ATS3329 Project- Part A

Information Sheet

ATS3329 Project- Part A

1.    Overview

Students will conduct a project on language, culture and power (Part A/Part B) during the semester. Time will be made for the planning of this project during the tutorials, and the lecturer and tutors are happy to consult on aspects of the project.

Part A of the project entails establishing a relevant sociolinguistic variable for study (e.g. lexical variation, phonetic/phonological variation, morpho-syntactic variation), and the development of a method for studying this variable (e.g. word lists, readings passages, rapid and anonymous survey, one of an array of methods for studying attitudes).

In both cases, you will need to justify why you have selected the variable you have (e.g. what's interesting about this variable in the community in which it will be studied?), but also why you have chosen the approach you have to study this variable (as opposed to other approaches you might have selected; what makes this the best method for this variable? what might you have missed?).  

You have encountered potential variables a series of methods you might take to study these variables in weeks 2-5. You might also propose another variable or method, but be sure to discuss your proposal with your lecturer or tutors to make sure your variable and approach emerge from, and speak to, the learning objectives of sociolinguistics.

In assessing Part A, we will provide feedback on the justification, and design of your study, and then you will be asked to conduct a mini-research project, and write up your findings for Part B.

You might think ahead about how Part A will feed into Part B. For instance, you will see the first two points of Part B are actually ideas you should be developing in Part A:

(1) The background for the topic/research question (e.g. 'mate' has traditionally been linked to males. I sought to understand whether this was still the case).

(2) The sociolinguistic method selected to address this question (e.g. Kiesling 2004 among others used rapid, anonymous survey to examine who was using 'dude' in terms of age, gender, class, etc. Therefore this method was selected for the current project).

Furthermore, you will want to think about how and whether you will be able to access participants for your study. Unfortunately, this will be a little trickier than usual this semester, but it definitely isn’t impossible! Rest-assured, we understand that you’re working under greater constraints this semester! Please feel free to check in with us about any of this if you have any questions!

Here’s some more information, and suggestions I hope help in getting you to think more about this project! I’ve organised these in terms of the expectations of the rubric! My examples below are very first draft-y, and can definitely be pruned! I just want to get you thinking in specific terms about the project!

2.    Choose a sociolinguistic variable & develop a research question

Rubric point:

Sets out clear justification for sociolinguistic variables under investigation, and how the investigation of these variables answers a research question.

The first and most important thing for you to do is to pinpoint a sociolinguistic variable or variables. This entails thinking about a linguistic variable (e.g. lexical variation, phonetic/phonological variation, morpho-syntactic variation), but also a social variable (e.g. gender, social class, ethnicity, age), and the way in which these variables interact.

Whatever variables you choose, you will find it useful to consider how and why these variables are important to study. This importance will emerge from immediate research on Australian English (e.g.) or observations from other places (e.g. Preston, Labov, Eckert). The important thing is that you are not just arbitrarily choosing a variable, but rather that your choice has some sort of grounding in prior literature. This should lead to an explicit or implicit research question that emerges quite naturally from prior work.

You will find it extremely useful to keep your choices as focused as possible. Here are just four ways of approaching this task to assure you are being as focused as possible! There are many, many more. These are just the first four that came to mind to stimulate your thinking about this!

2.1   Investigating ethnolects

Instead of choosing something like, “I want to study the use of ethnolects in Greek communities”, you will find it more useful to say something like:

“Kiesling (2005, 2009) investigates the backing of (er) in words like whatever and HRT (High Rising Tone) in Australia. He finds Greek English speakers back (er) and use HRT more than Anglo-Celtic speakers. Kiesling (2009) notes this is particularly the case when discussing topics related to Greek identity. However, Kiesling’s study was based in Sydney and did not address gender as a social variable. The current study investigates the backing of (er) among a Greek family in Melbourne, with a particular focus on age and gender.”

(Note the bolded element is an implicit research question that emerges from the prior sentence. The explicit research question here would be: How, if at all does gender influence the backing of (er) among a Greek family in Melbourne?)

