Deconstructing Martha Stewart’s style

19 11 2009

Lovely paper by Jennifer Sclafani in the latest issue of the Journal of Sociolinguistics. Sclafani investigates “parodies of a linguistic style that has been attributed to the ideological construct of the ‘Good Woman’ (Eckert 2004), as it is used by lifestyle entrepreneur Martha Stewart” (2009: 615).

Using Lakoff’s list speech elements typical of Woman’s Language (which I am reproducing below, just for the fun of it), Sclafani illustrates how Martha Stewart parodies exploit these features to expose Martha Stewart’s ‘Bad Woman’ alter ego.

1. lexical items related specifically to women’s interests (e.g. dollop, mandolin);
2. hedges (you could, if you like);
3. hypercorrect grammar (British pronunciation of herb with initial /h/ aspirated intervocalic /t/);
4. superpolite forms (double-thanking guests, i.e. ‘thank you, thank you very much’);
5. no joking;
6. speaking in italics (i.e. using emphatic stress);
7. the use of intensive ‘so’ (these are so tasty);
8. empty adjectives (gorgeous, utterly fantastic);
9. wider intonation range; and
10. question intonation in declaratives.

(Sclafani 2009: 617)

Sclafani, Jennifer (2009). Martha Stewart behaving Badly: Parody and the symbolic meaning of style. Journal of Sociolinguistics 13 (5): 613-633.

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Sociolinguistics is on the move

14 10 2009

Interesting blog post by Ingrid Piller over at languageonthemove.com. Taking a page from William Merrin‘s position paper, Piller lists five arguments why sociolinguistics needs to be reframed. I am reproducing these arguments here and adding a sixth.

# 1. Multilingualism is normal
# 2. Language is always embodied in communication
# 3. The native speaker is dead
# 4. A language with a name is an idea not a fact
# 5. “All uses of language are equal” – Not!

#6. Process, process, process (and context)

For too long, we’ve studied language forms (T/V, anyone?). Studying language-in-society should be about processes of contextualization. If we take a page from linguistic anthropology, I believe we have some exciting theoretical concepts for doing just that, to name but three: Silverstein’s indexical order, Bauman & Briggs’ entextualization, Bucholtz & Hall’s tactics of intersubjectivity.