Marlyse Baptista (University of Michigan)
Out of Many Voices, One Language
Tracey Weldon (University of South Carolina)
Middle Class African American English and Why It Matters
Despite decades of sociolinguistic research, most studies of African American English (AAE), have focused on working-class speech communities, largely at the exclusion of middle-class speakers. As a result, little consideration has been given to the linguistic dexterity of middle-class speakers and the extent to which they also draw on vernacular varieties in the construction of their racial and ethnic identities. And little attention has been paid to the more standard end of the AAE continuum and the ways in which less socially stigmatized features have also been used to reflect African American identity and culture. In this talk, I draw on a variety of methodological approaches to explore the contemporary use and perception of middle-class AAE. From public performance to autoethnographic reflection, I explore the ways in which middle class speakers make use of vernacular structural features, as well as camouflaged features, and lexical and rhetorical expression, to strategically construct both race-based and class-based identities. I also discuss opportunities for future research on middle-class AAE and call on researchers to help fill this gap in the sociolinguistic literature by giving voice to this relatively neglected segment of the African American speech community.
Amelia Tseng (American University)
A Raciomultilingual Perspective on Sociolinguistic Variation
Sociolinguistic variation has had a long-standing interest in questions of language, race, and ethnicity, and social justice since the inception of the field. Nevertheless, much remains to be done. In this talk, I propose a raciomultilingual perspective that comprehensively addresses the multilingual repertoire through a raciolinguistic lens and argue that this perspective is essential to understanding the language beliefs and behavior of minoritized groups such as U.S. Latinxs. I demonstrate that a raciomultilingual perspective which 1) normalizes and centers multilingual repertoires, and 2) critically situates the co-naturalization of language and race in historical and contemporary sociopolitical contexts (Rosa and Flores, 2017), provides a principled framework for unpacking the social semiotics of linguistic diversity. This approach emphasizes multiscalar language ideologies that circulate from the local to transnational and relate to particularities of identity construction as well as commonalities of broader systems of colonialist thought. As part of this, I examine how a raciomultilingual perspective can enhance key approaches to variation summarized by Eckert’s (2012) “three waves” framework. I conclude with a reflection on directions in the field in relationship to foundational questions of language as part of society and social change.
Juan Manuel Hernández-Campoy (University of Murcia, Spain)
Lifespan Change and Style-Shifting: Macroscopic and Microscopic Approaches in Historical Sociolinguistics
In the application of theoretical tenets and conclusions of current variationist research to the analysis and interpretation of linguistic data from the past, intra-individual variation has not been given the same relevance as inter-individual variation. However, style constitutes an essential component for the non-referential indexicality of the users’ sociolinguistic behaviour in interpersonal communication. The current prolific research output in Historical Sociolinguistics is reflecting the growth of interest in style and register, highlighting the role of ego-documents as materials worth studying for both inter- and intra-writer variation. As a result, the treatment of language variation and change privileging the observation of the individuals’ microcosm is now complementarily enriching traditional macroscopic research through within-speaker designs both at theoretical and methodological levels. This represents a shift in focus from the collectivity of the speech community to the individuality of specific users through the exploration of their communicative interaction in historical corpora of private correspondence. In addition to tracing sociolinguistic patterns and tendencies of language development longitudinally across the lifespan of individuals in past speech communities, informants are put under the lens of the microscope atomistically to observe their sociolinguistic behaviour on the basis of the social (a)symmetries between themselves (addressers) and addressees as well as context types. Stylistically, letters provide a rich source of information on less carefully monitored styles in contexts of communicative immediacy/distance.
The present talk illustrates this approach through the investigation of apparent life-span changes and style-shifting processes in late medieval England by applying contemporary responsive and initiative models of style to variation from historical corpora of epistolary documents. The corpus used as linguistic material for this study is the Paston Letters, a collection of 422 authored documents written from 1425 to 1503 by different generations of this minor gentry Norfolk family. The study is carried out through the analysis of the use of the orthographic variable (th) by male members of the family when addressing recipients from different social ranks. This variable behaved as a sociolinguistic marker and its situation of variability was the result of the progressive adoption of the new orthographic variant <th> at the expense of the old runic symbol <þ>, as in þing (>thing), broþer (>brother) or comeþ (>cometh). The reconstruction of the sociolinguistic diffusion of change over time, as well as of the individual (microscopic) and community (macroscopic) behaviours through the observation of their intra-writer variation may shed light onto the resources and driving forces for sociolinguistic variability and stylistic choice by individuals, where addressivity, recipiency and relationality are essential constituents. Consequently, when the sociolinguistic behaviour of informants is atomistically analysed in communicative interaction to see how they were experiencing a given change, tendencies and irregularities present in the slope of the graph representing their life-span patterns may be easily explained. Rather than life-span change, age-grading or generational change, the microscopic data analysis may often show reactive and initiative-based accommodation patterns of style-shifting in communicative interaction.
Auer, Anita, Daniel Schreier & Richard J. Watts (eds.)(2015). Letter Writing and Language Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 133-155.
Elspaß, Stephan. 2007. A twofold view ‘from below’: New perspectives on language histories and language historiographies. In: Stephan Elspaß, Nils Langer, Joachim Scharloth & Wim Vandenbussche (eds.), Germanic language histories ‘from below’ (1700–2000). Berlin, New York: de Gruyter 2007, 3-9.
Elspaß, Stephan (2007). Everyday language in emigrant letters and its implications on language historiography – the German case. In: Wim Vandenbussche & Stephan Elspaß (eds.), Lower Class Language Use in the 19th Century. Special issue of Multilingua 26-2/3 (2007): 151-165.
Hernández-Campoy, Juan M. 2016. Sociolinguistic styles. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell.
Hernández-Campoy, Juan M. & Tamara García-Vidal. 2018a. Style-shifting and accommodative competence in late Middle English written correspondence: Putting audience design to the test of time. Folia Linguistica Historica 39(2): 383-420.
Hernández-Campoy, Juan M. & Tamara García-Vidal. 2018b. Persona Management and Identity Projection in English Medieval Society: Evidence from John Paston II. Journal of Historical Sociolinguistics 4(1): 1-31.
Nevalainen, Terttu & Helena Raumolin-Brunberg. 2003/2017. Historical sociolinguistics. Language change in Tudor and Stuart England. London: Longman Pearson Education / London: Routledge (2nd edn.).
Palander-Collin, Minna, Minna Nevala & Arja Nurmi. 2009. The Language of Daily Life in the History of English. Studying how Macro Meets Micro. In Arja Nurmi, Minna Nevala and Minna Palander-Collin (eds.), The Language of Daily Life in England (1400-1800), 1-23. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Schiegg, Markus. 2016. Code-switching in lower-class writing: Autobiographies by patients from southern German psychiatric hospitals (1852–1931). Journal of Historical Sociolinguistics 2(1): 47-81.
Tieken-Boon van Ostade, Ingrid. 2006. Eighteenth-century English letters: In search of the vernacular. Linguistica e Filologia 21: 113–146.
Voeste, Anja. 2018. The self as a source. A peasant farmer’s letters from prison (1848–1852). Journal of Historical Sociolinguistics 4(1): 97-118.
Werth, Alexander, Lars Bülow, Simone E. Pfenninger & Markus Schiegg. (eds.)(2021). Intra-individual Variation in Language. Berlin: Mouton De Gruyter.