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7 - Sociolinguistic Signs as Cognitive Representations

from Part II - The Structure of Social Meaning

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 July 2021

Lauren Hall-Lew
Affiliation:
University of Edinburgh
Emma Moore
Affiliation:
University of Sheffield
Robert J. Podesva
Affiliation:
Stanford University, California
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Summary

The third-wave approach treats linguistic variation as a semiotic system, with linguistic forms serving as components of sociolinguistic signs. In Peirce’s semiotic, a critical part of the sign is the interpretant, crucial to theories of indexicality that no sign exists independently of its construal. This chapter explores framing the interpretant as the cognitive processes involved in a listener’s recognition of a form-meaning link, and as the resulting mental representation of that link. A recognition memory paradigm tested the association between a Business Professional persona and backed TRAP vowels. Some participants were told the speaker was a BP and some were told nothing. Some listeners heard a linguistic variant congruent with the persona (backed TRAP), while others heard an incongruent variant (fronted TRAP). Listeners accurately remembered a word better when persona and linguistic feature were congruent, and were also more likely to falsely remember sociolinguistically congruent words. This suggests that a speaker’s social persona shapes how we remember – and mis-remember – a feature of that speaker’s linguistic style in ways that conform to our ideological expectations.

Type
Chapter
Information
Social Meaning and Linguistic Variation
Theorizing the Third Wave
, pp. 153 - 175
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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