Jessica Grieser

Assistant Professor, University of Tennessee

Locating Style

Grieser, Jessica (2013) “Locating Style: Style-shifting to Characterize Community at the Border of Washington, D.C.,” University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics: Vol. 19: Iss. 2, Article 10.
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While a number of sociolinguistic studies have examined intraspeaker variation and how it allows a speaker to negotiate identities related to class, much of the existing work on speakers and their physically-delimited communities has focused on interspeaker variation. The present study examines (th) and (dh)-stopping in two sociolinguistic interviews conducted as part of the Language and Communication in the District of Columbia (LCDC) project (Schilling and Podesva 2008). It examines topic-related style-shifting in two African American speakers, matched for age, from one neighborhood in the District of Columbia known for its high integration and cross-racial acceptance. As Washington, D.C. is a city whose rate of racial segregation is increasing (US Census 2010), I argue that these speakers use this ethnoracially-marked phonological variant in topic-based style shifting as a means of aligning with the race-neutral identity of the community of Takoma. Statistical results, supported by discourse analyses of the content of both speakers’ talk, reveal that both speakers vary their rates of the stopped variant to contrast constructed dialogue of Takoma residents and non-Takoma residents and in talk about their relationships with their community in ways which reinforce the indexical links they make between themselves and the reification of Takoma as racially-neutral, integrated space. Many studies have shown that processes understood to be indexical of racial and class identities on an interspeaker level also function on an intraspeaker level (e.g. Rickford and McNair-Knox 1994). This study provides evidence that speakers’ indexical relationships to their physical community can be studied at the level of the individual speaker as well.

First presented at NWAV 41, Indiana University


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