Towards a typology of crossing

Rusty Barrett

University of Kentucky, United States of America


The last decade has seen a great deal of sociolinguistic research on various forms of crossing (Rampton 1995), or the use of a language variety that is anomalously “other” for a given speaker (Rampton 1999). This paper proposes a typology of forms of crossing that suggests a relationship between macro variables related to speaker identity and micro variables in linguistic structure. The typology divides forms of crossing into four broad categories: outsider native speaker (e.g. Sweetland 2002), second language learners (or attempts to acquire in-group status) (e.g. LePage and Tabouret-Keller 1985, Piller 2002), appropriation (e.g. Barrett 1998, Cutler 1999, Bucholtz 1999, Chun 2001, Reyes 2005), and mocking (e.g. Hill 1995, 1998, Ronkin and Karn 1999, Mesthrie 2002, Chun 2004, Meek 2006). An analysis of various cases of these four types, suggests that these categories of crossing are correlated with distinct linguistic forms. As native speakers and second language/dialect learners would be expected to display distinct linguistic patterns, the paper emphasizes the structural distinctions between forms of appropriation and forms of mocking.

Research on appropriation and cases of mocking typically assumes that the distinction between appropriation and mocking is primarily a question of speaker intent, with forms classified as mocking primarily when speakers intentionally convey a pejorative or derogatory message. Analysis of these cases suggests that these two forms of crossing operate at different levels of indexical order (Silverstein 2003) with corresponding differences in linguistic form. The distinction is demonstrated by comparing previous research on the appropriation of a ‘white woman’ style of speaking by African American drag queens (Barrett 1995, 1998, 1999) with the speech of Charles Knipp, a white drag queen who performs a (mocked) African American character (Shirley Q. Liquor) in blackface. Although the communicative intent (at least as expressed by the speakers themselves) of both Knipp and the African American drag queens is the same, the two cases show quite distinct linguistic patterns. While African American drag queen’s generally produce stereotyped representations of white speech, they use forms that actually occur in the English of white Americans. In addition, the use of a ‘white woman’ style always occurs in a context of code-switching with other styles (typically African American English). In contrast, Knipp uses forms that are not found in African American English, such as intervocalic r-insertion (“doing” as [dərIn]) and triply-marked past tense morphology (“sweldeded” for the past tense of “swell”). Knipp’s use of Mock African American English is also uninterrupted, with no code-switching into other varieties. These structural differences are tied to differences in indexical order, with the appropriation indexing social attributes associated with an identity category (in this case attributes of sophistication and glamour that the drag queens associate with white women) and mocking directly indexing a social category (in Knipp’s case African American women). The results are used to explore the possibility that previous research on forms of crossing might be classified in terms of linguistic form (rather than speaker intent or social context).

Session: Paper session
Youth Language 1
Thursday, April 3, 2008, 10:30-12:00
room: 13