Sociolinguistic variability in oral narrative.
This thesis begins with a sociolinguistic correlational study of three phonetic variables - (h), (t) and (ing) - as used by four occupational groups - nurses, chefs, hairdressers and taxi-drivers. The groups were selected to incorporate three independent variables: sex (male-dominated versus female-dominated occupations); training (length and specialisation - nurses and chefs being more specialised than hairdressers and taxi-drivers) and location (the populations were selected from two cities - Liverpool and Birmingham). Although the correlational work demonstrates intra-sex and occupation consistency in speakers' choice of linguistic variants (females (particularly nurses) being significantly closer to the prestige norm), it is essentially non-explanatory and cannot accout for narrative dynamics and style shift. Therefore, an in-depth qualitative examination of the data (which draws mainly on Narrative and Discourse Analysis) forms the major part of the analysis. The study first analyses features common to all the narratives, direct speech, expressive phonology and linguistic ambiguity emerging as characteristic of all humorous storytelling. Secondly, three major sources of inter-personal variation are invetigated: narrator perspective, sex and occuptational role. Perspective is found to vary with topic and personality, greater narrator involvement coinciding with a higher proportion of internal evaluation devices. Sex differences include topic choice and bonding in the storytelling sessions. Sex differences are also evident in style shifting, where the narrator mimics the voice of a character in the narrative (aodpting segmental and/or prosodic tokens to signal a change of persona). The research finds that female narrators rarely employ segmental accommodation downwards on the social scale (whereas men do), but are on the other hand adept at using prosodic effects for mimicry. Taxi-drivers emerge as the group with the most distinctive narrative flair, a fact which is related to their occupation. The conclusion stresses a need for both quantitative and qualitative approaches to data; the importance of occupational role, as opposed to sex role per se in determining narrative conventions; the view of narrative as a negotiable entity, which is the product of relationships among participants; and the importance of considering the totality of the communicative act.