Speech Communities by Paul Roberts

Reading about speech communities had me thinking about where I came from. There were various factors that shaped me into the speech community that I am currently in. Paul Roberts discusses many different things that form speech communities including geography, age, and social class.

Geography impacts many people not only from overseas but right here in the USA. Being a southern boy raise by a Mom from New York and Dad from Virginia I can easily see the different dialects that people have. Most people know that people up north like in New York or New Jersey, sound different than people from North Carolina. For example my mom and dad both say “water” differently and argue every time they say it. Also being from the south I often catch myself saying y’all a lot. While up north this could sound trashy and uncouth in the south it is welcomed.

When Roberts talks about age many interesting points are made. While most of us think that our speech communities come from the roots of our family we are often found wrong. Communities change even at a young age when we go to daycare or even to preschool. After awhile of being I’m school we find ourselves speaking differently than we would she’s. We speak to our parents. I found myself speaking more proper with my parents and use a lot more slang while I’m with friends.

Overall I was very intrigued about what Roberts had to say ad often found myself analyzing how I talk. Personally I find myself being proper around adults and very improper around teenagers and kids. I definitely have a southern “country” voice that northerners can pick up on but nothing out of the ordinary. Everyone’s background is different and that is what makes us unique, I think people should embrace their dialect and not be embarrassed by it.


22 thoughts on “Speech Communities by Paul Roberts

  1. “Geography impacts many people not only from overseas but right here in the USA.” I completely understand your point with this. I am from eastern North Carolina, even though my accent is not as severe as my friends my sayings, accent, etc. are all different from people from other cities, states, or nations. Our cultures are our learned patterns and we all have our different values, sayings, morals. This is impacts our speech and how people receive our voices.

  2. I did the same thing you did while reading the article; I found myself analyzing how I speak and how it is different from my peers, family, etc. You made a very good point that most people think our speech communities are something we inherit from our families. A lot of the time though that isn’t the case. I think the base of our speech communities form from our families but you’re right, our friends have a lot to do with it as well. I find myself speaking completely differently with my close friends than I do with my family and acquaintances. And I agree, people should embrace their dialect and speech communities.

  3. I agree, people from New York and New Jersey sound completely different than people from North Carolina and Southern states. I also say y’all a lot because I have lived in North Carolina for my whole life. I also have a parent born in the North and one born in the South. I do also speak better around my parents than I do my friends. I usually curse a lot more when my parents aren’t around too. We seem to have some things in common when it comes to our speech.

  4. I like how you said your parents have different accents because you have a parent from way up north and one from Virginia because I can relate. For me, both my parents are from up north. However, when we moved to North Carolina three years ago I picked up the southern accent more than anyone in my family. I find myself saying “ya’ll” and other words that my family does not say because I’m around more people from the south than my parents or sisters. I also find myself speaking different with my parents by trying to cover up the little southern words I have picked up so they don’t look at me weird or strange. I’ve moved six times so I can agree with Roberts when he writes about age and speech communities because my speech community has changed every single time I’ve moved. I’ve had to change the way I speak so I do not sound “weird” to people around me and sometimes it is difficult to adapt to, but in the end everything turns out well and I do not think about what I’m saying, I become adapted to that speech community.

  5. I think that where you came from, your age and who you are definitely have an impact on your speech habits. If you are from Boston you say cah keys not car keys. If you are from Texas, you say y’all not you all. You’re age affects your speech habits because you grow up in a different generation where different words are used. I don’t know how many 40 year olds say swag, but I know a ton of teenagers who say it. You’re personality does affect your speech habits because you like different things and say different words. Somebody more charismatic probably has a different vocabulary than somebody who is more laid back and relaxed.

  6. You couldn’t have put it more perfectly. I totally agree with you that geography and age are major factors in speech communities. I think that our speech changes depending what group of people we surround ourselves with. I spent a lot of time out west in AZ, and I was made fun of by Cali boys for saying the word y’all. Something that I found every day talk they saw as foreign. At the same time I would make fun of them for saying words like “steez” and “catted” which I still don’t know the exact meanings of to this day. I know that I also clean up my speech when I am around people of older generations. I don’t like to create bad impressions, but I think some people mistake changing speech with changing personality. I think people can become consumed into a speech community and can sometimes affect their personality. The impact of speech communities on society is unbelievable and is intriguing to see how separated parts of the world are based on the way people speak to one another. Very well written!

  7. I agree with what you said about how geography affects your speech community. When you are younger you pick up the habits, which include the what you say and how you say it, for the rest of your life. Being around your friends, you are less likely to speak with properly which then you improvise with slang that you have learned from others in your speech community. I personally find it a challenge to not use slang when I am talking with my friends.

  8. You make a good point about geography’s impact in the U.S. My mom and her side of the family are also from New York and my dad is from North Carolina but the rest of his side of the family is also from New York. Neither my mom nor my dad has noticeable northern or southern accents but many of their older relatives have obvious northern accents. However, I have lived in North Carolina my whole life and have no southern accent and very rarely find myself saying something like “ya’ll”, so living in the south has not totally affected my speech. But I totally agree with you and Paul Roberts.

