WP79 Lectal focusing in interaction: A new methodology for the study of superdiverse speech

Sharma & Rampton
Collection: Key word


Variationist analysis is sometimes used to infer social meanings from overall rates of use of a given variant. In data from the Punjabi London community, we find that older and younger British Asian men have similar rates of use of certain ethnically-marked and class variants. We develop a new metric to assess whether it is appropriate to assume that these shared rates imply shared ethnic identity or class meanings. We use the metric to assess whether the use of such variants by sample individuals is more automated (speech accommodation) or more agentive (acts of identity). Our measure of lectal focusing in interaction (LFI) tracks the extent to which, during a single interaction, an individual shifts towards ?purer? versions of one or another style, in the present case Standard British English, Vernacular London English, and Indian English. The results show that the older British Asian men have a high degree of LFI, shifting sometimes dramatically in interactions and achieving clearly strategic, interactionally-tuned ends with their use of variants. Younger British Asian men show less LFI, suggesting a more broad group indexical meaning and indicating change over time despite retention of the same linguistic forms across generations.? The exploratory LFI measure brings interactional analysis to bear on questions of language change; in particular, it has the potential to clarify the causes, rate, and direction of change in a given community.