2.2   Investigating address terms

And rather than saying, “This study looks at address terms in Melbourne”, you will find it useful to say something like:

“Address terms are among the most salient indexes of social identity and change (Manns, 2015). The address term matehas often been cited as particularly noteworthy as a marker of Australian identity. However, scholars have varyingly noted that it is an address term in flux, either indexing masculinity, social class and/or disappearing from the Australian lexicon (Rendle-Short, 2009; Manns, 2020). The use of mate by migrants, and how the take-up of mate by migrants might be gendered, is under-explored. Consequently, the current study investigates the status of mate vis-à-vis the wider Australian address term repertoire among migrants. Using a survey, I specifically focus on two questions:

a) To what degree do first-generation migrants take up or avoid mate as an address term (e.g. Alimoradian, 2014?)

b) To what degree is the take-up of mate gendered among these migrants (cf. Rendle-Short, 2009)?”

(Note the explicit research questions here as the bolded element. I will return to each of these elements below in the contextualisation part of this).

2.3   Investigating Australian morpho-syntax

And instead of saying, “This study will look at verb tenses, and age”, better to say something like:

“Australia has only recently entered the differentiation stage of English dialect evolution, and this means the emergence of greater regional and social variation (Murray & Manns, 2020). Age has emerged as the dominant factor in social variation in Australia, and young Australians have been observed leading a shift in the reduction of English verb conjugations (a shift underway since the Norman invasion) (Murray & Manns, 2020). In other words, where modern English has traditionally has had the triadic verb paradigm (see/saw/seen), younger Australians have been observed leading the change to the dyadic (see/seen). While Collins and Peters (2008) show prominent age-graded variation for this feature, few if any studies have looked at the use of this feature in terms of social class or the rural/urban dimension. This is despite studies (e.g. Pawley, 2004) citing the importance of social class and rurality as important dimensions in non-standard Australian speech. The current study investigates the reduction of the verb paradigm among young people in Victoria. I investigate the use of common verbs (cited by Collins & Peters, 2008) among four social categories to better understand how social class and rurality might influence the reduction of the English verb paradigm:

a) students from a public school in Bendigo

b) students from a private school in Bendigo

c) students from a public school in Melbourne

d) students a private school in Melbourne

(Note the implicit research question bolded here. The more explicit question would be “How if at all does social class and/or rurality influence the reduction of the English verb paradigm in Australia?”)

2.4   Investigating stylistic variation by a single speaker

And instead of saying, “I want to investigate the way in which an Australian politician constructs them across different contexts”, you would say something like:

“Politicians have often been observed varying their language to better connect with their audiences or to more clearly convey their message (see Bucholtz, 2009; Coupland, 2007; Morgan, 2010). Some politicians have been observed to be better communicators than others through such style-shifting. Barrack Obama was a notoriously sophisticated style-shifter (see Morgan, 2010) whereas Hillary Clinton notoriously angered an African American church with her failed attempts to affect an African American accent (cf. Audience Design; Bell, 2007). There has been passing reference to Australian politicians as style-shifters, but few if any studies have addressed this systematically. The current work focuses on former Prime Minister Bob Hawke, who was so renowned for his way of speaking, it garnered the label “Hawke-speak”. Popular opinion saw Hawke to be a prominent user of “Broad Australian English”, but in fact at least one linguist notes him to be a user of “Cultivated Australian English” in more formal domains (e.g. lectures; see Bradley & Bradley, 1985). This study compares Hawke’s use of three linguistic variables (the vowels in FACE, PRICE and FLEECE) in informal contexts (campaign speeches to trade unions) and formal contexts (formal academic lectures).”

(Note the implicit research question bolded here. The more explicit question would be “How if it all does Bob Hawke vary his language between formal and informal contexts with respect to three linguistic variables (previously cited as relevant to the Australian sociolectal continuum?”)

