Linguistics – Style Shifting

1 January 2018

To egging with I will summaries the project, its aims and objectives, and very briefly explain style shifting, which I will later build on by explaining some previous research into the topic.

I will then describe the methodology used for the investigation and finally report any findings from the project as well as build conclusions by discussing any issues, problems and successes from the investigation and suggest some ideas for future research. Summary of the Project Style-shifting refers to the way in which people change the way they speak depending on the context of the speech.The language that people use is often distinctive and seen to be appropriate for particular situations. In other words, the use of a certain way of speaking has an appropriate time and place in which it is spoken and to particular people to which it is spoken to. For example, if you were to analyses the speech between a politician and a close friend the language style would be far different to say, the style of language they use in a speech to a group of voters in an electorate.The situation in which a type of language is found can usually be seen as appropriate or inappropriate to the style of language used. It would not be seen as appropriate for a politician to speak in a style that is overly casual by Joking and swearing while telling a speech to parliament and, on the other hand, when speaking to a close friend or family member it may be seen as over the top or impersonal to speak overly formal when it is Just a casual conversation.

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To study style-shifting I chose to analyses my own everyday speech and apply previous approaches to style to identify any style-shifting within my own language in an attempt to understand when, where and why I choose to speak in particular styles. Using three different approaches from previous research including the ‘attention to speech’ approach, the ‘audience-design model’ and the ‘speaker design’ model I have discovered some interesting findings.Aims and objectives The aims of this project are to apply previous theories of style-shifting in linguistics to look at my own personal speech. To narrow it down I focused on identifying style shifts within my own conversations and attempted to find reasons or causes for these shifts by using previous studies which identify causes and applying them to my discourse analyses. As my objective is to only analyses my own speech rather than there’ it is impossible to confidently generalist any findings to all people but many of the findings could be seen to generally apply to many other people.Literature review There have been a number of approaches to style in linguistics that have attempted to explain why style-shifting occurs in speech. Labor approached ‘style’ as attention paid to speech.

For this approach Labor believed that style could be placed along a single dimension and measured by the amount of attention paid to one’s own speech (2001:7). This single continuum was thought to place the vernacular, I. E. The most usual speech, as it is the earliest acquired and most commonly used, at one extreme, with the other extreme being a highly formal style of speech.Examples of casual speech may be recorded in contexts such as extended or emotional narratives or conversations among peers and Labor found channel cues which act as elements to identify casual speech, such as laughter, increased tempo, raised pitch and heavier breathing. A formal context can be defined as “where more than the minimal attention is paid to speech” (1984:29) and examples of common formal contexts include responses to interview questions or when in a speech condition to an audience.With his ‘style as attention to speech’ approach Labor reported that social class distinctions tend to be preserved in each speech style and also the slope of style-shifting tends to be identical across social classes (1984:29).

This approach also found that patterns of variation in casual, vernacular speech give a truer picture of linguistic changes in progress than formal speech does as formal speech tends to be conservative or distorted (1984:29). Bell later proposed another approach which was an audience-design model of style shifting.This model assumes that speakers adjust heir speech primarily towards that of their audience in order to express commonality or intimacy with them, or conversely away from their audience’s speech in order to express distance (2001:7) Bell’s model elaborates a categorization of audience members: Addressees are those who are directly addressed, approved participants Auditors are not directly addressed, but are approved participants Overhears are non-approved listeners of whom the speaker is aware Eavesdroppers are non-approved listeners of whom the speaker is unaware, Referees are non-present groups with whom speakers attempt to identify while they re speaking to addressees, etc. Bell believed that the main reason for style-shifting is the speaker’s attempt to gain the audience’s approval. Style-shifts are thus mainly responses to features of the context, including the audience (2001:6) This approach found that not all audience members are equally important.Their importance is proportional to the degree to which the speaker recognizes them. The model also found that speakers typically make subtle adjustments of style for a range of different addressees, and too lesser degree for other types of audience members.

A ore recent approach to style-shifting is called ‘speaker design’ which works to break down the original dichotomy between social and stylistic variation since the projection of one’s identity includes both its permanent aspects as well as momentary ones. The main focus of this approach is the idea that identity is dynamic. This means that speakers project different roles in different circumstances.The interaction of the desire to project identity with the recognition that audiences differ, means that it is not a purely individual occurrence, but rather a relational one 2001:7) This approach assumes that all speech is performance and that all style- shifts involve adopting roles which contradicts earlier approaches that believe the vernacular is the most natural and does not require speakers to put on roles. Methodology In order to collect data for this investigation I recorded a number of conversations in which I was a part. I chose to analyses two different mediums including face-to-face spoken conversations between myself with both people I know as well as people I didn’t know. The other medium I thought to be appropriate was e-mails and social networking site messages.

