Gender and Language, Vol 1, No 2 (2007)

Communities of Practice in Sociolinguistic Description: Analyzing Language and Identity Practices among Black Women in Appalachia

Christine` Mallinson, Becky Childs
Issued Date: 19 Oct 2007


In this paper, we examine the identities of eight women who share
similar demographic
profiles but exhibit different language practices. These middle-aged
and older women
belong to two social groups, which, we argue, constitute two
communities of practice
within a small black Appalachian community in the Southern United States. From
interview data, we analyze six diagnostic sociolinguistic variables
(third singular -s
absence, copula absence, rhoticity, consonant cluster reduction,
habitual be) and also
examine productions of /u/ and /o/. The groups differ significantly in
their use of the
morphosyntactic and syntactic variables and in their vowel
productions, but not the
consonantal features. Combining our quantitative findings with
qualitative data, we
suggest language is one of several vehicles the women use to transmit
symbolic messages
to others and thereby construct identities for themselves and their
groups, whose
members adhere to different language ideologies, religious norms,
notions of feminine
decorum, and educational standards.

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DOI: 10.1558/genl.v1i2.173


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