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Role of media in progression of linguistic change hasn't yet been fully understood

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By Firoz Bakht Ahmed*
The Linguistics Department of AMU (Aligarh Muslim University) is holding a three-day international seminar on mediatization and culturalization of language from January 5 to January 7, 2017. Eminent scholars from round the globe will present their papers.
They will discuss the possibilities for future betterment and a much more cohesive and people-friendly blueprint. There will also be a question, answer session.
According to Prof Ali R Fatihi, renowned linguist, “Despite a reasonable volume of relevant scholarship in sociolinguistics and neighbouring fields,the role of media in progressions of linguistic change is not yet fully studied and understood. The effect of Media on linguistic change remains unpacked.”
Truth is that Panini, the 4th century Indian Sanskrit grammarian and linguist who formulated rules of morphological analysis that were more advanced than any western linguist until the 20th century, are still considered as the driving forces in the political economy of language, media concepts, cultural values and specific language codes and ideologies.
It is true that there has been a longstanding tradition of applied linguistic and discourse analytical research on the structure, social meaning, epistemology, and functions of language, however, not much has been researched on the language of media.
Opines Prof MJ Warsi who has taught in Michigan as well as other universities in the USA, in linguistics, researchers from various subfields have approached the issue in quite different ways; however, dialogue across these subfields and their respective views has been limited and inadequate.
The variationist sociolinguistics position that the media play no role in systemic language change is unacceptable and deplorable. Sociolinguists working in the variationist paradigm on varieties of English in America and the UK have argued against a direct role for the broadcast media in systemic aspects of language change in direction of the standard, given the continued and documented diversity of non-standard dialects, particularly at the levels of phonology and morpho-syntax (e.g. Milroy and Milroy 1985; Chambers 1998; Labov 2001).
Hence, the proposed National Seminar aims to introduce the notions of sociolinguistic change and mediatization in order to create a more inclusive theoretical space than the one offered by the notions of ‘the media’ and ‘language change’.
Adds Fatihi that by introducing these concepts and exploring their relationship, the proposed Seminar broadens the theoretical and empirical scope of studying language-media relations in sociolinguistics.
The Seminar extends the conceptualization of language-media relations in sociolinguistics beyond the notions of ‘influence’ and ‘effect’. Relations of language and media in communicative practice are highly complex, and the influence of television on spoken language change is only part of a larger picture.
According to Thomas Wier, Assistant Professor of Linguistics at the Free University of Tbilisi, media language mediates social life through institutionally constrained language use and visual design. It is true as in print, broadcast or digital form, media spread culturally authoritative representations of social life, from traditional domains such as politics and business to more recent ones such as health and lifestyle.
Conversely, work on language in the media investigates how language issues such as language standards, language ideologies, and language change are represented and thematized in media.
Feels Warsi that Noam Chomski revolutionized the philosophy of language as well as the formal methods used to describe linguistic structures. Most schools of linguistic thought either directly incorporate his views on the generative nature of syntactic structure, or stand in reaction to it.
Indeed, rather than offering value-free representations of the world, media language invariably reflects particular worldviews, interests, and ideas about society, including ideas about language, understanding whose values, beliefs and worldviews are foregrounded and what counts as legitimate language use remain central concerns in media linguistics.
Media language has often been perceived as ‘artificial’ or thoroughly standardized and often planted as well, and therefore fully distinct from what is thought of as the genuine empirical object of sociolinguistics, i.e. conversational language in the community.
There are problems with these dichotomies, as evidence across disciplines suggests that relations between media and community language are increasingly blurred.
Media language becomes more conversational and vernacular, and media fragments are recycled in conversational interaction and therefore the proposed seminar aims to contribute to a broader perspective on the relevance of media to language in society and to move the discussion beyond fixed boundaries between ‘media language’ vs. ‘community language’ or ‘mass media’ vs. ‘interpersonal contact’.
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*Grandnephew of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, social commentator. Contact: firozbakhtahmed08@gmail.com

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