Blog Entry 2019

Blog Entry 10/21/19

The readings for this week discuss topics on variationistsociolinguistics, quantitative methods, and largely on the facts that variables are not static.

Eckert introduces the notion of the Indexical Field– “meanings of variables are not precise, or fixed but rather constitute a field of potential meanings”. She goes on to cite examples of how variables are not only associated with macro-level categories like race and gender, but can be associated with different communities of practice, like “Jocks” and “Burnouts” – and even within these categories there are layers. A great example was mentioned that there is a generalization that women are often placed into a macro-level category and make connections with sound change, but this is a well-known fact that “women use advanced variants more than men” (Eckert 1990). Acts of Identity is the idea that people don’t outright think of themselves as claiming membership to a group when speaking a certain way, but it’s about many other smaller acts that fit a sociolinguistic category. The paper ends by stating that Labovintroducing Class as a category tied to sociolinguistic change was monumental, but only the beginning. It shouldn’t be seen as a simple model, but a more complex model with other and changing meanings. 

Campbell-Kimbler looks at the ING variable – and how the constitute reference to a “Southern” accent, “Gay accent”, or thirdly, a “non” accent. The paper extensively talks about the different accent categories, mainly stating that the Southern accents (-in) are tied to “lack of education, the country, and the term “redneck” and the Gay accent (-ing) to “lowered masculinity, the city, and the term “metrosexual”.

The study used a Matched Guise Technique where the manipulation was done on the vowels using a Cut and Paste method on Praat. This study not only used quantitative methods, but group interviews to elicit some qualitative findings. An interesting outcome was the finding of the “non” accent, where in the study was referenced to the “might be from anywhere” speakers, in the group interviews these people could not be pinpointed to where they were from, maybe California (Stanford) but importantly that they sounded standard or non-accented. This touches on Lippi-Greens notion of The Non-Accent.

I found it interesting that for Jason (the gay accent) they didn’t control the audio recording to be more standard. They had his conversation a lot to do with shopping, which I believe could index “gay”. It would have been nice to see them use the Cut and Paste technique still, but with each speaker reading the same or similar passage from a book.

The connection the Eckert came when it was mentioned that the accents were not perceived to be part of a continuum, or to simply mean or mark one thing. “but rather as a multidimensional landscape arrayed around a central norm”.

For Zhang, the connections were immediate with the discussion that varitionist sociolinguistics should “look beyond strictly local contexts and to go beyond treating variation as locatedalong a linear dimension of standard and vernacular”.

The study focuses on two groups of Chinese business people – one group who works with foreign companies and the other who work for state-owned businesses. The key aspect was that a new variety of Mandarin was constructed, “The study shows that variation does not just reflect existing social categories and social change, but is a resource for constructing those categories and participates in social change”.

As mentioned by Eckert – it’s important to try and find out whya variable is connected to social categories – not just simply noticing that a variable is associated with that category. Zhang asked that same question about why some linguistic features are preferred, and how they becomes markers of being part of in this case, a foreign business or state. Another connection I noticedwas that macro-level categories aren’t “enough”. The participants in this study can be seen as some same macro-level category as they are all business professionals, high up in their companies and have the same high education level, yet, they are still different in their linguistic form usage.

The results were as expected in that the “yuppies” used the local variants much less that the state-business employees. 

Importantly it was mentioned that “While exposure is a condition for speakers to pick up a linguistic form, however, it does not entail consequent usage; speakers who are exposed to certain linguistic features may or may not use them”. I thought this was great to mention because it showed the “yuppies” that were exposed to the Full-tone variant (tied to foreign and cosmopolitan life) are choosing to sound like this, it is not simply because of language contact.

All the articles mention the importance to look beyond a static variable, and to look pass the notion that something is simply standard, or non-standard. Zhang stated “The less frequent useof some local features may be far more complex than a simple implication of closer proximity to the “standard” variety”.