WP49 Style contrasts and the figuration of trajectory.

Collection: Key word


This paper focuses on the English of adolescents in multi-ethnic peer-groups in Britain in the 1980s and 1990s, and examines two binary style contrasts ? first, the very well-established contrast between posh and Cockney, and second, a much more emergent dichotomy involving Creole and Asian English. These style contrasts thematised different trajectories through social space. Creole/Asian English polarization facilitated the formation of new solidarities among ethnic groups brought together in a politically charged context of labour migration, while the posh/Cockney binary mapped the position and progress of individuals in the processes of class stratification central to school. Ultimately, though, they were related: in crucial ways, the contrastive representations of ethnicity projected in the Creole/Asian English were shaped by the hegemonic high/low class binary underpinning posh/Cockney.
The paper?s linguistic descriptions include habitual/tacit phonological style-shifting, but concentrate on more agentive practices of exaggerated stylisation. Through stylisation, adolescents (a) spotlighted particular elements in their cultural and linguistic environment, (b) saw/set these elements in contrastive pairs, and (c) produced these elements in situated interaction, sometimes affiliating themselves with the imagery evoked, sometimes using it ironically, and sometimes using it without any obvious direction of alignment. Overall, we can see stylisation articulating contrasts within English that address two central axes in the organisation of British society ? on a ?horizontal? ethnic axis, the movement from outside Britain in, and then once inside, a ?vertical? class axis up/down, high/low.