Synopses & Reviews
Linguists usually discuss language or dialects in terms of groups of speakers. Believing that patterns can be seen more clearly in the group than the individual, researchers often present group scores with no indication of the variation within the group. Even though linguists acknowledge that no two individuals speak alike, few study individual variation and voice.
Barbara Johnstone makes a case for the individual's importance and idiosyncrasies in language and linguistics. Using theoretical arguments and discourse analysis, along with linguistic examples from a variety of speakers and settings, Johnstone illustrates how speakers draw on linguistic models associated with class, ethnicity, gender, and region, among others, to construct an individual voice. In doing so Johnstone shows that certain important questions in sociolinguistics and pragmatics can only be answered with reference to individual speakers. Johnstone's study is important both for the understanding of speech as expressive of self, and for the study of variation and mechanisms of linguistic choice and change.
"Barbara Johnstone has written the sort of book I suspect many of us would like to write. She has woven various strands of her own personal approach to linguistics, but also might legitimately be said to present a fresh perspective on language-or better, on the ways we express ourselves to each other in talk. Those of us already engaged in discourse analysis will profit from Johnstone's focus on the individual voice and on the way it informs her analyses, while linguists of other stripes should read this book as an introduction to the new humanistic tendencies in the study of language."--Anthropological Linguistics
An examination of various discourse genres, showing how choices among linguistic resources are mediated by self-expressive choices. Linguistic consistency across various situations is discussed with the question of how, if language is fundamentally idiosyncratic, people can understand one another.
About the Author
is Associate Professor of Linguistics at Texas A&M University.