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Styling in a Language Learned Later in Life

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This paper analyses the styles of English produced by an adult migrant who learnt the language later in life, approaching these as quantitative style-shifting and discursive stylisation. After defining style and the procedures needed to justify the term ‘L2’, the paper describes the focal informant’s diasporic experience in London, and then shows how his style-shifting and some of his L2 speech variants chime with now well-established local patterns. It then turns to stylisation in the performance of character speech in narrative, exploring the complex and not always effective relationship between linguistic form, discursive context and socio-indexical resonance in Mandeep’s performance of Anglo vs Indian and then vernacular Anglo. The paper concludes with a characterisation of Mandeep’s participation in the London sociolinguistic economy, and comments on linguistic anthropology’s potential value to studies of L2 style. Overall, it seeks to navigate a route between a priori assumptions about linguistic deficiency in SLA on the one hand, and romantic celebrations of difference in sociolinguistics on the other.


Professor Ben Rampton is Professor of Applied and Socio-Linguistics in the Department of Education and Professional Studies, King’s College London. He is a fellow of Academy of Social Science and the founding convener of UK Linguistic Ethnography Forum. His research involves ethnographic and interactional discourse analysis, cross-referring to work in anthropology, sociology and cultural studies. His publications cover language, urban multilingualism, youth, popular culture, ethnicities, class, language education and classroom discourse. He is currently involved in a Leverhulme Trust research project ‘Crossing languages and borders: intercultural language education in a conflict-ridden context’ and an ESRC project on language, class and education.

This talk is part of the Second Language Education Group series.

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