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How reference group influences individual speech

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How reference group influences individual speech

In sociolinguistics, speech community is often used to describe a group of people who are talking in the same language. This group of people are often from the same place and also usually share the same dialects. Individual speech, as suggested by the name is any particular individuals way of speaking. It is their choice of grammar, the way they are structuring their sentences, the accent or dialect they are using during speech and so on. Individual speech can be both formal and informal. It is basically used by any particular individual according to their own comfort. Individual speech is often affected by a person's experiences in life, for example: the places they visit, the people they meet and also their surroundings too.

Child language acquisition occurs at home at an early age from other family members or relatives present. However, during pre- teens and all throughout teenage a particular individual's speech is heavily affected by the people they interact with everyday, namely their friends, classmates, teachers and friends too. We can call the people that they interact with their reference group. Reference group is the group of people that someone looks up to and wants to be like. It may include known people, as mentioned earlier or unknown people too.

For example: celebrities, authors, or generally people from any background. People usually connect to their reference group through shared ideologies, same values or social norms, etc. Such is the case for my cousin who is in her teenage now, almost sixteen years old this year. As I have been living with her, I noticed some gradual changes in both the way that she used to talk and how she used to behave around us family members. As any ideal family would, our family taught her the formal way of speaking to others and also corrected her dialect as we are from rangpur district. However, I started to notice changes in her speech when she was around eleven years old and studying in class 3. Sometimes I would catch her giggling softly while telling us an incident from school and at first it was very new and foreign to me at also reminded me of my school days.

During those days, my cousin, Namira’s reference group was her classmates basically and also some kids from our neighbourhood that she knew. A year later, one day while she was telling me an incident that occured in her school where one of her classmate pushed and bullied a friend of hers, then she used some cuss words as she was angry. That was the first time I heard her using it and I thought she may have picked it up from one of her friends. On further inspection, I noticed that she was watching some makeup tutorials on youtube and that particular youtuber did use that cuss word several times.

It is widely known that social media influences an individual's way of thinking and speaking too. As my cousin was exposed to the content available free on youtube, along with her friends too, so that became a part of their lives and their new reference group perhaps. Although she never cussed at my family members or me directly, it was still included in her individual speech though, rather informally. 

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