3.    Provide the reader with the wider context for the project

Rubric point:

Contextualises the project in the wider research field.

This is the point at which you really have the chance to shine, and truly establish why your questions are relevant with regard to the wider field of language, culture and power. You ideally will pull together key findings from across a range of different sources. It’s not a good idea to merely list these (e.g. “Manns said x, Fang said x, too, but Deriu disagreed and said y”, but rather to read widely and synthesise what you’re reading (e.g. “Researchers (e.g. Fang, 2020; Manns, 2020) have generally found x, but this finding has been called into question by Deriu (2020). So, for instance, I’ve begun to lay the foundations for doing this with each of the paragraphs above. Note, that in setting out the context for your study, you should implicitly be building toward the niche that you intend to fill. Let’s focus for now on the address term study (2.2 above). I’ll implicit set up the niche for my study, and then I’ll go into the methodology below.

Mate emerges as perhaps one of the most iconic Australian words in the popular press, and among Australian language scholars. John Howard tried (but failed) to enshrine mate in the Australian constitution (Moore, 2010), and a furore arose in 2003 when the use of mate was banned in parliament (see Manns, 2015). Mate is not an exclusively Australian term, but many scholars have argued that it holds a certain resonance in Australia (e.g. Hornadge, 1980; Moore, 2010; Ronowicz & Yallop, 2007; Wierzbicka, 2010; Wilkes, 1993). Wierzbicka (2010) argues that mate and the corresponding concept of mateship are among those “key” words that sheds light on the hidden cultural legacy of Australian English. Moore (2010) reviews mate and mateship, and notes how this Australian concept can be traced to the late 19th century, and is romanticised in the writing of Henry Lawson. Australians have at various times in history been concerned that mate was falling out of us in wider society (Manns, 2020). In the post-WWI period, many thought mate as an address term was yielding to digger or dig. In the post-WWII era, mate was seen to be losing out to the American buddy. In more recent years, some believe that mate is losing out to dude and/or the influx of new migrants.  

However, studies shows mate remains a popular if not “the” popular address term in Australia, but also that its social meaning may be shifting. For instance, Rendle-Short (2009) investigates mate’s use by men and women in Australia, and finds that its use by women continues to grow. In a survey of 698 respondents, Rendle-Short sees age-graded variation in the use of mate, with growing numbers of young women (aged 18-29) using mate compared to older women (aged 50 and over). Consequently, she concludes that where traditional findings propose that mate is a neutral term denoting egalitarianism, her findings show mate to be used as a “friendly and fun” marker of intimacy between women (Rendle-Short, 2009, p. 245). Rendle-Short’s findings notably echo those of Kiesling (2004) for dude in the United States. Kiesling found that where dude was in the late 20th century a marker of ‘cool solidary’ among middle class, white males, it was increasingly used by women.

The role of mate in contemporary Australia has also been questioned due to waves of migration and multiculturalism (see Clothier, 2020; Manns, 2020). Overall, many have wondered how and to what degree migrants are taking up the Australian lexicon (Manns, 2020). Scholars have only begun to research this topic (see Clothier, 2020), but results are revealing. For instance, non-English speaking migrants are found to take up Australian slang words more easily than English speaking migrants from places like the US (Kidd, Kemp, Kashima & Quinn, 2016). Alimoradian (2014) uses a questionnaire to investigate the use of mate among Iranian, Chinese and “European” migrants, and finds they overall use it less than the wider population (53% compared to 75% in Rendle-Short’s 2009 work). However, Alimoradian also shows use of mate increases across generations, with only 38% of first-generation Australians using mate, compared to 68% of second-generation Australians. Some, more qualitative studies, show how migrants integrate mate alongside other, LOTE (Languages other than English) address terms in their repertoires. For instance, Tabar (2007) shows how Lebanese-Australians use mate like the wider population, but might switch to the Arabic habiib (literally, ‘darling’) when discussing a serious topic or to index a more intimate relationship.”