  9. Wow if I didn’t know what speech communities were, I sure do now! I really enjoyed Roberts excerpt mostly because I kept making direct links to what I’ve been learning in Sociology, especially the part about how Social Class shapes speech communities. The “Good and Bad” section was most interesting to me because Roberts tried to explain human reasoning behind what makes speech “bad” and “good”. I had never thought about why I subconsciously put labels on different types of speeches within different speech communities. One of my friends is an English major so when she talks to me, she uses a larger vocabulary, she has excellent diction, and she strips her voice of any hint of a southern accent. I’ve always thought she sounded very intelligent when she spoke so I responded, subconsciously, with a similar imitation of her speech. I think subconsciously I change, sometimes even imitate, others’ speech not just from community to community, but friend to friend.

  10. I completely agree with you when you mention the dialects from different parts of the world. My entire family is from New York, but I moved here to NC when I was in third grade. I am constantly hearing people say words differently than I do, and I have spent most of my life hear. My own personal dialect is a mix of southern and northern, but it seems to favor the north at times. I always talk with people about how to say words like walk, talk, and water as well. It just shows how the different speech communities can be so diverse, yet so similar at the same time. In my case, they can even co-exist.

  11. I completely agree with your point that people living in the North have a different dialect than people that were born and raised in the South. I was born and raised in North Carolina, so I don’t really notice anybody’s Southern accent because I’m so used to hearing it, and even speaking it. I know many people think it’s really funny or even weird to say “y’all” instead of “you all” or “you guys.” I have also been called out for speaking in a Southern accent. Also, I agree that your speech is not influenced by your parents, but by the people you are surrounded with. By hearing others talk, you develop your own way of speaking that is very similar to theirs.

  12. I think you did an excellent job explaining the key aspects to “speech communities,” and broke it down in a comprehensible way. You took geography, age, and social class and provided examples in your life that reflected the influences they had on you. The personal examples really convey the details of speech communities and the different one people are a part of. I like how you explained that you talked differently with your parents and when you spoke with your peers because there was a difference in the communication. Overall i think your piece was really well written.

  13. I agree with you in that our speech communities aren’t simply defined by who are parents are and where they are from. Our speech communities change depending on the people we surround ourselves with. In my situation, I was born in Germany and my speech community was a lot different when I first moved here. Because at first it was just me learning English by myself, with the help of my mom, and my English was a lot different than it is now. When I started going to school my English became a lot more southern because that’s where we are living, in the south. I began using words such as “y’all” and my English became very southern. Most people, If they didn’t know that I was born in Germany or if they hadn’t seen my last name, people tended to assume that I was born and raised in North Carolina because of the way I spoke. So speech communities change, not just for me, but for everyone depending on where you live, your age, and who you surround yourself with.

  14. I too started analyzing the way I speak. You made a very good point about location having a impact on the way you speak. People from different places all have their phrases and slang words and it can be hard to get used to at first. Not only do our families influence our speech, but the people who we are around everyday do.

  15. i really enjoyed your piece and how you broke down every aspect of the place and environment and how that affected your speech. Also including the ways of how speech is efffected by your area, I can definitely relate. Moving from a completely different area, the dialogue was completely different and hard for me to get used to. but eventually i got the hold of the dialaect. It’s funny rto think about how the geography can have such an impact on how you speak.

  16. “Personally I find myself being proper around adults and very improper around teenagers and kids.” I’m exactly the same way. For instance, I’ll say “you all” when I’m in a formal setting and “y’all” when I’m with my peers. And I’ll throw in some of my more expanded vocabulary when I’m with adults. With other people my age I’ll use some slang. And with my closest group of friends, there is a completely different dialect. It’s funny how our surroundings change the way we speak.

  17. I found your response quite enjoyable and also rather relatable. Including the detail and information that you presented on how speech is affected and used in your area allows all audiences to relate in some manner. I found any aspect of traveling and new things interesting; therefore, language, culture and speech are something of such interest has to be ready to adapt. Well done, sir.

  18. I couldn’t agree with you more. Being raised by a dad from Ohio and a mom from Virginia I notice the difference in accents. Every time I go up to Ohio to visit family I always get called out on my accent whether I am saying “y’all” or anything in a drawn out southern accent. While reading this I found myself analyzing the way I speak like you did. This was very enjoyable to read.

  19. You made a very strong point and supported through personal examples and experiences when you said that Geography impacts many people. I can easily relate to the differences you experience with your parents’ dialects and overall different methods of speech, having a mother from Ecuador and father from Texas. It made things confusing growing up at first, like you hinted at, but it ultimately aided in the creation of my own personal style of speech. All in all, you made many valid points, but as a reader, I most easily connected to the one about your parents. I enjoyed reading your summary of Roberts’ writing.

  20. I believe that Jackson was right about age and geography for sure. I think the small town in Virginia that I am from has a lot to do with the way that I speak. I was raised by one parent that was from a very urban area in Virginia and has less southern draw where as my mother lived in the same rural town I’m from. I agree that age can play a role in speech communities as we’ll. I feel as if I am in two different speech communities because I speak completely different around my peers than I would with my parents. People always pick on my accent but as you said I’m proud of where I came from and the dialect that I possess.

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