Stance, Style, and the Linguistic Individual

When when I was there, uh Texas was was sort of a a thing apart and we, at least we considered ourselves a thing apart ) and just a little bit superior, eh to tell the truth of the matter

Barbara Johnstone


Scholarcy highlights

  • I begin by sketching the models of stancetaking and style I draw on, summarizing corpuslinguistic, anthropological, and sociolinguistic research that shows how repeatable styles emerge in the course of repeated stancetaking choices
  • To summarize, this paper has built on recent research about how repeated stancetaking moves can come together as a repeatable, locally noticeable style by exploring a case in which a style of stance comes to index not a social identity but a personal identity, a particular lingual biography
  • I showed how this style was shaped by multiple influences in this woman’s sociolinguistic environment, associated with circulating language ideologies but each mediated through the influence of particular people and situations in her life history
  • I referred to the rhetorical enactment of this idea as the “ethos of self,” and defined it as the strategic discursive display of consistent personal identity, rooted in a speaker’s unique personal biography, as contrasted with the flexible “ethos of person” which makes strategic use of flexibility of social identity
  • Sociolinguistics has its roots in a social-scientific tradition of scholarship which has until recently valued generalizations about social actors over generalizations about interactional processes, encouraging research that generalizes over multiple individuals so as to make descriptive or predictive claims about groups
  • We are more interested in what it takes and what it means to sound African American, to sound female, or to sound like a politician than what it requires to sound like Barbara Jordan and what sorts of interactional work sounding like Barbara Jordan can do; we are skeptical of the possibility that sounding like Barbara Jordan could even be repeatable across genres and interlocutors
  • The personal epistemic and moral authoritativeness that reflects and constructs the ethos of self is enacted Jordan’s discourse in several ways, on several levels: via sentence-level features associated with precision, care, informativity, and certainty, via consistency in their deployment across discourse practices and speech situations, via explicit references to personal experience and its connection to knowledge and belief, and via even more global choices about what sorts of things to do with language and in what media to do this text-building

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