My Idiolect: the Influence Essay

My idiolect is intensely influenced by the individuals who reside in my house or visit regularly. This happens because I have been with them most of my life so I pick up some language techniques they use. I belong to a family of five; my mum, dad, older brother (Alex), little sister (Daniella). My aunty, whose name is Kenny, lives in my house frequently and various other aunties and uncles visit if we’re are celebrating or just to have a little catch up with what has been going on in family affairs. My family originates from Nigeria, therefore, the native language; Yoruba is spoken and integrated with the English language.

No one in my family lacks the ability to converse in English fluently. Field-specific lexis My family is multilingual; two main languages are spoken in my home; English and Yoruba. Since our family originates from Nigeria, my mum and dad fiercely insist their offspring at least understands the language if it’s spoken to us so we can respond. I assume they do this because they don’t want to be shown up by their relatives if we don’t know the “family language”. Ergo, the Yoruba language is spoken at home; however, it is mostly spoken by my parents.

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I do understand the language; however I cannot speak it confidently. If perchance relatives decide to visit our humble abode, the dialect code switches to Yoruba, fundamentally the adults begin to speak Yoruba rather than English. I consider this happens because my parents want to make them welcome and free in our house. Occasionally, during intense conversation or spontaneous ones the language does seem to shift between the native language and English. I imply this happens because they are some things the relatives and my parents feel they can’t explain themselves in English so they refer to Yoruba.

This happens predominantly when they are using old African riddles to advise my siblings and me or telling a joke to a friend. In addition, it occurs when my parents are talking about a serious issue and they do not want the children to understand or eavesdrop. Recently, this has no effect because I and my brother have managed to grasp the dialect and translate it. The understanding of our language has now suddenly become a disadvantage to us because it has encouraged our parents to constantly engage in dialogue with us in their native language.

Furthermore, when my parents are angry with me they use Yoruba language to scold me “Kilo ndamu e? ” which means “What is wrong with you? ” When they have calmed down their language switches between English and Yoruba because sometimes they get angry again. It is amusing since they don’t realise when they do it. When speaking on the phone my idiolect changes depending on whom I’m speaking with and if anyone is around when I am on the phone. This happens with everyone at home. If I am on the phone to friends my language is more colloquial and I tend to not speak Standard English.

This is the complete opposite if either my mum or dad is around, the subject of the conservation changes, I immediately become formal in my language or I am conscious of everything I say to avoid parental criticism after the call. If my dad is on the phone to his friends however, he speaks Broken English which is simply astonishing since he owns his own law firm. It is a sharp contrast to the way he speaks when he is speaking to a client. He is more preserved, grammatically correct in his language and often he speaks in Received Pronunciation.

He does this to look professional, using words such as “the jury”, “interrogation” and “defendant”. Moreover if the landline rings, I instantly adjust the tone of my voice to sound more adult-like or posh simply because I find it humorous. I have also noticed if I talk this way on the phone the person on the other end seems to respect me more than if I was speaking normally. The television and media has undeniably inspired the language which is spoken in the house. My entire family has used significant phrases that we have picked up from watching movies or regular TV programmes.

The TV programme “My Wife & Kids” has influenced the language we use at home because when my family wants to say, “No! ” to each other we say, “Errrr … nah! ” Also when I want my brother to leave my room I tend to say, “Let the door knob hit ya where the good Lord splits ya. Kick rocks … and get the hell outta here. ” I used this technique because I find it humorous and it gets the message across in a more spontaneous way. Recently, my brother and I had swayed to watching “The Big Bang Theory” we have coined the word “Bazinga! ” and this normally appears we have played a joke on each other, this is the way the word is used in the programme.

My family has a very large extended family, so it not unusual when relatives decide to visit and stay with us for a duration of weeks sometimes months. Last February, my grandmother chose to stay with us for the duration of six weeks. The accent of parents changed to an African accent to make her feel more comfortable at home. I too found myself speaking at a slower pace and explaining myself more clearly and using simpler words. This encouraged her to build a more developed relationship with me as she was able to understand how I was thinking. I also adjust the way I speak when I am talking to a younger generation.

I simplify my language of English, to engage conversation with them. I find myself doing this when I am talking to my little sister at home or if we play a game which normally consists of fairies. However, when I am holding a conversation with my brother we use more youthful language and this occurs because we are around the same age, so understand each other well. To conclude, at home everyone is more relaxed, less self-conscious, compared to if we are at school or work where we are constantly being judged for the way we look and the way we speak.

At work or in school, each of us probably has a certain image to hold; therefore we might use certain words, whereas at home, a person’s language is likely to be more informal and true to what they are like in real life. My family is constantly changing the words they use when speaking because of the situations they have experienced in life outside of the home. This is seen very clearly in my little sister’s use of language she is always bringing in new words that she has learnt from her school and then uses them when she is expressing herself at home, for example “literacy”.