LING-777 Seminar: Style and Stylistic Variation
Spring for 2017-2018
Sociolinguists of all kinds are interested in stylistic variation and language style – that is, variation within the speech of the individual, and individual ways of using language. Labovians focusing on language change analyze style-shifting to uncover community norms and the motivations for change, while ‘third wave’ scholars view stylistic variation as a means of shaping and presenting dynamic social identity. In this course, we will critically examine a range of approaches to language style, chiefly from the perspective of variationist sociolinguistics, but also drawing on anthropological, ethnographic, interactional sociolinguistic, and corpus linguistic approaches. In the variationist domain, we will grapple with Labov’s Attention to Speech model (1972), Bell’s Audience Design approach (1984), and Eckert’s ‘third wave’ views (e.g. 2012). Along the way, we will also consider LePage-and Tabouret-Keller’s Acts of Identity (1985), style and stance (e.g. Jaffe, ed. 2009; Johnstone 2013, Kiesling 2009), corpus-based approaches to style register and genre (e.g. Biber 2014), style as self-conscious performance (i.e. ‘stylization’; e.g. Coupland 2007), and the acquisition of stylistic variation by children and through the lifespan. Key concepts will be interrogated (e.g. What is ‘indexicality’? What, in fact, is ‘stance’?), and no approach will be safe from critique, including today’s prevailing ‘third wave’ approach to (stylistic) variation. Finally, we consider just how far beyond the linguistic signal linguists can and should go in investigating language style (e.g. clothing, hairstyle; gesture, facial expression, general bodily ‘comportment’, etc.; e.g. Podesva 2016).
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