Indexicality in variation and interaction

Norma Mendoza-Denton

University of Arizona, United States of America

TP158: Indexicality in Interaction

I address a central but often overlooked feature of linguistic variation: it unfolds in the course of interaction, often in conversational interaction. Most of our models for understanding language variation use pooled language sources, averaging across speakers with similar characteristics, or over many tokens of a linguistic variable for a particular speaker. These models allow us to look at the overall statistical patterns according to researcher categories, and yet data aggregation obscures the implementation of linguistic variables as they unfold moment-to-moment in an interaction. For this reason, sociolinguistic theory has a relatively impoverished understanding of the role of language in interactional synchrony and speaker entrainment.

We understand statistically-robust language patterns as the summation of interactional decision points over the course of many interactions. I will discuss some of the various attempts in the literature to come to terms with modelling variation in interaction, from Condon and Ogston's (1966) early psychologically-oriented work, to the California Style collective's (1993) score setting, to Podesva's (2005) clustering model to Dubois' (2007) syntactic diagraph displays.

We will survey the literature and conduct analysis on phonetic and discourse processes present in data from talk-in-interaction, paying attention to sociophonetics, voice quality, gesture, and breathing, with a particular emphasis on understanding the social as well as the linguistic drives in variation.

Session: Themed Panel (part 2)
Indexicality in Interaction
Thursday, April 3, 2008, 13:45-15:15
room: 05