Stratification in Terms of Language between the Urban Educated middle Class and Lower Class
Stratification always works in terms of wealth, prestige, and power in society. This term has a very significant role to play in class division in our society. After the industrial revolution, this class system started to take place in a significant way. People started to move to urban areas from their agricultural societies and started to interact with new groups. Linguistic diversity has started to take place, as well as other cultural diversity. In addition to this, due to the formation of different classes, they used various forms of language when they interacted. This process is going on, and new forms of language are emerging day by day. For example, in Dhaka, urban middle class people use “Banglish.” This is the latest form of the Bengali language, where people use “Bangla” and “English” words at the same time. This also indicates that those who are using ‘Banglish’ instead of the standard “Bangla” are superior to others and also educated as they know English words. On the other hand, those who are using the standard “Bangla” practice prejudice when they interact with other members of society. Sazid, a student at BRAC University, thinks that everyone should use local dialect when he or she is communicating with lower class people because it has become easier to communicate with them. He also thinks that they should be treated like this as they might not understand some of his words in the standard form of Bengali. On the other hand, another student of BRAC University who is from English medium said that he does not use the local dialect, but rather uses the Banglish form of Bengali to communicate with lower class people. Although the practice of communication with lower class people is quite the same as with both of them. One is giving priority to using the form which the other one is comfortable with as a matter of cultural relativism. On the contrary, other people may not practice another dialect due to being more ethnocentric. Undoubtedly, this linguistic behavior of members of society indicates to which social position they belong and what prejudice they practice. Besides, it creates discrimination among the members of society. Members of the society also get an idea that the standard form will be used by the educated class, and other variations will be used by the low-status, low-prestigious, and less educated or uneducated members.
Additionally, linguistic stratification is more acknowledged or seen in educational fields or institutions such as schools, colleges, and universities. Students from different family backgrounds come together to learn at schools and colleges, so interaction between them is what makes the difference. For instance, if a student from a different region of Bangladesh comes to study at a school in Dhaka, then that student, whilst communicating, will most definitely use the dialect of their own region where they came from. Now, a student born and raised in Dhaka will not have a dialect, while they will automatically use the standardized form of that particular language. However, it is a common scenario where the students who have a different pronunciation of some words due to their regional dialects are always being neglected. There are incidents where those students are told not to use their own variety of language and refer to it as being not enough and even said to be bad (Tripura, 2018). No one should feel “small” or “not good enough” for their language, nor should they be mistreated for their social class in society. For example, Sazid, who is a current student at BRAC University, came to Dhaka from Jessore for educational purposes. BRAC University is a place where people from different backgrounds come to gather knowledge. But since Sazid was not from Dhaka but rather from a regional place in this country, he had a different dialect and accent. Some of his other friends mocked and segregated him for his regional dialect. Sometimes he was bullied just for using this practice. Nevertheless, Sazid belongs to a wealthy family, and he should get enough prestige for that, but that does not happen due to his difference in language. Other groups at his university considered his use of the Bengali language as low culture. In particular, others were using standard forms of Bengali to maintain group conformity. After some days, Sazid perceived the idea of group conformity and started to use the standard form of Bengali.
As we know, students first learn everything from institutions like schools and colleges so if they are taught from the beginning that their variety of language is ‘not good’ then that is where the social hierarchy starts to show up. According to a survey that was done by asking a few students about the issue of linguistic stratification, it was found that students who spoke in a different dialect in schools were always being neglected to a point where they could not show their talents freely. Owing to the degradation of one’s variety of language is not something schools should teach as it is being unfair to them and that will make them think of their roots or backgrounds as something bad. Besides, the schools are teaching those students the standardized version already which is okay because we do have to use a form of language that is ‘mutually intelligible” (Fullet & Wardhaugh, 2015). However, brainwashing them into thinking their variety is not acceptable at all is something that should be considered as problematic.
Similarly, in several job sectors and workplaces, there are also incidents where people face discrimination regarding linguistic stratification. People who have a slightly different dialect or a little different pronunciation compared to those who have the standardized dialect are always looked down upon (Kottak, 2011). To illustrate, in a workplace, someone has a regional dialect present in the way they talk, which results in other colleagues thinking that that person belongs to a lower social class than them or is not educated enough. For instance, Mr. Shamim is working as an engineer for a renowned company. The way he talks with others is not appropriate in terms of his workplace. Other colleagues of Mr. Shamim do not give him proper value while he gives them instructions on work. This is only for his regional dialect. In general, this happens in most workplaces where a variety of individuals come together and work. This basically shows how ethnocentric people can be, as in the workplace, people are judging and categorizing based on their language variety. Furthermore, “that” person does not even get an opportunity, or very little opportunity, to show and prove their credibility. Simply put, their work is not sufficiently encouraged, nor are they treated equally in comparison to other employees in the same workplace.
Dominant groups influence the social values, norms, and attitudes of other groups that are in a vulnerable position compared to them. The local dialect will not be sustained within society if the dominant group wants it. Terms like “racial profiling” and “prejudice” exist in society due to groups of different backgrounds, races, and ethnicity. Discrimination based on language has huge consequences in our society. Collectively, to maintain social prestige and social position, members of society need to maintain these linguistic behaviors. According to the functionalist perspective, this linguistic behaviour is essential to maintaining the stability of our society. In contrast, change in language is inevitable (Alam. A, 2021). The language will change on its own. Otherwise, it will die someday. Because of the necessity of the language, it is changing on its own. In some senses, stratification helps to give birth to a new version of a particular language, which is a part of the mobility of that language.
To come to an end, linguistic variations can influence social stratification in terms of social class, education, occupation, etc. Upon using any regional dialect other than the standard form of a language, they are always looked down on because they do not get the opportunity or the respect due to that. Rather than being judgmental and categorizing people into lower classes due to their use of a variety of languages, people should try to be more broadminded and should encourage them for their credibility.
Tripura, Prashanta; (2018), “The denial of linguistic diversity in Bangladesh”; Dhaka Tribune. February27,2018,
Fullet, Janet M., Warhaugh, Ronald; (2015), “An Introduction to Sociolinguistics”; Wiley Blackwell.
Kottak, Conrad P., (2011), “Cultural Anthropology: Appreciating Cultural Diversity”; McGraw-Hill.
OP-ED: ‘Jilapi’ vs ‘Jalebi’. Dhaka Tribune. (2021, April 26).