Stance and ideology in the indexicality of Mexican Spanish youth slang

Mary Bucholtz

University of California, Santa Barbara, USA

TP158: Indexicality in Interaction

As contemporary sociolinguistic research has shown, styles are not directly mapped onto social identities in accordance with the correlationist principles that have dominated traditional variationist sociolinguistics. Rather, this mapping is crucially mediated by indexicality (Silverstein 1976), so that styles are understood not as reflections of pre-existing social identities that inhere in individuals but as projections of culturally available social types or personas that speakers may seek to inhabit, however temporarily, partially, or insincerely, in the course of ongoing linguistic interaction in order to accomplish specific social and interactional goals (e.g., Coupland 1985; Eckert 2003). Indexicality involves two semiotic levels: at the level of direct indexicality, linguistic forms are associated with interactional stances or orientations to ongoing talk, while at the level of indirect indexicality, these stances calcify into more enduring ways of being--that is, styles or identities--which are in turn ideologically associated with particular social groups (Ochs 1992). Following similar research by Kiesling (2004) on the American English slang term dude, the present paper examines one such linguistic form, the Mexican Spanish slang term güey, that has taken on a rich array of social and interactional functions within interaction, only some of which are incorporated into broader ideological representations of its indexicality.

The analysis draws on two types of data. First, videotaped interactional data collected among Mexican immigrant students in a Southern California high school is used to demonstrate how at the level of direct indexicality güey functions as a stance marker indicating cool nonchalance (cf. Kiesling 2004). The analysis then turns to data from popular culture to show how at the level of indirect indexicality güey comes to be ideologically associated with an urban style of youthful heterosexual masculinity. Because this second level is mediated rather than interactional, it involves indexical inversion (Inoue 2004), the process whereby naturalized associations between an indexical form and a sociocultural style are used to promote specific language ideologies. The paper argues that indexical inversion promotes a narrow set of cultural ideologies and places the diverse range of interactional and social meanings of semiotically rich linguistic forms under erasure.

Coupland, Nikolas (1985). “Hark, hark, the lark”: Social motivations for phonological style-shifting. Language and Communication 5(3):153-171.

Eckert, Penelope (2003). The meaning of style. In Wai Fong Chiang, Elaine Chun, Laura Mahalingappa, & Siri Mehus, eds., SALSA XI: Proceedings of the eleventh annual Symposium about Language and Society—Austin (Texas Linguistic Forum 47). Austin: University of Texas Department of Linguistics. 41-53.

Inoue, Miyako (2004). What does language remember?: Indexical inversion and the naturalized history of Japanese women. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 14(1):39-56.

Kiesling, Scott F. (2004). Dude. American Speech 79(3):281-305.

Ochs, Elinor (1992). Indexing gender. In Alessandro Duranti & Charles Goodwin, eds., Rethinking context: Language as an interactive phenomenon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 335-358.

Silverstein, Michael (1976). Shifters, linguistic categories, and cultural description. In Keith H. Basso & Henry A. Selby, eds., Meaning in anthropology. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. 11-55.

Session: Themed Panel (part 1)
Indexicality in Interaction
Thursday, April 3, 2008, 10:30-12:00
room: 05