On Aesthetics and Language Variation – Lecture by Miriam Meyerhoff
Most people know that different ways of saying things sound “nice” or “funny” or “sexy”. But linguists are curiously reluctant to engage directly with the fact that we have an aesthetic response to language variation. Qualitative sociolinguists, following anthropologist colleagues, are more open to discussing attitudes, ascriptions, qualia and other forms of overt aesthetic commentary. But variationists have largely shied away from the topic. In this paper, I will suggest that covert aesthetic evaluations play a role in variation and change. The approach to aesthetics used here is less akin to a Western tradition of aesthetics, and has more in common with Asian notions of aesthetics. I present two case studies of variation and change. One is an instance where aesthetic considerations seem to be feeding change, the other is an instance where aesthetic factors seem to be retarding change. (This is work undertaken in collaboration with Norma Mendoza-Denton.)
Professor Miriam Meyerhoff is Senior Research Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford University. She has made key research contributions in the fields of sociolinguistic variation, language and dialect contact, Creole linguistics, language and gender, linguistic theory, and the symbolic construction of social identity through language.
The event will be in-person, followed by a reception. It will not be live-streamed but will be recorded. Attendance is free but please register via Eventbrite.