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Reviewed by:
  • Sociolinguistics of Style and Social Class in Contemporary Athens by Irene Theodoropoulou
  • Panayiotis A. Pappas (bio)
Irene Theodoropoulou, Sociolinguistics of Style and Social Class in Contemporary Athens. Discourse Approaches to Politics, Society and Culture, 57. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 2014. Pp. xiv + 240. 13 tables, 7 figures, 4 appendices, 1 diagram, 1 map. Cloth $149.

There are so few in-depth studies of Greek sociolinguistics that almost any new work would constitute a positive contribution. A new arrival that combines theoretical clarity, methodological creativity, and thorough analysis, as does the volume under review, is most enthusiastically welcome. In this monograph, based on her 2010 PhD thesis, the author provides an insightful account of how young Athenians from two socioculturally different areas of the metropolis construct their identities in discourse by using specific speech styles. The study is ethnographic in its methodology, while its analytic framework is constructed by combining Coupland’s (2007) resource and contextualization model with Bucholtz and Hall’s (2005) identities in interaction model in order to understand the mechanics of identity construction through style. It utilizes two different types of data sources: works of popular culture (five books, three TV shows, and hip-hop lyrics from three songs based on a common theme) and ethnographic interviews (with four participants from each area, supplemented by comments posted on Facebook).

After a thorough presentation of the theoretical framework and methodology employed in the study, the results from each data source are discussed separately in each of the two ensuing chapters. In chapter 3, the author presents several excerpts from her pop culture files, aiming to demonstrate the stereotypical stylization of characters from the richer/upper class northern suburbs (NS), in contrast with that of characters from the poorer/lower class western suburbs (WS). For the NS characters, these range along the expected lines of code-switching between English and Greek, using direct politeness devices (“please” and “thank you”) and irony, and striving for correct pronunciation. On the other hand, the WS characters are portrayed as using vulgar and slang language, indirect politeness devices (or avoiding them altogether), and stigmatized linguistic features. The chapter culminates with a detailed and quite entertaining description of how these elements can be used in the representation of specific TV characters that fit the sociocultural bill.

Chapter 4 examines how these stereotypes are employed in the ethnographic interviews in the service of identity work. As the author clearly shows in a series of excerpts, the main mechanism is that of double voicing in the classic Bakhtinian sense of a speaker appropriating elements from the linguistic behavior of others in order to do his or her own social work. In particular, the speakers appear to employ stylization in the services of “denaturalization,” “irony,” “alazony” (in which the alazon, the victim of [End Page 422] irony, exhibits confident unawareness), and parody in order to “mock.” In one excerpt, we see a NS speaker using “creaky voice” (in linguistics, a very low type of voicing) and Determiner Phrases (DPs) (instead of Prepositional Phrases, PPs) as complements of verbs of motion while portraying her university acquaintances from the WS. She does this in order to show the contrast between their fancy clothes—which she sees as attempts to project a more prestigious NS image—and their working class linguistic behavior, in an overt attempt to denaturalize the identity construction of her classmates. For “mocking,” we are presented with an extended example of WS speakers reminiscing about a high school teacher who, in their own words, constructed a NS identity, even though she was originally from a smaller, rural city. Through an astute analysis of the linguistic (direct imperatives, elongated final vowels) and metalinguistic (laughter, overt comments) features employed by both speaker and audience, Theodoropoulou adeptly shows how mocking is constructed, and how it differs from denaturalization, even though their effects overlap.

Chapter 5 brings together the results of the previous chapters with an analysis of the metalanguage used in popular literature, ethnographic interviews, as well as Facebook posts in order to determine how intragroup distinctions of social class are understood. Through a detailed examination of several excerpts, the author shows that the distinction is made on...


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