4.   Choose and justify your methods

Rubric point:

Explains and justifies the choice of methodology

This section gives you the scope to establish how and why you’ve selected the approach that you’ve taken. I’m quite open about the methods that you take, but I want you to be able to link these to prior work as much as possible. This isn’t to say that you have to do exactly what other people have done (though this is a much safer choice!), but rather you need to be able to establish the decisions that you’ve made, and why you made the decision to choose one method over another. We’ll be critically appraising this bit in terms of your selection of participants, Once again, I pick up on the address term project (2.2) from above.  

“Against the backdrop of the shifting nature of mate, the current study seeks to better understand its use by migrants, especially in relation to gender. Studies of mate have mostly been qualitative, or even anecdotal, in nature. This has meant that many generalisations about mate remain underexplored. For instance, Rendle-Short (2009) highlights how her findings complement those that cite links between social class and use of mate. However, the studies she cites as noting links between mate and ‘working class’ speakers sit at the level of anecdotal evidence (the fault of the studies, rather than Rendle-Short). Some scholars (e.g. Alimoradian, 2014; Tabar, 2007) have shed light of the take-up of mate by migrants, including the more innovative use of mate by migrant females when compared to men (Alimoradian, 2014). Yet, whether and the degree to which these migrants view mate as being gendered, and whether these migrants do or don’t take up mate based on their own gender identity remains under-explored across migrants groups.

The current study investigates use of mate and other address terms among young, first-generation Indian migrants. There has been, and continues to be, research on European, Middle Eastern and Chinese migrant backgrounds (e.g. Alimoradian, 2014; Clothier, 2020; Tabar, 2007). However, there are few studies of Indian-background speakers (see Bharadwaj, 2014). This is despite Indian nationals being among the fastest growing migrant group in Australia. In 2001, Indian nationals accounted for 2.3% of Australians born overseas (ABS, 2020). By 2016, that number had nearly tripled to 7.6%. To better understand the use of mate by this group, this study will survey 10 men and 10 women for a total of 20 participants. In order to ensure a focus on young migrants, this study will recruit participants aged 18-30. Alimoradian (2014) among others has shown younger migrants are more apt to adopt local linguistic practices. All participants must have resided in Australia for longer than four years (currently the residency requirement for citizenship), but must have migrated after the age of 15 (to ensure at least a majority of the critical period has been spent overseas; see Meyerhoff, 2015).   

All participants will be given a survey, the design of which has been informed by previous work on address terms in Australia and the US (Alimoradian, 2014; Kiesling, 2004; Rendle-Short, 2009). This survey has at its core the sex of the informant (as per the research questions), frequency of interaction (cf. Kiesling, 2004) and the perceived user/recipient of address terms (cf. Kiesling, 2004; Rendle-Short, 2009). The address term mate has been presented alongside other address terms known to be used in the Australian context (Manns, 2020; see Kiesling, 2004). Opportunity has been given for participants to supplement the survey with address terms not listed here to better understand the wider repertoire of Indian migrants in Australia (see Tabar, 2007). This survey includes a series of open-ended questions as a pilot study of the sort of ethnic concerns highlighted by Alimoradian (2014) (questions 5-7), but also to provide the participant to add any comments they might think are relevant. The current survey/research project is limited in a number of ways. First, and most obviously, the sample size is small, and focused on a very specific segment of the population. As per Alimoradian (2014), a wider sample (e.g. older participants, second-generation migrants) would likely to be more revealing. Further, the issues dealt with in questions 5-7 of the current survey were measured by Alimoradian via a nuanced, quantitative account of their Ethnic Orientation (EO). Such an approach is beyond the scope of an undergraduate sociolinguistic project. In sum, this survey will provide key information on the way in which male and female participants orient to the address term mate in Australia, and what this says about the degree to which this form is gendered among Indian migrants in Australia (cf. Rendle-Short, 2009), and to what degree female migrants might be considered more innovative than the male (Alimoradian, 2014; cf. Milroy, 1987).  

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