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9 - Features, Meanings, and Indexical Fields

from Part II - The Structure of Social Meaning

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 July 2021

Lauren Hall-Lew
University of Edinburgh
Emma Moore
University of Sheffield
Robert J. Podesva
Stanford University, California
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The chapter discusses the indexical field in the light of results from a series of listener-experiments. It is a well-established finding that the same linguistic variant may be associated with different indexical features. In three studies focusing primarily on the social meanings associated with fronted (s) in different styles of Copenhagen Danish, we have used the matched-guise technique to investigate how the social meaning ascribed by listeners to a specific linguistic variant is influenced by (1) the prosodic context in which it occurs, (2) the co-occurrence of other segmental features in the stream of speech, and (3) the gender of the speaker. The three experiments illustrate different aspects of the indexicality of fronted (s) in Copenhagen Danish, and they are designed to highlight how different social meanings are evoked, and how the indexicalities of different features influence each other. We show how ascription of indexical value to linguistic variation is a dynamic process, and we argue that the concept of the indexical field can help us understand the way meaning-making takes place, not only in experiments like these, but also in everyday interaction.

Social Meaning and Linguistic Variation
Theorizing the Third Wave
, pp. 203 - 221
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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