The University of Arizona

AN ALTERNATIVE ACCOUNT OF REGISTER VARIATION: AUDIENCE DESIGN AND SPEAKER ORIENTATION

Hongguang Ying

Abstract


This paper presents cross-linguistic evidence of register (i.e.·, language style and code choices) as 'speaker orientation' to complement Bell's (1984) theory of register variation as 'audience design'. In doing so, I suggest that Finegan and Biber's (1994) four observations be enriched by an additional observation with respect to societal norms, namely, certain linguistic features are culture-specific and speaker-oriented. Drawing from my Chinese data, I show that the source of 'humor' in code-switching could be derived from bilinguals' creative language play instead of the 'promiscuous' use of code-switching itself, contrary to Seigel (1995), and that the structure of marked choices is not necessarily 'flagging', contrary to Myers-Scotton (1993). Building chiefly on the rich insights of Bell (1984) and Finegan and Biber (1994), I propose that register variation derives from considerations of the nature of audience, societal norms, functions, situations and status.

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