Style and social identities

Style and social identities: Alternative approaches to linguistic heterogeneity. Ed. by Peter Auer. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2007. Pp. viii, 513. ISBN 9783110190816. $49.

Reviewed by Geneviève Bernard Barbeau, Université Laval

Peter Auer’s Style and social identities: Alternative approaches to linguistic heterogeneity is a collection of papers that focus on new approaches and different methodologies to study the link between social identity and linguistic style. The volume is divided into three parts and contains sixteen chapters.

Part 1 concentrates on identity in multilingual contexts. In the introduction to Part 1, ‘Bilingual styles and social identities’, Peter Auer presents the concept of style as a social practice and as an identity that can be either collective or social. In ‘Language alternation as a resource for identity negotiations among Dominican American bilinguals’, Benjamin Bailey studies how Dominican American bilingual students use codeswitching to construct their identity. ‘Style and stylization in the construction of identities in a card-playing club’, by Anna De Fina, concentrates not only on the language choice made by Italian American men in a card-playing club but also on the men’s social roles and how their social role affects the identity they claim. In ‘Being a “colono” and being “daitsch” in Rio Grande do Sul: Language choice and linguistic heterogeneity as a resource for social categorisation’, Peter Auer, Jacinta Arnhold, and Cintia Bueno-Aniola describe the German/Portuguese bilingual colonial zone in the South of Brazil, focusing on the asymmetric relationship between the customers and the employees of a shop. The role of the names, nicknames, and pseudonyms used by young Italians in Germany to claim their social identity is presented in ‘Names and identities, or: How to be a hip young Italian migrant in Germany’, by Christine Bierbach and Gabriele Birken-Silverman. Inken Keim analyzes how a group of German-Turkish women change their language style as they grow older in ‘Socio-cultural identity, communicative style, and their change over time: A case study of a group of German-Turkish girls in Mannheim/Germany’. Finally, Kathryn A. Woolard provides an overview of the construction of identity in face-to-back communication (i.e. the interaction between bystanders), in ‘Bystanders and the linguistic construction of identity in face-to-back communication’.

Part 2, ‘Monolingual styles and social identities—From local to global’, focuses on variation within a monolingual system. While Nikolas Coupland presents a study of the speech styles and political rhetorics used by a politician in Wales in ‘Aneurin Bevan, class wars and the styling of political antagonism’, Grit Liebscher and Jennifer Dailey-O’Cain, in ‘Identity and positioning in interactive knowledge displays’, investigate the migrant identity of West Germans that moved to East Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall, focusing on the role of stereotypes in the interaction between Western and Eastern Germans. Jannis Androutsopoulos examines language style on the Internet and its impact on the self-presentation and the identity of the community in ‘Style online: Doing hip-hop on the German-speaking Web’.

Part 3, ‘Identity-work through styling and stylization’, focuses on the stylization of the other to create a social interpretation of a certain community. In ‘Playing with the voice of the other: Stylized Kanaksprak in conversations among German adolescents’, Arnulf Deppermann examines the stylization of the language spoken by second and third generation immigrant teenagers in Germany and how it contributes to the spread of stereotypes in the community. Mark Sebba, ‘Identity and language construction in an online community: The case of “Ali G”’, studies how identities are constructed in an online community by discussing a British comedy character who impersonates a stereotypical Caribbean gang leader. ‘Positioning in style: Men in women’s jointly produced stories’, by Alexandra Georgakopoulou, focuses on gender identity by studying the representation of men by female teenagers. In ‘The construction of otherness in reported dialogues as a resource for identity work’, Susanne Gunthner shows how story-tellers change their speaking style when they are transmitting the speech of others and how this change affects the perception of the listeners. In a similar vein, Helga Kotthoff examines the stylization of the self and the other in ‘The humorous stylization of “new” women and men and conservative others’. In the last paper, ‘A postscript: Style and identity in interactional sociolinguistics’, John J. Gumperz and Jenny Cook-Gumperz overview the way sociolinguistics studies style and identity from an interactional approach.

Overall, this volume offers an interesting presentation of different ways to study linguistic heterogeneity from many areas of linguistics—notably, phonetics, discourse analysis, variationist linguistics, and language contact. However, for scholars interested in the theory of social identity, it would have been helpful if Auer had presented social identity in a more detailed fashion that emphasized the study of identity in interaction, since this approach is used by many authors in the book. Nevertheless, for those who prefer to read empirical studies, this will be an interesting volume that presents a diverse array of subjects.