Stylistically coherent variants: Cognitive representation of social meaning / Variantes estilisticamente coerentes: representação cognitiva de significados sociais

Charlotte Vaughn, Tyler Kendall


Abstract: The perception of social meanings and styles is dependent upon the contributions of a constellation of multiple covarying sociolinguistic variants. This suggests that listeners maintain associations between stylistically coherent variants and their social meanings in mental representation. The present paper expands upon this notion, aiming to gain converging evidence from production as a way to explore the cognitive representations of variants and their social meanings more deeply. To do this, four American English speakers were asked to produce sentences containing (ING) words (as in talking vs. talkin’), in their –in and –ing variants, in a laboratory setting. Productions were acoustically analyzed to evaluate whether the speakers also manipulated other stylistically-linked variables, even though prompted only to manipulate (ING). The variant –in has been shown to index a range of social meanings in American English, including Southern and casual. Results demonstrate that speakers indeed modulated other variables beyond (ING) in ways that align with the Southern and casual social meanings of –in. That producing one variant (–in) could lead to stylistically congruent realizations of other variables suggests that speakers not only hold indexical linkages between variants and styles in mental representation, but that variants are also linked to variants of other variables through associations with those styles. A better understanding of social meaning in cognition provides an important base upon which to advance research on sociolinguistic perception.

Keywords: covariation; social meaning; cognitive representation; style.

Resumo: A percepção de significados sociais e de estilos depende das constribuições de uma constelação de múltiplas variantes sociolinguísticas em covariação. Isto sugere que os falantes mantêm associações entre variantes estilisticamente coerentes e seus significados sociais numa representação mental. O presente trabalho expande essa noção, com o objetivo de ganhar evidências advindas da produção como meio de explorar mais profundamente as representações cognitivas de variantes e de seus significados sociais. Para isso, quatro falantes de inglês norte-americano foram convidados a produzir sentenças que contêm variantes de (ING) (como em talking vs. talkin’ ‘falando’), em contexto de laboratório. As produções foram acusticamente analisadas no sentido de avaliar se os falantes também manipularam estilisticamente outras variáveis, ainda que houvessem sido instruídos a manipular apenas (ING). Trabalhos anteriores já mostraram que a variante –in indicia uma grande extensão de significados sociais em inglês norte-americano, incluindo sotaque sulista e casualidade. Os resultados mostram que os falantes de fato modulam outras variáveis além de (ING) que se alinham a esses significados sociais de –in. O fato de que a produção de uma variante pode conduzir a realizações estilisticamente congruentes de variantes de outras variáveis sugere que os falantes não apenas detêm associações indiciais entre variantes e estilos em sua representação mental, mas também que variantes de diferentes variáveis estão ligadas entre si na sua associação a tais estilos. Entender melhor a significação social de múltiplas variáveis na cognição oferece uma base importante na qual deve avançar a pesquisa sobre percepção sociolinguística.

Palavras-chave: covariação; significado social; representação cognitiva; estilo.


covariation; social meaning; cognitive representation; style; covariação; significado social; representação cognitiva; estilo.

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