Stylistic variation: variation in the speech of individual speakers


Last week



This week


Class tonight corresponds to only a few sections from Crystal (407, 410, 416, 422)


Building from


Q: In what contexts are you aware of varying your language?


Q: Variation often depends on social norms rather than individual choice. Ex?


Q: What linguistic features are you aware of varying when you use


People’s language can also vary in correlation with other variables, e.g. age, sex, socioeconomic status

·        we’re often less aware of that


People are more aware of some variants than others


Examples from Canada of age-linked variation


Examples from elsewhere of salient variants


In the 1960s, a pioneering sociolinguist was curious about postvocalic /r/ in NY English (park, car)


Method: somehow correlate frequency of /r/ with different factors


Age, sex are easy to determine! But how do you determine somebody’s socioeconomic status efficiently?


How do you elicit casual / careful speech?


After the study, Labov made general conclusions about socioeconomic status and language


Labov’s general observations about attention and language


Problems with assuming that all speakers always aim at prestige varieties


Problems w/ preimposed social categories


Later sociolinguistic methods have included looking at


Different settings have different kinds of linguistic variation


Style-shifting is more pronounced in cultures where a regional variety of English has developed and coexists with standard English


There are terms to describe variation between regional variety and the ‘standard’


Ability/flexibility to shift dependent upon level of education


Style-shifting along the continuum can reflect


Individual variation can also reflect combination of other factors


Literary text from last week, Dabydeen’s “Slave Song”


What might be said about Dabydeen’s display of his roles as poet, translator, critic in “Slave Song”?


Some implications of speaker design model


Not simple


Agard, “Listen Mr Oxford Don” a good example of style shifting for divergence


Rhyme scheme shows non-standard prosody


[stress timing: the constant amount of time (on average) is between two consecutive stressed syllables: e.g. “two consecutive stressed syllables.”]


Graphological deviance emphasizes other non-standard pronunciation


Speaker design


Even the use of standard English can be strategic


David Dabydeen’s poem sequence Turner


Sonnet XXIV is the penultimate poem

Dabydeen’s Turner


Some other sources:


Schilling-Estes, Natalie. “Investigating stylistic variation.” The handbook of language variation and change. Ed. J.K. Chambers et al. Blackwell, 2002.


Wright, Susan. “Accents of English.” English: history, diversity, change. Ed. David Graddol et al. Routledge, 1996