Sociolinguistics


Phonological Markers

Phonological markers are generally found in spoken registers. Usually, communicatively competent speakers can adapt their pronunciation of certain words to the character of the speech situation they are in, i.e. whether they perceive the situation to be rather formal or informal. That is, we can expect phonological variation in different speech situations.

The stylistic pattern shows that a speakerís grade of self-monitoring increases with formal styles of speech and decreases respectively with less formal speech styles. This has an effect on the linguistic variant that is applied, i.e. if it is either prestigious or non-prestigious. The sociolinguistic interview is a technique which aims at eliciting speech styles differing in their grade of formality. The interviewer designs the speech situation whose overall degree of formality changes with the different linguistic tasks that are performed by the informant in the interview. The different speech styles - casual style, careful speech, reading style, word lists and minimal pairs - represent different types of speech situations. With increasing formality of speech style a speaker can be expected to use varieties with higher prestige. This is connected to his or her increased attention to his or her own linguistic performance. Conversely, decreasing formality of speech style leads to the application of more phonological non-prestige varieties as a result of this speakerís decreased attention to his or her linguistic performance. The stylistic pattern revealed in the studies by William Labov and Peter Trudgill shows this for the case of the variable (ng).

Summing up, we can say that spoken registers appropriate for use in particular types of speech situations differ in their grade of formality. They will feature phonological markers Ė prestige or non-prestige varieties - which define them as formal or informal spoken registers and characterize them as appropriate for use in more formal or informal communicative contexts.