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Variants like negative concord may be highly stigmatised because they have obvious standard alternatives in writing. But what about syntactic features that only ever occur in spoken discourse? One example of a variant that meets this criteria is right dislocation: this refers to the occurrence of a clause followed by a noun phrase or pronoun tag which is co-referential with the preceding subject or object pronoun; for instance, ’She’s lovely, her mum’ or ’I’ve not got an accent, me’. The Midlan High data shows that, unlike negative concord, right dislocation is used by all communities of practice, but there are differences in its frequency of use and, particularly, in the precise formulations of right dislocation used by different communities of practice. These differences reflect how speakers make social moves by exploiting the links between precise syntactic configuration and possible meanings. Significantly, this chapter suggests that the frequency with which certain social groups use particular syntactic constructions is a direct consequence of the need or willingness to express the pragmatic meaning the construction encodes.
Syntactic variants are contentful: they don’t just differ by their syntactic structure, they also differ by their lexical content and, in speech, by their phonetic content. Do these different levels of linguistic architecture work individually or synergistically to create social meaning? By examining tag question constructions (like ’He were bad, though, weren’t he?’), this chapter shows how grammatical environment can work synergistically with other levels of linguistic architecture – including phonetics – to create social meaning. In modelling how to examine all of the linguistic characteristics of a syntactic item, this chapter shows how we might better integrate the study of syntactic variation into a wider understanding of the social meaning of language more generally. It also explores whether the universality of syntactic variables like tag questions (i.e., variables that everyone uses to some extent to express interactional positioning) means that they do not acquire the types of social meanings found for other linguistic variables.
Sound empirical analysis draws upon (and refines) theories about a particular set of concepts, and understanding the social meaning of grammatical variation requires that we study language as it relates to social practice and forms of social engagement. Chapter 3 interrogates how sociolinguists study social meaning and the processes involved in meaning making. It explains the concepts that we need to know to understand how social meaning develops (the sign, style, persona, social type, indexicality, character type, stance, index, icon, sound symbolism, qualia, rhematisation, indexical field, stance accretion, erasure, axis of differentiation, and enregisterment), providing detailed exemplification from the Midlan High dataset. The chapter also considers the techniques required to understand how these concepts operate (experimental perception studies, ethnography, pragmatic analysis). Given that social meaning may interact with pragmatics, this chapter also highlights the need to combine research on the pragmatics of spoken language with variationist work on the social embedding and social distribution of linguistic variables.
What does it mean to view grammar as a fluid, flexible social resource? For linguists, it requires attending to the pragmatic consequences of syntactic items being structured in particular ways whilst accounting for any indexical links that grammatical variants have to social types. For those interested in educational issues, it means conceptualising grammar, not as rigid and inflexible, but as a semiotic resource for meaning-making. This book has demonstrated that the intertwined nature of language and persona is perhaps the most powerful constraint on language use in the school years. Consequently, by focusing on the social meaning of grammar we would work with children’s experiences, rather than against them. What might happen if children are encouraged to view their syntactic variability as a linguistic skill, rather than as something to be overcome in favour of linguistically uniform ‘standards’? Whilst it is well established that misconceptions about social class groups and their language varieties perpetuate social inequalities, this chapter also argues that misconceptions about how grammar functions also serve to disadvantage children by underestimating their linguistic skills.
Does the iconic status of a highly stigmatised linguistic variant like negative concord (e.g., I didn’t do nothing) more tightly constrain the social meanings associated with it? In exploring how we infer social meaning about negative concord, this chapter reveals that its precise syntactic configuration (the presence of two negative elements - n’t and nothing in the example above) may convey pragmatic meaning associated with emphasis, stress, surprise or remarkability. However, its highly stigmatised status constrains the extent to which these subtle meanings are perceived. For most of the young people at Midlan high, its stigmatised social associations are antithetical to their persona style and this inhibits their use of negative concord in any circumstances. However, some, in particular, the Townies, exploit both the pragmatic and social functions of negative concord to enrich the social meaning of their utterances. Importantly, this chapter emphasises how different speakers engage differently with the same grammatical variable, arguing that indexical fields need to reflect a range of social evaluations.
The study of grammatical variation is crucial to understanding how language is used to undertake social action. To explore the relationship between grammar and social life, we need to consider what people have learnt about language and how they employ that learning to make meaning in the world. In particular, this chapter considers how grammatical variation is used to infer things about a speaker’s social background, whilst also potentially communicating more subtle information about a speaker’s preferences, their alignment as to what they are saying, and their feelings are about who they are saying it to. This chapter also explores the types of grammatical variation (morphophonemic, morpholexical, morphosyntactic, syntactic) studied by sociolinguists and the extent to which these fit with the standard notion of the ‘linguistic variable’. It argues that the ability for syntactic constructions to encode pragmatic meaning by virtue of their grammatical configuration makes them quite different from phonological variants, and the focus on the latter in sociolinguistics has hindered our understanding of the relationship between grammatical variation and social meaning.
