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Children's linguistic choices: Audience design and societal norms

  • Valerie Youssef (a1)

To reexamine the explanation of stylistic variation given by Bell 1984, this article considers Bell's audience design factors in relation to those associated with the domains described by Fishman 1972. Data collected longitudinally from three preschool children in the Trinidad sociolinguistic complex were examined for variation in production of Trinidad Creole and Standard English verb forms. All three children exhibited stylistic variation; but the nature of the variation shed further light on audience design, since audience factors sometimes remained constant, while speech patterns exhibited variation. It appears that the demands of the wider Trinidadian society (in particular for children), along with the education system, interact with familial demands to impose social/psychological constraints which impinge on and modify audience design. In addition, an implicational scaling of response to addressee, auditor, overhearer, and eavesdropper cannot be unequivocally adopted, since response to audience may vary according to the personal significance which individuals in a given setting have for the child-speaker. (Child language acquisition, creole studies, Trinidad)

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Language in Society
  • ISSN: 0047-4045
  • EISSN: 1469-8013
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