Speech codes can be found throughout the world’s many cultures, as well as their subcultures. Speech codes are cultural ways of interacting within a certain community. Gerry Philipsen explains that to better understand a speech code it is easiest to use ethnography, thus immersing oneself in that particular culture. That particular culture’s use of different words, symbols, and rules helps to shape the way they interact within their speech community. The rural Canadian culture has its own distinct speech code, when compared to the speech code of urban Canadians.
Regardless of province, rural Canadians have created their own distinct way of communicating among one another. This particular speech code culture has a set of distinct symbols, meanings, and premises that would be considered as jargon to the urban Canadian culture. Symbols and meanings for certain words or ideas that a rural Canadian uses are only understood by other rural Canadians. An urban Canadian would not understand the use of terms such as calving season, harvest time, and hunting season; and would also have an issue understanding the significance of each of these events. Due to the drastic difference in their speech codes, rural Canadians and urban Canadians often have difficulties understanding one another. However, rural Canadians from different regions can easily understand one another.
Philipsen expands on the idea that within a speech community, there are multiple speech codes. Within a certain community, there can be multiple ways of speaking with certain members. Often different mannerisms, words, or symbols are used when discussing a topic with a particular member of the community, compared to their regular usage. An example of this with rural Canadians can be seen when a producer is interacting with an agronomist, compared to interacting with his neighbour. The producer and agronomist dialogue would consist of more professional word choices than the conversation between neighbours. There may also be usages of words or phrases, which only pertain to the agronomic advice being elicited, compared to a conversation among neighbours regarding the weather.
That speech code will also involve culturally distinct structures within it. When a speech code is active, a member of that community is able to understand the society’s structure, and the individual’s social status. Speech codes in a community display an individual’s honour and dignity. Someone of significance will be spoken with differently, than someone who is considered lower on the social scale. An example of this within the rural Canadian community would be when a producer interacts with an industry expert. The fact that the producer is seeking out information from someone such as an agronomist or a veterinarian, displays the use of different speech codes within that speech community.
Different speech codes, within a speech community, are woven and used by a variety of members of that community. The speech codes are apparent by actively listening to how members interact with one another. Different speech codes being used can be found within different relationships. Depending on the relationship between members; terms, rules and premises of the speech code are actively being interpreted by the listener and the speaker. Often members of a speech community will perform structured sequences, to help establish a set of actions to honour a certain ritual that is pertinent to their particular relationship.
By interacting in certain rituals of their speech code, members are able to better understand and communicate with one another. This allows the members to help predict, explain or control the outcome of their communication conduct. The art of participating in a speech code allows for an individual to find a stronger sense of self, and grounding within their community. Speech codes are an excellent way to keep a community tightly woven, while preserving their specialized ways of interacting with one another.