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Sociolinguistics 7. Acts of identity. The story so far. We classify people in terms of general ‘person-types’ E.g. Man, Brit, Londoner, Educated We apply the same classification to ourselves as we search for a social identity . Our identity varies according to:

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sociolinguistics 7

Sociolinguistics 7

Acts of identity

the story so far
The story so far
  • We classify people in terms of general ‘person-types’
    • E.g. Man, Brit, Londoner, Educated
  • We apply the same classification to ourselves as we search for a social identity.
  • Our identity varies according to:
    • Who we are interacting with
    • The situation (e.g. formal/casual)
variable isa
Variable isa
  • Membership of a category is usually a matter of degree,
    • E.g. a chair is a ‘better’ item of furniture than an ash-tray.
  • Similarly for our social self-classification,
    • E.g. my daughters are ‘better’ Londoners than I am.
  • Degrees of membership can be shown as percentages.
language
Language
  • We signal our social identity in various ways, e.g. clothing, behaviour.
  • Perhaps the most important signal is language because:
    • It’s learned socially.
    • It allows many distinctions (e.g. one per phoneme).
    • Each token (instance) can be chosen independently, which allows fine-tuning.
acts of identity
Acts of identity
  • Every word is an “act of identity in a multi-dimensional social space” (Le Page).
  • This is different from (simple) accommodation because we’re following
    • Abstract social prototypes (‘person-types’)
    • Not the people in front of us.
  • Acts of identity fine-tune our face (= ‘public self-image’)
how do they talk in liverpool
How do they talk in Liverpool?
  • LUCK = LOOK = [lk], LOVES = [lvz]
  • POT ≠ PART, LOST = [lst]
  • But:
new york
New York
  • How do you study “the language” of a complex city such as New York?
  • William Labov’s answer (PhD, 1962-66): study sociolinguistic variables.
  • E.g. (r): [r] ~ Ø (e.g. car = [kɑ:r] ~ [kɑ:])
  • He tested this idea with a brilliant pilot study.
background
Background
  • Labov (a New Yorker) observed that (r) was variable.
  • The old standard in NYC was (r):Ø.
  • The new educated standard seemed to be (r):[r]
  • For example,
hypotheses
Hypotheses
  • Use of (r) varies with social class and age.
  • Maybe sex matters too.
  • And ‘style’ (attention to language).
  • And phonological context (before C or word-final).
method speaker selection
Method: speaker selection
  • Select an easy measure of “education”:
    • wealth.
  • Select places which cater for people of differing wealth:
    • department stores.
  • Three stores qualified:
    • Saks: for the very rich
    • Macy’s: for the comfortably off
    • Klein: for the poor
klein
Klein
  • By 1986, when a student replicated the experiment, Klein had gone out of business.
method choice of words
Method: choice of words
  • Select some words containing (r), e.g. fourth, floor.
  • Get assistants in those places to say those words:
    • Ask where to find some item known to be on the fourth floor.
    • Then pretend not to have heard the answer.
  • Record their answers out of sight.
results
Results
  • In this way he collected data from 264 subjects in just over six hours.
  • He counted (r):[r] as % of all (r).
  • He distinguished:
    • Saks, Macy’s, Klein
    • First and second utterance
    • Fourth and floor
slide20
So …

Use of (r) does indeed vary with:

  • Education/wealth/social class
    • Evidence: differences among stores
  • Style/attention to language
    • Evidence: first versus second utterance
    • But less so in Saks
  • Phonological context
    • Evidence: fourth versus floor
other data collection methods
Other data-collection methods
  • Interview (e.g. Trudgill in Norwich)
    • Speakers selected for class, age, etc.
    • Interviews arranged in advance.
    • Structured interviews (including reading and ‘danger-of-death’ or ‘funny-incident’ question)
  • Spontaneous casual speech
  • Many projects in many countries.
analysis method
Analysis method
  • Decide:
    • Which sociolinguistic variables to study
    • What kinds of speaker to study
  • Find relevant speakers
  • Record them speaking
  • Listen for all tokens of each variable
    • Use a coding sheet.
    • Listen for one variable at a time.
analysis 2
Analysis (2)
  • For each variable:
    • Count all the variants for each speaker.
    • Record them in a table.
    • Show each variant as a percentage of the total for each speaker.
  • If possible, calculate statistical significance for any differences between speakers.
    • See the course web site, lecture 6, on how to write the quantitative analysis for your final assessment.
main findings
Main findings
  • Different sociolinguistic variables are sensitive to different social variables.
  • Variable scores show variable allegiance to alternative person-types.
  • Education is always important:
    • education/social class is always relevant (in America as much as in UK).
    • Women are always more ‘standard’ than men (provided they have access to education).
    • Formal speech (e.g. reading lists) is always more ‘standard’ (as defined by education) than casual.
coming shortly
Coming shortly
  • 8. Inequality – and why education is important.