Intonation and Social Identity

Course time: 
Tuesday/Friday 11:00 AM-12:50 PM
JSB 213

Intonational variation is one of the least well-understood areas of linguistics, especially in American English. This is especially a challenge due to research in recent years that has described the importance of intonational phenomena for speakers and listeners in presenting and interpreting social-indexical information. This research has also shown that intonation carries a range of social meanings that can be controlled and manipulated by speakers. Thus, we begin with the premise that speakers’ use of pitch, prosody, and voice quality variables is a robust area to investigate the intersection of language, identity, and culture. The purpose of this course is to provide training in intonational analysis that centers on how identity is manifested in intonation. We concentrate on the application of intonational methods on describing how speakers communicate various aspects of personal identity. These fundamental aspects range from the community-level, such as region and race/ethnicity, to the more individual-level, such as gender and sexuality. We will unpack the ideological processes that provide language users a means to establish the indexical links of intonational forms to these various facets of their identity. Through hands-on practice, learners will engage with how speakers use both the phonetics and phonology of intonation to provide information about who they are, as well as how listeners may interpret this information.  Additionally, learners will be introduced to the basics and best practices of intonational research – from recording to transcription to phonetic analysis. For the final project, students will propose and outline a topic for intonational analysis based on their own research interests. For scholars and students, having a better understanding of how intonation works in sociolinguistic variation will enhance the questions that they are able to ask of various data sets that they may encounter in their own research.