Fresa, Naco, or Neither?: The Interaction between Language and Visual Information: Rebeca Martínez Gómez
Rebeca is a PhD student in the Department of Linguistics at UNM.
This research was made possible in part by funding from the Latin American & Iberian Institute and Tinker Foundation Field Research Grant (FRG). For more information about the FRG, please visit the LAII website.
It is well known that the way you speak –the way you pronounce, the words you use– shows your identity –age, class, gender. We all use language to represent ourselves to others as we want them to perceive us. Studies in sociolinguistics have shown that when we are trying to portray ourselves in certain ways, we are even able to produce the sounds that we associate with the type of person that we, consciously or unconsciously, think has that characteristic. For example, if we think that relaxed people “drop their G’s,” we would probably pronounce running as runnin’ in a situation when we want to be perceived as relaxed. This social evaluation that certain forms of language have is known in linguistics as the social meaning (Coupland 2007).
Social meaning has been studied first in terms of what linguistic forms people produce to come across in a certain way (e.g., Eckert 1989, Mendoza Denton 2008, Labov 1972) and second in how people perceive the use of some linguistic forms (e.g., Campbell-Kibler 2010, Podesva et al. to appear). These studies show that the social meanings that linguistic forms gain are determined by several factors. For example, group membership of the speaker (Johnstone & Kiesling 2008), linguistic style in which a form is embedded (Eckert 2008), the level of awareness of the form (Labov 1972), or our general knowledge about a person (Podesva et al. to appear) might affect the social meaning of a linguistic form. One thing is clear so far: The social meaning(s) that a linguistic form can take is not fixed; there are dimensions of possible meanings in which variants can be construed (Eckert 2008).