Student Speaker Abstracts – Session 1

Robin Turner, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

“Legitimization of Community Membership in Multilingual Political Campaigning”

Language and linguistic performance indexicalize community membership. The manner
in which politicians present themselves to the public construct and reinforce systems of power and agency that legitimize a candidate’s social position, enabling them to lead a community (Bourdieu, 1991). A candidate’s identity, as a result of linguistic constructions of sameness with their constituents (Bucholtz and Hall, 2004), also constitutes their conformation with political ideologies and national citizenship (Bloomaert and Verschueren, 1992). When building this political persona in a plurilingual society, processes of legitimization and linguistic authentication (Bucholtz, 2003) are made further complex. Therefore, in a stable bilingual city such as Barcelona, how does a candidate’s incorporation of target-language specific phonetic cues aid in the legitimization of their political persona?

This sociophonetic study examines former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls’s
spontaneous Catalan and Spanish speech in claiming his political authority and new national identity. Specifically, this study examines the realization of the [s̺] sibilant in relation to Valls’s process of legitimizing his candidacy for the mayorship of Barcelona. When compared to the [s̺] sibilant in the speech of native speakers of Spanish and Catalan, it is anticipated that this feature – not produced in French, Valls’s dominant language – is produced with a hypercorrected intensity marking phonetic non-nativeness, thereby contradicting his campaign narrative of nativeness in the Catalan- and Spanish-speaking communities.

For the acoustical analysis, tokens of [s̺] in Catalan and Spanish were extracted from a
corpus of sibilants in Valls’s speech in interviews. Following literature on acoustics of voiceless fricatives (Gordan et al. 2002), overall intensity, Center of Gravity, and F2 formants of [s̺] were measured using Praat. These measurements were compared against tokens of [s̺] collected from interviews of other politicians who are native speakers of Catalan (Carles Puigdemont) and Castilian Spanish (Pedro Sánchez). Preliminary comparative quantitative analyses demonstrate that Valls consistently produces [s̺] in a manner that distinguishes his speech from that of native speakers of both languages, supporting the initial hypothesis.

Acoustic data in this study will be explored in the context of linguistic authorization (Bucholtz, 2003) and political identity construction in language choice (Bourdieu, 1991; Gal, 1979). Valls’s non-native regular emphasis of [s̺] and irregular distribution patterns in spontaneous speech contribute to a deauthorization of the membership that he asserts in his campaign narrative emphasizing origins in the Barcelona community despite being a 40-year career politician in France. His inability to produce or distribute the sibilant [s̺] in a manner anticipated by his potential constituents supports deconstruction of the narrative of sameness at the center of his campaign, thereby linguistically marking his status as an outsider to the community he seeks to serve as its mayor.


Scott Kunkel, Indiana University Bloomington

“Attitudes & Language Awareness in a second dialect of French”

Second dialect acquisition (SDA) examines the ways in which geographically mobile speakers adapt their accents when integrated into a new speech community. Although SDA researchers have in recent years carved out a respectable niche in the field of sociolinguistics, few studies have considered the effects of language attitudes on an individual’s acquisition of a second dialect (D2) (Siegel, 2010). How might the attitudes of D2 speakers correspond to their use of D2 features? What might the attitudes expressed by speakers suggest about their awareness of D2 features? This pilot study seeks to address these questions by analyzing the speech of two mobile French speakers having moved from France to Montréal Quebec. Given the relative valorization of European French in comparison to Canadian French, this linguistic situation is a particularly interesting one in which to study the interaction between language attitudes and D2 usage.

Previous results from Omdal (1994) have shown a correlation between positive language attitudes towards a D1 and continued use of that D1. Preliminary results from the present study hint at a more complex situation by showing two cases in which speakers possessing positive attitudes towards their D1 nonetheless show notable phonetic and lexical influence from a D2. Speaker A and Speaker B –having lived in Montréal for five and eighteen years, respectively– each show some use of typified features of Quebec French, a fact acknowledged by both speakers. This influence is most obvious at the discourse level (e.g. frequent use of discourse marker puis, pronounced /pi/), but also in their pronunciation of certain sounds (e.g. laxing of high vowels, diphthongization of the nasal vowel /ɛ̃/).

