Indexicality and coherence

Gregory R. Guy, Livia Oushiro, Ronald Beline Mendes

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    Language varieties, such as dialects and sociolects, are conventionally characterized by shared linguistic characteristics. The implicit assumption in this model is that such varieties are coherent – that the linguistic characteristics associated with a variety co-occur. But contemporary work on social meaning attributes a great variety of indexical associations with linguistic variables, raising the question of whether and to what extent different features can be coherent. This chapter considers several indicators of the social meaning of multiple linguistic variables in São Paulo Portuguese as predictors of their patterns of covariation, under the hypothesis that shared indexicalities should predict correlated rates of usage, and that polyvalent variables will show stronger covariation when their multiple indexicalities coincide and reinforce. The principal results confirm that some indexical dimensions predict more coherent usage – stronger correlations among the variables that share them. Prestige has the most systematic effect, consistent with its prominence in traditional models of speech community usage. Conscious community awareness of a variable also promotes coherence in usage. An incoming change in progress, however, is uncorrelated with other variables, reflecting the disruptive nature of innovation. Gendered indexicalities do not exhibit coherence, and variables associated with regional dialect background are not well correlated, perhaps reflecting dialect levelling.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Title of host publicationThe Coherence of Linguistic Communities
    Subtitle of host publicationOrderly Heterogeneity and Social Meaning
    PublisherTaylor and Francis
    Number of pages16
    ISBN (Electronic)9781000550146
    ISBN (Print)9780367681821
    StatePublished - Jan 1 2022

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Arts and Humanities
    • General Social Sciences


    Dive into the research topics of 'Indexicality and coherence'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this