Mapping syntax and the sociolinguistic monitor

Smith, J. and Holmes-Elliott, S. (2022) Mapping syntax and the sociolinguistic monitor. In: Christensen, T. K. and Jensen, T. J. (eds.) Explanations in Sociosyntactic Variation. Series: Studies in language variation and change. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, pp. 58-89. ISBN 9781108492843 (doi: 10.1017/9781108674942.004)

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Sociolinguistic research demonstrates that speakers are ‘aware’ of some variables in their speech patterns, but not others, as evidenced by, for example, style shifting. In explaining this bifurcation, Labov (1993, 2008) suggests that speakers have a sociolinguistic monitor where ‘members of the speech community evaluate the surface forms of language but not more abstract structural features’. However, determining which linguistic variables are ‘surface’ and which are more ‘abstract’ is far from clear. In this chapter we test the sociolinguistic monitor by comparing the use of two variables which are considered to be abstract structural features - negative concord and use of never for didn't. We compare the use of these forms across two datasets: one where community members are in conversation with a community insider and another with a community outsider. We find that there is style shifting according to interlocutor with negative concord but not with never for didn’t, suggesting that only the former is ‘monitored’ in the speech of this community. These findings suggest that social pressures override similarities across linguistic structure in the operation of the sociolinguistic monitor.

Item Type:Book Sections
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Holmes-Elliott, Dr Sophie and Smith, Professor Jennifer
Authors: Smith, J., and Holmes-Elliott, S.
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > English Language and Linguistics
Publisher:Cambridge University Press
Published Online:06 January 2022

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