Stylistic Pattern: Language and Style
(Source: Trudgill 1974: 92)
When we take a closer look at class stratification, we see that linguistic variables are usually not only correlated with ‘class’ (socioeconomic status) but also with ‘style’. Typical graphic representations of social stratification, therefore, show the distribution of variants by the factors class and style as illustrated in the figure above. It does not only represent social stratification but also a characteristic pattern of stylistic stratification.
There is a relationship between the formality of speech style and the use of a particular speech variety:
- Within all social classes the use of standard forms of speech (prestige-varieties) increases with the formality of the speech style.
- Within all social classes the use of non-standard forms of speech (non-prestige varieties) increases with the informality of the speech style.
- With regard to the use of prestige varieties, the lower classes (socio-economically disadvantaged groups of speakers) always score lower than the higher classes (socio-economically advantaged groups of speakers) in all styles of speech (-> exception: hypercorrection).
In his surveys of New York City speech patterns, Labov originally found different speech styles distinguishable by their degree of formality on the basis of an informant’s grade of self-monitoring. This is the informant’s grade of attention to his or her own linguistic performance. The sociolinguistic interview is the basic tool for gathering language data which is then analyzed in the studies. The more attention a speaker pays to his or her speech, the more frequently he or she will apply standard or prestige varieties. This means that his or her speech will become more formal in character. The less attention a speaker pays to his or her speech, the more frequently he or she will use non-standard or non-prestige varieties. This means that his or her speech will be more informal in character.
The styles, in the order of increasing formality, were labelled: casual speech/style (CS), careful speech, reading style/reading passage style (RPS), word lists/word list style (WLS), and minimal pairs. Trudgill (1974) used formal style (FS) instead of careful speech in his studies of Norwich speech patterns.