Interestingly, it would seem that the use of such D2 features can be found even for speakers who hold negative attitudes towards a D2. This is the case for Speaker A who, when interviewed, did not shy away from sharing disparaging views of Quebec French –going so far as to call it ‘bad French’ ­– all the while incorporating in her speech select features of this dialect. This then raises the question of how aware speakers are of the use of D2 variants in their own speech and in the speech of others. When asked in the interview about their knowledge of Quebec French features, the speakers either mentioned or imitated features that did not always correspond to their own D2 production (cf. Preston, 1992). For instance, in one case of imitation, Speaker A pronounced the word frais (in the sentence il fait frais ‘it is chilly’) with an apical trill /r/ (as [frɛ]), a variant which has largely fallen out of usage in Montréal French, but which remains stereotypical of this dialect (Sankoff & Blondeau, 2007). Such metalinguistic commentary would tentatively suggest that speakers need not show full awareness of D2 features in order to incorporate them into their own speech. Additionally, these preliminary results serve to emphasize the complex correspondence between speakers’ language attitudes and their own language use, and perhaps especially in a D2.


Asmaa Taha, University of Mississippi

“The Functions and Uses of the Discourse Marker Bita:ʕ in Cairene Arabic”

Discourse markers are used considerably in Egyptian Arabic, yet there are a few studies examining discourse markers in colloquial Arabic (Ghobrial, 1993; Al-Harahsheh & Kanakri, 2013; Alazzawie, 2015; Hussein, 2016; and Sayed, 2018). To this end, this present study examines the pragmatic and communicative functions of the discourse marker bita:ʕ (thing’ or ‘the property of’) in Egyptian Arabic. It also aims to fill the gap in the research literature concerning discourse markers in Cairene Arabic through focusing on the multiple pragmatic functions and the syntactic behavior of the discourse marker bita:ʕ in Egyptian colloquial Arabic. Thus, this dissertation would contribute to the body of the colloquial Arabic literature discourse analysis, specifically the Cairene dialect. Additionally, it aims to highlight any correlations between the syntactic behavior
of bita:ʕ and its pragmatic functions. It also investigates the morphosyntactic degrammation phenomenon in which bita:ʕ has developed from functioning as a grammatical particle to fully function as a lexical item.

The data of this study is based on rich Egyptian Arabic corpora which includes over a
million words from movies and television transcripts as well as social media communication. The data extracted from the corpora is analyzed using a functional corpus-based software, WordSmith Tools, to find collocations, patterns, and functions of the discourse marker bita:ʕ. The results of this study are interpreted in the light of critical discourse analysis and interactional sociolinguistics in order to better understand the actual uses of Cairene Egyptians, their ideologies, their intended references, and their sociocultural practices of using bita:ʕ in everyday discourse. As hypothesized, the preliminary results of the ongoing study show that bita:ʕ performs several essential pragmatic and communicative functions in Egyptian daily discourse, such as providing
description, expressing affiliation, providing clarification, expressing sarcasm, and expressing tendency. Moreover, the anticipated findings may show a significant correlation between pragmatic function of the discourse marker bita:ʕ and both its collocational and syntactic behaviors.


Brenton Watts, University of Kentucky

“‘The Man, the Moth, the Legend’: Queer Appalachian Mothman Discourse for Transgression, Identification and Radicalization”

Because the intersections between queerness and Appalachianness comprise a largely understudied field of inquiry, academic understandings of both Appalachian and queer language use and identity work stands to benefit from an intersectional approach that takes into account those who align themselves with both Appalachia and a non-normative sexuality or gender identity. This work is of great importance because “queer” and “Appalachian” are both marginalized identities, whose coexistence is doubted or misunderstood by many (Mann 2016). To address this issue, this research uses a multimodal discourse analysis approach to examine social media discourse that aligns folkloric creatures such as the Mothman of West Virginia with queer (and) Appalachian identities (Noriega 2012; Johnstone 2018; Point Pleasant Register 1966; Keel 1975). In doing so, this research finds that digital discourse about Mothman and other folkloric creatures serves as a powerful communicative resource for people of queer (and) Appalachian identities. Furthermore, it shows that language users who are Appalachian and/or queer, and who have access to the extant discourse on the Mothman and other folkloric icons can then draw upon that discourse to do various kinds of identity work. This work often manifests in one of two (non-mutually exclusive) ways: as a reconciliation of queerness and Appalachianness, and as a positive alignment with radical leftist ideologies. In consequence, the recognition and understanding of these discursive practices are of utmost importance for queer Appalachians as a marginalized and understudied community of practice.