Stance: Sociolinguistic Perspectives

Stance: Sociolinguistic Perspectives

Stance: Sociolinguistic Perspectives

Stance: Sociolinguistic Perspectives


All communication involves acts of stance, in which speakers take up positions vis- -vis the expressive, referential, interactional and social implications of their speech. This book brings together contributions in a new and dynamic current of academic explorations of stancetaking as a sociolinguistic phenomenon. Drawing on data from such diverse contexts as advertising, tourism, historical texts, naturally occurring conversation, classroom interaction and interviews, leading authors in the field of sociolinguistics in this volume explore how linguistic stancetaking is implicated in the representation of self, personal style and acts of stylization, and self- and other-positioning. The analyses also focus on how speakers deploy and take up stances vis-a-vis sociolinguistic variables and the critical role of stance in the processes of indexicalization: how linguistic forms come to be associated with social categories and meanings. In doing so, many of the authors address critical issues of power and social reproduction, examining how stance is implicated in the production, reproduction and potential change of social and linguistic hierarchies and ideologies. This volume maps out the terrain of existing sociolinguistic and linguistic anthropological research on stance, synthesizes how it relates to existing theoretical orientations, and identifies a framework for future research.


Alexandra Jaffe

This volume is a sociolinguistic exploration of one of the fundamental properties of communication: stancetaking. Stancetaking—taking up a position with respect to the form or the content of one’s utterance—is central because speaker positionality is built into the act of communication. Although some forms of speech and writing are more stance-saturated than others, there is no such thing as a completely neutral position vis-à-vis one’s linguistic productions, because neutrality is itself a stance. To take a simple example, when we choose a verb of saying to introduce speech represented as another’s, our choices entail stances toward that speech, from neutrality (“said”) to doubt (“alleged”); every choice is defined in contrast to other semantic options. By the same token, speech cannot be affectively neutral; we can indeed convey a stance of affective neutrality, but it will of necessity be read in relation to other possible emotional orientations we could have displayed.

Epistemic and affective stances are both socially situated and socially consequential, as will be explored below. Speech is always produced and interpreted within a sociolinguistic matrix: that is, speakers make sociolinguistically inflected choices and display orientations to the sociolinguistic meanings associated with forms of speech. Thus sociolinguistics has much to offer to the study of stancetaking.

The study of stance in the contemporary literature is wide-ranging and quite heterogeneous (see Englebretson 2007), and has a robust history in a number of analytic traditions, ranging from corpus-linguistic treatments of authorial stance as connected to particular academic genres, to critical discourse analyses of embedded stances in political, cultural, and persuasive texts, to studies of stancetaking as an interactional and discursive phenomenon, to the analysis of stance-saturated linguistic forms as they are used to reproduce (or challenge) social, political, and moral hierarchies in different cultural contexts. the aim of this volume is to map out the sociolinguistics of stance, bringing together analyses that allow us to explore both what the study of stance has to offer sociolinguistic theory, and to define the territory occupied by . . .

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