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On dialect spelling, social practice and sociolinguistic salience

Date: 9 November 2010 Time: 1.00 pm -

Venue: Meeting room 7 (C89) County South

On dialect spelling, social practice and sociolinguistic salience

Kevin Watson, Lancaster University

Patrick Honeybone, University of Edinburgh


This talk reports on a recent investigation into a phenomenon in which non-standard spelling is common in professionally produced, published English. Specifically, we discuss a literary genre - which we label contemporary humorous localized dialect literature (CHLDL) - in which attempts are made at using semi-phonetic spellings to represent non-standard varieties of English in print. There has been little systematic linguistic investigation of this particular genre of dialect writing, despite the fact that it represents an authentic linguistic and cultural phenomenon which is very popular throughout Britain and the United States. We argue that if orthography is conceived as a social practice in which spelling choices are the result of an author's meaningful decisions (cf Sebba 2007, 2009), then any respellings have the potential to shed light on those linguistic features which have become 'enregistered' in a given variety (Agha 2003). With this view, avenues are opened up which allow a range of issues to be considered, such as the notion of sociolinguistic salience, and in particular how linguists can tap into and explore the relative salience of certain linguistic variables. We explore these avenues by investigating a small, newly compiled corpus of 'folk dictionaries', each of which attempts to represent the variety of English spoken in Liverpool, in the north-west of England.

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Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Organising departments and research centres: Lancaster Literacy Research Centre, Linguistics and English Language


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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Lancaster University
Lancaster LA1 4YD
United Kingdom

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