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LINGUIST List 23.3620

Wed Aug 29 2012

Diss: Discourse Analysis/ Socioling/ English: Williams: 'Exploring social meanings...'

Editor for this issue: Lili Xia <lxialinguistlist.org>

Date: 29-Aug-2012
From: Cara Penry Williams <carapwunimelb.edu.au>
Subject: Exploring social meanings of variation in Australian English
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Institution: University of Melbourne
Program: School of Languages and Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2011

Author: Cara Penry Williams

Dissertation Title: Exploring social meanings of variation in Australian English

Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis

Subject Language(s): English (eng)

Dissertation Director:
Barbara Kelly
Jean Mulder

Dissertation Abstract:

This thesis reports on a study of social meanings of linguistic variation
in Australian English in the city of Melbourne. It relies on a model of
social meaning which encompasses indexicality, identity, language
ideologies and the linguistic form. To uncover and understand these, it
explores the content and linguistic details of folklinguistic accounts. In
addition to outlining the language ideologies in folklinguistic accounts,
those common in the literature on Australian English are identified.

Analysis draws on close to 24 hours of interview interactions
contextualised with survey data. The interviews were one to one and
designed to elicit folklinguistic beliefs from the 15 young adult
participants. The questionnaire data included self reporting on use,
noticing and social meanings by participants aged 16-19. Responses
from open-ended social evaluation questions on the questionnaire
were analysed and tallied for their comments by descriptive analytical

The thesis centres on 17 types of variation from lexical,
phonological/phonetic, and syntactic and morphosyntactic systems.
Each of the features or groups of features studied is discussed in turn.
Use in the data is described alongside metapragmatic discourse about
the same linguistic features. Interviews and their detailed transcriptions
were subject to discourse analysis informed by social constructionist
ideas, linking details within folklinguistic discussions to social structures
thus examining the formation of the macro at the micro level.

The approach sheds light on variation in contemporary Australian
English and many of its features, as well as folklinguistic beliefs and the
forms of their articulation. It further demonstrates salient local type
identities (Others) and language ideologies pertinent in these

Beyond this, the thesis engages with current ideas in sociolinguistics,
including expanded theorising, and alternative and qualitative methods
for the investigation of variation.

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