete on a global level, we need to have a highly skilled, adaptable workforce. The cost of failing to deal with the problem is significant - not just to the individual, but also to employers and the economy as a whole. ...read more.

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