Sociolinguistics Symposium 18. Southampton, UK.
The Use of African American English Features in Audience-Directed Style-Shifting in Washington, D.C.
(Paper presented September 3, 2010)
Much of variation study up to the last decade has focused on interspeaker variation in an effort to understand the meanings of linguistic variables to the performance of and maintenance of in-group identity. Recent studies, however (cf. Podesva 2007; Schilling-Estes 2004), have shed light on the value of the study of intraspeaker variation in understanding how variables truly function in the creation of a personal identity. This study examines a single sociolinguistic interview with an African American speaker in Washington, D.C. Two interviewers, one white, one mixed-race who were somewhat accidentally matched for their own dialect practices conducted the first half of the interview; only the mixed-race interviewer conducted the second half. In this paper, I examine the interviewee’s use of two AAE features: r-lessness, stopping, deletion and labialization of interdental fricatives. Drawing on Bell’s theories of audience and referee design (1984, 1999), I compare the two halves of the interview to show that these features are available to the speaker to be actively manipulated in the performance of identity relative to a perceived audience and referee.