Social networking websites have become incredibly popular since the previous approaches to style-shifting originated so I found it very interesting identifying styles of language used on the social network of Backbone.This led to some interesting observations and findings that are unique to written discourse. Examples of people that I was familiar with included friends, housemates and family members. People that I did not know included customers at my own work, putting me in the store assistant role, as well as store assistants in other businesses, putting me in the customer role. Findings To begin with I found that the style of language used certainly depends on the mode (I. E. The medium) whether it be spoken or written.

For written discourse I believe that more time can be used to think about what we are going to say so we can consciously decide the style of language that we are going to use.For an e-mail or letter for example people have time to plan what they have to say and if it is a friendly, casual e-mail or letter then not much time needs to be put into ensuring that the language is appropriate. On the other hand if the e-mail or letter is intended for say a boss, a equines or an organization you would expect that the sender would adopt a rather formal style of language to ensure that they are taken seriously and to keep it appropriate. Within conversation style-shifting may occur if an authority figure replies to a formal e-mail or letter in a rather casual manner which will often prompt the original sender to relax and adopt a casual register as well. Written Discourse I chose to look at two very different written conversations between myself and others.The first example is a conversation between me and a student liaison officer at university (Extract 3). As I was unfamiliar with the recipient my language can be seen as reasonably formal and polite as I am requesting some information and advice about future studies.

The use of ‘Dear Carmen’ to begin the e-mail is unique of written discourse as you would not expect to begin a spoken conversation like this. This opening can be seen as polite, and appropriate as it is an expected way of beginning a formal e-mail. The e-mail ends with a very formal register as I write that I would greatly appreciate her assistance. This type of style can be seen as appropriate for the addressee, the mode and the context of the conversation.By cooking at this e-mail alone we can apply the three approaches of style in saying that I paved a great deal of attention to my speech to ensure that it was appropriate, I adopted a formal register to get the approval of the audience, and I also chose to speak formally as I adopted a certain role of a student showing respect for an authority figure. In contrast to this set of e-mail, the next example shows a very casual register that I used in an exchange of e-mails between myself and a friend traveling overseas (Extract 4). This entire conversation is very relaxed and casual suggesting that we are speaking in the vernacular.

The use of nicknames, such as “Hey Travels”, “Marge, Harsh, Huzzah” and “Floozy” all help to keep the conversation casual and lighthearted.The use of cursing within the e-mail is seen as appropriate and also shows that the conversation is very casual as no offence would be taken, whereas swearing in the above example of an e-mail to an authority figure may be seen as highly inappropriate. Abbreviations and lack of care with spelling show that the language is closer to the vernacular, in that it is more like everyday speech and less attention is being paid to speech, this is how you would look at it if you adopted Labors approach to style. Using Bell’s approach to style you can see that I have adjusted my speech primarily towards that of the audience (I. E. A friend) in order to express commonality or intimacy with them.The ‘speaker-design’ approach would view my speech within this e-mail as simply adopting a role of say a close friend Just speaking comfortably within having to worry about offending anyone or undermining authority.

Spoken Discourse I next chose to analyses spoken discourse and recorded two similar conversations but with myself adopting two opposite roles. The first extract (Extract 1) is from a cording of my own speech at work as a store assistant welcoming customers into a furniture store. The language I use is rather formal and polite as you can see from the underlined phrases such as “thank-you” and “you’re welcome. ” The reason for this is that people expect to be spoken to politely and with courtesy in this type of context and for me to be helpful.Another reason for my use of formal language in this context is that the customers, like most of the customers that come into my work, are a fair bit older than I am so I find it appropriate to show respect in the way that I peak to them. I find that I can relax a little more when it comes to speaking to customers around my age and use slightly less formal language. The second extract (Extract 2) is a role-reversal where I was the customer at a clothing store, looking for a particular item.

The style that I use for this context is a little less formal, yet still polite, as I expect the store assistant to help me. The language I use is far more casual as you can see by the use of terms such as “wicked”, “do you reckon”, and “sweet, thanks. You can see that the language used by the store assistant is also ether casual as we were both of similar ages so there is a sense of mutual respect rather than one-sided. As you can see in this example of style-shifting, the language I choose to use is a lot different due to the addressee whether it be because of their status, age or simply due to what I can get out of the conversation for example if I am more formal and polite to customers they may be more likely to buy something and also if I speak politely yet casually to a store assistant then maybe they will be more likely to offer assistance. The three approaches to style can be applied very well to these two examples of spoken discourse.

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