Stylisation and the figuration of trajectory

Ben Rampton

King's College London, UK

WS136: Trajectories of learning in/across contexts of learning

This paper focuses on the way in which individuals and groups use ideologically marked varieties to navigate both personal and collective trajectories of change, and it draws on the ethnographic and micro-interactional analysis of two substantial datasets, one from the south Midlands of England and the other from London. The first set of data was recorded in the 1980s, and it looks at how the collective use of two different ethno-linguistic varieties in the local speech economy (Indian English and Creole) symbolically marks out an historical path from past to future in which different migrant groups are inserted into the British working class, reconstituting it in ways that are now very extensively reflected in popular culture (Rampton 2005:71-2). In the second dataset (from London in the 1990s), social class positioning in multi-ethnic settings is also central, but here the analysis moves inside school to focus on the ways in which two traditional varieties, posh and Cockney, get stylized in ways that register the different – higher/lower – educational trajectories of individuals (Rampton 2006:312-7).

In both datasets, the two focal varieties operate as contrastive pairs (Creole vs Asian English, Cockney vs posh; cf Irvine 2001 & Parkin 1977), with indexical meaning potentials initially shaped by processes of evaluation that reach far beyond the fieldsites. But in each case, speakers carry the traces of these contrastive varieties in their own routine vernacular English, and in these stylizations of what amount to ‘internally persuasive discourses’, we can see both individual and group processes of ‘ideological development’ within British class structure, ideological development being defined by Bakhtin as the ‘intense struggle within us for hegemony among various available verbal and ideological points of view, approaches, directions and values’ (1981:345-6).

Bakhtin, M. 1981. The Dialogic Imagination. Austin: Texas University Press.

Irvine, J. 2001. ‘Style’ as distinctiveness: The culture and ideology of linguistic differentiation. In P. Eckert & J. Rickford (eds) Style and Sociolinguistic Variation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 21-43

Parkin, D. (1977) ‘Emergent and Stabilised Multilingualism: Polyethnic Peer Groups in Urban Kenya’, in H. Giles (ed.) Language, Ethnicity and Intergroup Relations, New York: Academic Press.

Rampton, B. 2005. Crossing: Language & Ethnicity among Adolescents. 2nd Edition. Manchester: St Jerome Press.

Rampton, B. 2006. Language in Late Modernity: Interaction in an Urban School. Cambridge: CUP

Session: Workshop (part 1)
Trajectories of learning in/across contexts of learning
Friday, April 4, 2008, 13:45-15:15
room: 04