This chapter presents a self-contained ethnography of twenty-seven girls at a high school in Bolton, in the north-west of England. The setting of the school, Midlan High, is contextualised socially and geographically and the social groups within the school are described. The ethnography identifies four communities of practice in the school and these are described in detail. The communities of practice include the elitist and trendy pro-school Eden Village clique; the sensible, pragmatic and pro-school Geeks; the independent, cool, and somewhat anti-school Populars; and the most rebellious and anti-school group, the Townies. In articulating the process of ethnography, the chapter also reflects upon the fieldwork process, providing a frank and honest account of the intricacies of doing ethnography within an educational context.
How stylistically sophisticated can the use of morpholexical/morphosyntactic variation be? By focusing on the range of social meanings that can be articulated by ‘levelled were’ (e.g., she were funny) – a regionally restricted variant of the type most frequently studied in sociolinguistics – this chapter explores the extent to which social meanings are fixed by a variant’s enduring association with place. It first considers how children acquire linguistic variation and the extent to which this process interacts with their ability to vary grammatical items stylistically. The analysis then explores how levelled were patterns by social class, parental place of birth, and community of practice at Midlan High. It provides evidence that all of these factors play a role in the use of levelled were, but that the most robust correlation is with community of practice. This data is used to argue that grammatical variants can mark distinctive social styles and personas, and that speakers can adapt their use of variation providing that (i) they have access to a range of variants, and (ii) that they are motivated to use them by virtue of its utility to them as a social symbol.
How do we adapt our grammar to communicate social detail? Do all working class people have a local dialect or are we free to use language in ways that transcend our place in the social hierarchy? Seeking to answer these questions, this pioneering book is the first to exclusively and extensively address the relationship between social meaning and grammatical variation. It demonstrates how we use grammar to communicate alignments and stances and to construct our social style or social identity. Based on an ethnographic study of high school girls in Northern England, it also uses the author's own experiences as a working-class student, to argue for change in how we conceive of grammar and how grammar is taught in schools. Lively and engaging real life examples from the study are included throughout, bringing to life new contributions to debates in variationist sociolinguistic and linguistic anthropology.
Our Care Improvement System is an integrated quality and performance system designed to develop co-ordinated approach to managing performance at all levels of the organisation, ensuring everything we do is aligned to achieving our goals set out in our Trust strategy. The aim of this programme is to help the team move away from typical firefighting routines, towards a more structured routine of problem solving, applying quality improvement tools and methodology.
Five members of multidisciplinary team (MDT) in a Lewisham Community Mental Health Team were chosen as the core working team. They underwent four-month training programme which was one day per month plus weekly team coaching sessions from the Trust's Quality Improvement lead. One targeted measure was identified. This was to focus on improving patient discharges for more manageable caseloads, and ultimately provide a better staff and patient experience. A3 methodology was adopted to provide a structured framework for thinking through the problem. This included: problem statement, current situation, aims statement, root cause analysis, change ideas, actions, progress and benefits, and insights. In parallel, daily improvement huddles (15-minute long team meetings) were adopted to enable the team to problem solve other identified improvement work. The huddles follow a set structure of reviewing work in progress, new improvement opportunities, work that needs to be escalated and celebrated. This work was gradually widened to include the entire team.
The team's caseload was observed to be continuously going up from 200 in September 2021 to 264 in October 2022. We aimed to increase the number of safe discharges and to sustain a steady team caseload. Root cause analysis utilising a fishbone diagram identified barriers to discharge, such as lack of MDT approach and structure to discharge planning. Change ideas included creation of standard work, describing how an MDT discharge meeting would work. Actions were agreed to implement structured weekly MDT discharge meetings where four cases are discussed and safe discharge plans agreed, sharing responsibility for discharge decision. This has allowed us to reduce and maintain a steady caseload with 258 patients in January 2023.
Implementing Our Care Improvement System has not only provided a structure to our improvement work and improved our caseload but has also consolidated our team in working together for a common goal. We have naturally implemented structure to all other team meetings, which have now become more focused and productive, making our team a more rewarding place to work.
Predeath grief conceptualizes complex feelings of loss experienced for someone who is still living and is linked to poor emotional well-being. The Road Less Travelled program aimed to help carers of people with rarer dementias identify and process predeath grief. This study evaluated the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary effectiveness of this program.
Pre–post interventional mixed methods study.
Online videoconference group program for carers across the UK held in 2021.
Nine family carers of someone living with a rare form of dementia. Eight were female and one male (mean age 58) with two facilitators.
The Road Less Travelled is an online, facilitated, group-based program that aims to help carers of people with rarer dementias to explore and accept feelings of grief and loss. It involved six fortnightly 2-hour sessions.
We collected measures for a range of well-being outcomes at baseline (T1), post-intervention (T2), and 3 months post-intervention (T3). We conducted interviews with participants and facilitators at T2.
Participant attendance was 98% across all sessions. Findings from the semistructured interviews supported the acceptability of the program and identified improvements in carer well-being. Trends in the outcome measures suggested an improvement in quality of life and a reduction in depression.
The program was feasible to conduct and acceptable to participants. Qualitative reports and high attendance suggest perceived benefits to carers, including increased acceptance of grief, and support the need for a larger-scale pilot study to determine effectiveness.