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15. Investigating Stylistic Variation


Subject Sociolinguistics » Language Variation and Change

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405116923.2003.00022.x


Roughly speaking, stylistic variation involves variation in the speech of individual speakers (INTRA-SPEAKER VARIATION) rather than across groups of speakers (INTER-SPEAKER VARIATION). Intra-speaker variation encompasses a number of different types of variation, including shifts in usage levels for features associated with particular groups of speakers–i.e. DIALECTS–or with particular situations of use–i.e. REGISTERS (e.g. Crystal 1991 : 295, Halliday 1978 ). As an example of register-based variation, a speaker may show higher usage levels for pronunciation features considered to be “formal” (e.g. [in] rather than [an] in words like walking and swimming ) when talking with a colleague about work-related matters than when talking with a friend about entertainment or family. With regard to dialect variation, a speaker may show higher usage levels for a feature like r -lessness (e.g. [fa:m] “farm”), associated with traditional Southern American speech, when talking with an older Southerner who uses this feature than when talking with a speaker who does not. In addition, intra-speaker variation can involve shifts into and out of language varieties, whether dialects, registers, or GENRES (i.e. highly ritualized, routinized varieties, often associated with performance or artistic display of some kind). For example, a lawyer might switch into a “legalese” register to discuss a case ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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