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FP1 - Social Network & Vernacular Culture Index


Social network as Milroy states: relates to the community and interpersonal level of social organization (Milroy, L. Milroy, J. 2: 1992). Therefore, it concerns all the individuals within the society who create various networks among each other. It is significant to consider the main characteristics of social network which include the structural and the interactional (Milroy, L. Milroy, J. 5: 1992) characteristics. They contribute to the analysis of the network taking into account its shape and pattern as well as the levels of density and the content of the ties (Milroy, L. Milroy, J. 5:1992). In this essay, my social network will be analysed using a diagram as well as taking into consideration the relevant linguistic vocabulary and the significant literature. Furthermore, the vernacular culture index will be examined using the street dance society as an example.

Being a student of TESOL - Teaching English to Speakers of Foreign Languages at Roehampton University of London I belong to a group of students who study the same course at the same university. Most of us got to know each other very well however, there are still many single individuals who are not familiar with one another. Hence, it can be stated that altogether we build a social network which is open. It suffices to say that as a group we tend to interact or cooperate with each other on a regular basis, although usually it happens in groups consisting of students who know each other well and who are friends or who attend the same lectures. Therefore, the level of

density of our network can be perceived as both dense and loose depending on how it is looked at. If we consider the density of the groups of students who know each other well and interact together often then they create a dense network. However, as a whole it is a loose type of a social network as the rest of the students may not interact with those groups. The ties that we developed as a group of close friends are reciprocal, however as the level of integrity and familiarity among all of the students is not equal it can be stated that our network as a whole has a structure of a loose-knit type of a network with weak ties. Nevertheless, again if divided into groups it can be seen as a network combining of several groups of students who are close friends and who may develop strong ties between each other. Therefore, the analysis of this particular network may be controversial.

The social network which I belong to consists of a number of students who study TESOL at Roehampton University in South West London. The majority of people who study this course are foreign who have been in the UK for many years and either have gone to school here or came here to study after graduating from high school. Therefore, we create a mixture of multinational and bilingual students of various age, ethnicity and different educational background. Some of us know each other very well although there are many other individuals who are still not familiar with one another.

The Analysis of my social network

The attached diagram A1 demonstrates my social network which includes the group of my best friends at university who study TESOL as well as the rest of the students who do not know me or my friends. The rest of the students may include Erasmus students who came here for an exchange. As a whole we share the same program of study, the same university and the same direction. Students who I am familiar with and who I interact with on a regular basis include other TESOL students such as Kamilia, Ecem, Martin, Indu, Rita, Annabelle. We are all third year students and the main thing that we share is the same course of study which is indicated in the diagram using a blue colour. As we interact with each other frequently as a group of friends we create a multiplex network where the ties are reciprocal excluding the rest of the students who may not know us. Although as a whole, the network is classified as uniplex as the rest of TESOL students do not necessarily know us. A few of us TESOL girls including Kamilia, Indu and Ecem go to the gym and spend leisure time together.ithis is indicated with a green colour. Furthermore, a few of us attended French classes together. This is illustrated with a red colour. At last, it suffices to say that the majority of us come from foreign countries, hence we are bilingual except for Martin and not taking into account the rest of the TESOL students who we do not know well and who create a mixture of multinational learners. As a result of being bilingual some of us developed the habit of Code Switching. This is indicated in the diagram using a pink colour. Friends who do code switch from English to their native languages include Kamilia, Ecem and me. Both me, Ecem and Kamilia speak French and Spanish and while communicating with one another we tend to switch to those languages at times to shorten the utterances.

My social network and language variation

As demonstrated in literature, the concept of social network has a significant impact on language variation in diverse communities. It can be a useful analytical tool for explaining the systematicity of linguistic variation in various settings such as, in rural and urban monolingual (eg. Milroy 1987, Bortoni-Ricardo 1985) and bilingual communities (eg. Gal 1979 (...) Li Wei 1994). (Matsumoto, K. 105: 2001). My social network is also an example of this phenomenon as the majority of the people who I interact with are bilingual, thus our language and the accents differ from one individual to another. As Matsumoto emphasized the factors such as ethnicity, age and educational background have an influence on our language and the way we communicate. ( Matsumoto, K. 2001) Most of the people in my network are from foreign countries, some of them are white and others are of a black ethnicity. If considered as a whole, my network including various nationalities can be seen as the one with weak ties as there are many students who do not know each other. Some of them are of a black ethnicity and as Labov & Harris found in their Philadelphia study on social network and linguistic change: It is likely that the links between black and white communities are on the whole relatively weak, in the sense that cross-ethnic networks tend not to be dense, multiplex, or territorially based (Cross 1990).

The Vernacular culture index - Southampton Street dance society

The vernacular index culture in sociolinguistics is a group of indicators responsible for the prestige of vernacular culture in various societies which may include non-profit societies, subcultures or other groups created for the purpose of leisure. As Coates states: (...) it was possible to isolate a small number of indicators that could be used to construct a vernacular culture index in the same way that socioeconomic indices are constructed. (Cheshire, Coates 30-31:1998). Different indicators can be used to measure the social culture index for which a score is given to the examined individuals. The Southampton street dance society is an example of it and illustrates the vernacular culture index among its members. The group consists of more than 130 members and is based at Southampton University in the UK. They offer a diversity of dance classes which are open to students and the public who share the interest and passion for dance in particular, a street dance. Moreover, the social events as well as the annual shows are organized by the society.

The following are the indicators (Cheshire, Coates, 1998:30) which are responsible for the creation of the vernacular social index among the members of the street dance society: interest in dance and especially street dance physically fit contribution to Facebook group contribution to events organisation /performing

language among female/ male dancers contribution to music preparation dress code / style swearing

As the vernacular social index (Cheshire, Coates 1998:30) has to do with prestige, it suffices to say that the members who contribute most to the existence of the street dance society, take part in preparation of the events, contribute to Facebook group, keep up the updates and organize the music are more prestigious than those who just join for pleasure and simple participation. Furthermore, the language which is being used by the participants differs between the genders. Female street dancers may use more of standard features such as: standard English than the male dancers would use, no violence whereas male dancers would use non-standard features which would include swearing and even violence. This refers to Cheshire who classified swearing (Chishire, Coates, 1998:31) as one of the main indicators of the vernacular social index. Lastly, style plays an important role in measuring the vernacular social index (Chesire, Coates, 1998:31). (...) many writers stress the importance of style as a symbolic value within adolescent subcultures (Cheshire, Coates 1998:31). Thus, the indicators mentioned above refer to what Cheshire pointed out and help t understand the importance of vernacular social index among subcultures such as the Southampton street dance society.

In conclusion, the social network as well as the vernacular social index were demonstrated, explained and described using the examples of my personal network which has been analysed and the Southampton Street Dance Society.


Cheshire. (1998). Linguistic variation and Social Function in Coates,J.(ed) Language and Matsumoto, K. (2001) A social network study of language shift and maintenance in a multilingual Micronesian society Milroy.L. (1992). Social network and social class: Toward an intergrated sociolinguistic model.