Style as Stance
Style as Stance
Stance as the Explanation for Patterns of Sociolinguistic Variation
This chapter explores the relationship between stance and sociolinguistic style. It argues that stance is the basis of style in sociolinguistic variation: sociolinguistic variants are initially associated with interactional stances, and these stances become reified in a speech community over time and repeated use. The chapter thus evaluates the possibility that stance is the main explanation for patterns of sociolinguistic variation, such that any choice of linguistic form made by speakers is made ultimately because of the interpersonal or epistemic stances they wish to take with their various interlocutors, the content of their talk, and nonpresent1 others. The chapter argues that these stance indexicalities become “short-circuited,” so that ways of speaking become associated with situations and speaking roles in which certain stances are customarily taken. Styles of speaking are thus shorthand for bundles of habitually taken stances. The chapter thus connects the everyday use of language variation in discourse to the ways that it patterns on larger social scales, and to test the hypothesis that this connection can be made through the concept of stance. After a short discussion of the concepts of style, stance, and indexicality, the chapter demonstrates the importance of stance in variation patterns through three examples.
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