“Language, Style and the Adolescent Social Order” is topic at April 10 Café Scientifique

by John McIntosh on April 8, 2012

Penny Eckert

Adolescents and pre-adolescents provide the linguistic primordial soup from which most vocal trends and popular slang emerge. A prime example is the conversation filler “like.” Use of “like” is now widely adopted, moving from the Valley Girls of the 1980s, across the gender boundary and all the way up the age range. To commemorate this, “like” made its way into Webster’s New World College Dictionary (Fourth Edition), described as use “apparently without meaning or syntactic function, but possibly as emphasis.” A similar linguistic influence spreading relentlessly from the San Fernando Valley is “high rising terminal” (uptalk).

At Café Scientifique on April 10, we are pleased to host Stanford Linguistics Professor Penny Eckert. Her current research concentrates on social motivations for the spread of sound change. She has done extensive ethnographic studies in high schools and elementary schools, examining how current sound changes function as a resource for the construction of styles and identities. 

Dr. Eckert will discuss how linguistic innovation arises as teenagers develop identities that are independent of their families, and how this takes place in the broader context of the age cohort’s development of an independent social order.

Dr. Eckert is Professor of Linguistics and, by courtesy, Anthropology, at Stanford University. She received her BA from Oberlin College, and her MA and PhD from Columbia University. She is author of Jocks and Burnouts, Linguistic Variation as Social Practice, and Language and Gender (with Sally McConnell-Ginet).

Café Scientifique events, which take place at SRI Menlo Park (Middlefield Road at Ringwood Ave.), are open to all free of charge. No reservations are necessary.The program starts at 6:00; doors open at 5:15 pm.

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