Whose Social Meaning? Age and the Indexical Field: Evidence from Perception and Conversational Style in Manchester
The Economic and Social Research Council
Amount of Award
Summary of Project
This project investigates a selection of sociolinguistic variables in Manchester English. It explores their social meanings in particular in relation to the factor of age. Perception tests and focus groups will be used to uncover social meanings associated with variation in the t-sound in words like WHAT, the th-sound in words like THINK, the vowel in words like STRUT, the word ending –ING and the final vowel in words like CITY. Social meanings will shed light on how these variables are used by different age groups in Manchester. The perception and focus group data will then be complemented by conversational data in order to construct indexical fields for the variables under investigation. Indexical fields are visual representations of potential social meanings of variable features. They can be used to provide a summative explanation for age-related and stylistic variation in Manchester. This study seeks to answer the following questions:
1. What are the potential social meanings of a set of frequently occurring non-standard and standard linguistic features in Manchester and, by extension, what do their indexical fields look like?
2. How does age influence the composition of indexical fields?
Publications and other outputs
Project findings will be disseminated through conference presentations, two journal articles, a press release and a website. The project team will also produce an information pack and organize a lecture series providing a general contribution toward raising awareness of the social meaning of vernacular variants and their differing interpretation by various groups of people.