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Language style as audience design*

  • Allan Bell (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 18 December 2008

The style dimension of language variation has not been adequately explained in sociolinguistic theory. Stylistic or intraspeaker variation derives from and mirrors interspeaker variation. Style is essentially speakers' response to their audience. In audience design, speakers accommodate primarily to their addressee. Third persons – auditors and overhearers – affect style to a lesser but regular degree. Audience design also accounts for bilingual or bidialectal code choices. Nonaudience factors like topic and setting derive their effect by association with addressee types. These style shifts are mainly responsive – caused by a situational change. Speakers can also use style as initiative, to redefine the existing situation. Initiative style is primarily referee design: divergence from the addressee and towards an absent reference group. Referee design is especially prevalent in mass communication. (Sociolinguistic variation, code-switching. bilingualism, accommodation theory, ethnography of communication, mass communication)

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Language in Society
  • ISSN: 0047-4045
  • EISSN: 1469-8013
  • URL: /core/journals/language-in-society
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