Discussion questions for Eckert 2008 “Variation and the Indexical Field”

1. On page 455, Eckert denied the possibility of identity-claiming when speakers use certain features that are inductive to language change: “clearly, women (and men) are not saying ‘I’m a woman’ when they use a ‘female-led’ change, nor are they saying ‘I’m not a woman’ when they do not.” This claim seems to be unproved and easy to falsify. In some cases, speech pattern adoption can be a salient marker for identity expression. What do other speakers think?

2. Most of the work being done in sociolinguistics on variables and social change is in phonology and prosody. Are there semantic shifts that we can draw on to form ideas about the indexical field? Or is the study about semantics inherently ideological, thus making no need for the discussion about the semantic field? (See note 4 and page 454)

3. Is it only from variation that we can study the indexical field? What about meanings that don’t change, or ones that haven’t changed for an extended period of time? Do they exist? If so, can they complement the study of meaning-making and ideological connections?