This talk will be virtual -- Over Zoom.


Below is a short description of Professor Sharma's talk happening this Thursday at 3:30pm.


Layered selves: A socio-cognitive model of speech style 

When sociolinguists study style-shifting today, the focus is often on audience, identity, and other social indexicality. This social constructivist approach is widely seen as having “very largely supplanted” (Coupland 2007) the earlier interest in attention-paid-to-speech (Labov 1972). In this talk I look at micro-fluctuations in style production and suggest that attentional and control effects are pervasive in spoken interaction and are a central component of our social inferences. To develop a ‘socio-cognitive’ model of style, I look at real-time fluctuations in the speech of bidialectal individuals—native speakers who have layers of speech styles due to migration or contact. Using conversational and experimental data, I show that attentional load and patterns of switching variants ‘on and off’ point to different degrees of control (Green 1998) and a distinction between effortful and routinized styles (Kahneman 2011) even for native speakers, akin to bilingual L1/L2 control. I argue that these are not simply cognitive constraints on social action, they are central to how we construct credible selves in interaction. These tiny signals of ease and effort infused in speech can act as a scaffolding for interpreting social goals in interaction. I use these observations to critique the informal understanding of accommodation as simple similarity-attraction, which predicts that convergence builds rapport and divergence marks distance or other-group identity (Bell 2001). I show that the opposite can be true: diverging to one’s 'default' style can convey credibility and trust. Game theoretic models (Burnett 2017) are well-placed to capture this expanded socio-cognitive model of style, integrating social indexicality with more cognitive elements such as processing costs, signalling, and real-time updates in interlocutors’ inferences about each other.