Published online by Cambridge University Press: 30 July 2021
Third wave treats linguistic variation as “a social semiotic system” (Eckert 2012, 94) and examines the emergence of social meaning in the stylistic enactment of social personae (Eckert 2012 and 2016). This chapter further develops this emergent perspective on sociolinguist variation. Drawing on my research on Cosmopolitan Mandarin in China, I treat linguistic innovation and change as emergent stylistic resources that create meanings about (new) social distinction. I combine quantitative analysis of production data with examination of metapragmatic discourse to shed light on the processes through which the social meanings of this innovative linguistic style emerge. The analyses reveal a contested indexical field mediated by changing ideologies about social and linguistic normativity and authenticity. This chapter shows that Cosmopolitan Mandarin participates in a broader sociopolitical process of the transformation of stylistic regimes in China.