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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton September 6, 2017

The substance of style: Gender, social class and interactional stance in /s/-fronting in southeast England

  • Sophie Holmes-Elliott and Erez Levon EMAIL logo
From the journal Linguistics


This paper proposes an empirical method for the quantitative analysis of stance-taking in interaction. Building on recent conceptualizations of stance as the primary building-block of variation in language style, we describe how to implement an analysis of stance within a variationist framework via an examination of the particular speech activities within which stances are embedded combined with a consideration of the specific interactional goals these activities achieve. We illustrate our proposals with an investigation of variation in /s/-quality in the speech of cast members from two British reality television programs. Examining nearly 2000 tokens of /s/ in over 6 hours of recorded speech, we demonstrate how different acoustic realizations of /s/ in the sample correlate with the level of “threat” of a given speech activity, and we argue that this interactionally based analysis provides a better explanatory account of the patterns in our data than an analysis based on large social categories would. Through this paper, we therefore hope to contribute not only to the development of a more robust method for examining stance in quantitative sociolinguistic research, but also to help clarify the relationship between stances, speech activities and speaker identities more broadly.


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Appendix. Speech activity coding samples

Activity categoryLevel of threatSpeech activityExample
SocialNo threatCommiserating/alignmentWere you upset? (Millie, MIC:30)
well I reckon as soon as the bar’s up and running and you’ve sorted things up with Lucy I reckon we should go on holiday (Arg, TOWIE:37)
GossipMark’s gonna be there isn’t he? He’ll be there with his new girlfriend Lucy (Amy and Sam, TOWIE:6)
So earlier when I went to give the books to Francis, he was in a meeting and I kind of ended up telling Agne about Francis and Fred sharing her (Rosie, MIC:21)
JokingYou look like something out the Godfather! (Mark, TOWIE:39)
How’s the white jeans crew going? (Spencer, MIC:27)
Personal evaluationFrancis could be good for this because essentially he doesn’t make any jewellery (Mark Francis, MIC:4)
You look nice (Kirk, MIC:3)
ThreatPersonal disclosureI think kinda when I knew that I was feeling guilty about it I knew that it was because I really like you (Hugo, MIC:25)
When I’d gone, he messaged me being like “I’m really confused I don’t know what’s going on” (Caggie, MIC:24)
Challenge/confrontationWhat you doing? I’ve been calling you all day and you’ve not answered your phone (Lydia, TOWIE:10)
That’s true, but why beat around the bush? (Francis, MIC:2)
That’s very honest of you but also very selfish (Caggie, MIC:11)
HedgingThis is what it is. I wanted her to DJ in my club. Yeah? (Kirk, MIC:3)
If you’re implying this is a date (Amber, MIC:2)
InformationalNo threatExpert informationMark it’s a sixties night, Frank Sinatra, Rat Pack, it’s that sort of era (Arg, TOWIE:39)
Expert teachingyou’re better to shower than you are to bath but don’t exfoliate cos you’re gonna get it all off but for your birthday the tan’ll be brilliant. (Amy, TOWIE:4)
Expert directionObviously I won’t need you on the actual event cos I’ll be looking after everything so you can go back home and get your dresses when it’s done (Lauren, TOWIE:25)
Tell me what happened (Caggie, MIC:30)
Information sharingI think I’m gonna go out in it tonight (Cheska, MIC:7)
ThreatInformation questionSo, what you right handed? (Kirk, TOWIE:46)
Questioner/requestSo how do you know Spencer? (Millie, MIC:32)
You know I’ve done it, I could have done it a lot earlier but I didn’t want to be out of order, what do you reckon? (Mark, TOWIE:39)
Information sharingSo honey, Paloma’s my new assistant so I’m gonna let her be in charge today (Amy, TOWIE:16)
Like, he dropped me home (Millie, MIC:8)
Then drove across Pamplona, ran with the bulls (Jamie, MIC:29)
Discourse ManagementNo threatLocal contextIt’s opening in a couple of days (Arg, TOWIE:12)
Lovely Maria here who’s pinning me in (Amber, MIC:36)
Clarification(Spencer’s coming with a friend – Hugo) Friend? (Millie, MIC:32)
FacilitatorEvening evening you guys, how are you? (Spencer, MIC:32)
OtherYeah, yeah (Caggie, MIC:30)
Published Online: 2017-9-6
Published in Print: 2017-9-26

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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