Style dominance: Attention, audience, and the ‘real me’
Language in Society
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Social constructivist approaches to style have moved away from the cognitive asymmetry that underpinned Labov’s original attention-to-speech model, namely that a first-learned vernacular often has cognitive primacy. This study explores the interplay of cognitive and interactional effects in style variation. It reports on three related dynamics of style variation in one individual—Fareed Zakaria, an Indian-American media personality. First, we see Zakaria’s robust English bilectalism with American and Indian audiences. This strong audience effect is complicated by the second finding, which points to asymmetric style dominance in Zakaria’s first-learned Indian style, which he subtly defaults to regardless of audience when his attention is diverted by such tasks as quickly counter-arguing or inserting parenthetical information. The third part relates style dominance to agency: In a reflexive process of biographical indexicality, speakers such as Zakaria may exploit their personal style biography and use their vernacular to perform no-nonsense ‘real me’ stances in interaction.
- Linguistics