From speech to speaking styles

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4 Citations (Scopus)


"Langue" is the systematic and social part of "langage" while "parole" is its unpatterned and individual aspect. This Saussurean tenet was objected by sociolinguists insofar as they uncovered the patterned rule-governed character of speech, understood as a social event (Hymes, 1962; Gumperz, 1970, 1971), and insofar as they showed up a methodological contradiction known as the "Saussurean paradox" (Labov, 1970, 1972). These authors furnished some notions in order to approach socio-symbolic speech variation: that of "ways of speaking", "natural varieties" and "styles", respectively. The former (Hymes-Gumperz's) approach displaces the object of description from speech itself towards interaction and the communicative event. The latter (Labov's) holds a contextualized view of speech and looks for meaningful correlations between sound pattern features and independently defined macrosociological variables. The former is to be preferred when studying social behaviour patterns; the latter may be more suited to defining styles inherently. The notion of a sociolinguistic variable allows us to define them as specific co-occurrence patterns of variables. While some sociolinguists concentrate on the analysis of segmental variables, phoneticians concerned with speaking styles emphasize suprasegmental variables. It is suggested that this difference in approach may reflect a difference in the social meaning conveyed by variables. Beyond description, it is proposed the search for an explanatory principle of style variation in terms of adaptive variability. © 1992.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-335
JournalSpeech Communication
Issue number4-5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1992


  • methodology
  • sociolinguistics
  • Speaking styles

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