Prosodic style-shifting in preadolescent peer-group interactions in a working-class suburb of Paris

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In this chapter, we study the variable use of phrase-final intonation contours in French by male adolescents recorded in guided interviews in a multi-ethnic working-class suburb of Paris. We show that speakers use pragmatically neutral rising or falling intonation when listing target words depicted on images shown by a fieldworker, but resort to a characteristic rising-falling intonation attributed to a working-class youth vernacular in contact with immigrant languages when negotiating the interpretation of pictures or competing for the floor with their friends listening to the interview. These instances of intra-speaker prosodic variation are analyzed as style-shifting (Bell 1984, 2001) where speakers draw on different prosodic resources to signal change in footing, i.e. their orientation to their own and others’ role in the interaction (Goffman 1981) or the propositional content of utterances put forward by other participants in the conversational exchange. It is argued that phrase-final rising-falling intonation, typical in certain types of imperative in French, has a much broader pragmatic meaning in working-class youth vernacular where it seems to function as a micro-level style feature indexing common ground and in-group affiliation with members of the adolescent peer group.


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