Social Class Construction Through Speech Style: Evidence From Modern Greek

Irene Theodoropoulou

King's College London, United Kingdom


The basic aim of this paper is to contribute towards the stylistic research in languages other than English through the investigation of the ways the pivotal construction of speech style (Rickford & Eckert 2001: 1) is used by people in their middle twenties to construct Kifisia-ness, an upper-middle and upper social class identity found in suburban Athens, Greece.

Social class identity (Bourdieu 1984, Rampton 2006, Bucholtz forthcoming), like every other type of identity, is a feature, which belongs to individuals as well as to groups, and so does speech style, especially if treated as persona management (Coupland 1985, 2001, 2007), where there is a close correlation between the individual and the social; individual stylistic choices create group norms, and group norms are the framework, where stylistic variation becomes meaningful. In order to show how young adult people, who are at the beginning of their professional life, construct Kifisia identity, I am using conversational data from three native Kifisia people, whom I have researched ethnographically (Wolfram 2007, Bucholtz 2007).

In this study in progress, their data are analyzed in the light of interactional sociolinguistics (Schiffrin 1994: 97-136), an approach which allows us to capture the nuanced meanings of Kifisia identity at the micro-level, with a particular focus on multiple linguistic resources, such as prosody, labels, presuppositions and implicatures, phonological and grammatical variables. In order to bridge the gap between the micro-level of the actual discussion data coming from just three people and the macro-level of what is projected as Kifisia identity in the wider social sphere, I back up my findings from the conversational data about what Kifisia speech style consist of and how it constructs Kifisia identity with data stemming from Kifisia identity representations on the greek popular media (TV series, literary texts and song lyrics).


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Session: Paper session
Identity 3
Friday, April 4, 2008, 13:45-15:15
room: 12