“My Vocal Cords are Made of Tweed”: Style-Shifting as Speaker Design

  • Melissa Geere
  • Joy Everett
  • Alasdair MacLeod
Keywords: style shifting, intraspeaker variation, sociophonetics


Intraspeaker variation is evaluated in terms of speaker design in a number of studies (Coupland 1985, Schilling-Estes 1998, Podesva 2008). This study explores possible motives for variation from a speaker design perspective through the analysis of three phonetic variables with differing social status. The variables occur in the speech of Stephen Fry, an intellectual whose public identity is closely linked with his Received Pronunciation (RP) speech. Fry uses more non-standard forms in contexts where his identity is more directly relevant, suggesting his desire to “accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative” associations of the RP register (Meyerhoff 2011:28). However not all the data fit this pattern, demonstrating the need for a broad model of speaker design incorporating multiple motives for style-shifting. It is proposed that the use of linguistic variables with differing social evaluation can give insight into prioritisation of speaker motives in future speaker-centred studies.


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