Linguistics Colloquium - Nicole Holliday

  • Starts: 4:00 pm on Monday, September 16, 2019
  • Ends: 5:30 pm on Monday, September 16, 2019
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"How black should a black president sound? Sociophonetic variation in the speech of Barack Obama"*

Abstract: Modern sociolinguistic research has taken an interest in the ways in which politicians may employ phonetic variation to reflect aspects of personal identity, party affiliations, and orientations towards particular issues (Hall-Lew, et al. 2010; Sclafani 2017; Holliday, Bishop & Guo 2018). In this way, sociophonetic information can tell us a lot about politicians’ personal backgrounds, how they want to be perceived, and what they think their base constituents want from them. This talk presents a series of three studies about former President Barack Obama that tell us more about his sociolinguistic positionality, how voters perceive him ethnolinguistically, and how his use of such variation betrays his stance towards particular issues. I argue that Obama’s utilization of subtle sociophonetic cues, especially in the realm of intonation, provides greater context for the utility of such variation in persona construction, as well as tells us much about how ethnolinguistic variation may influence voter perception of political figures.

* We gratefully acknowledge support from the Office of the Associate Dean for the Humanities in the College of Arts & Sciences.

STO (675 Commonwealth Ave.) room B50
Contact Name:
Carol Neidle

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