Vernacular variation in the English-speaking mass media

Project partner: Bildungsdirektion Vorarlberg
Funded by: Der Wissenschaftsfonds  (FWF P34968-G)
Project duration: 2021 - 2023
Lead: H.Prof. Dr. Priv.-Doz. Julia Davydova

The proposed project will explore patterns of vernacular variation as they are attested in mass media texts avidly consumed by ‘actively engaged’ (Stuart-Smith et al. 2013) mass media viewers. Grounded at the interdisciplinary intersection of variationist sociolinguistics, second language research and the study of World Englishes, the project will pursue three empirical goals.

 Hypotheses / research questions / objectives:

  • to explore patterns of mass media consumption by adolescents acquiring and using English as a foreign language in the Austrian context and then to investigate how these relate to EFL speakers’ individual sociodemographic and sociopsychological characteristics;
  • to establish the most frequently consumed mass media texts; ascertaining which mass media inputs are the most relevant to the formation of a non-native English in a pre-selected EFL context;
  • to investigate patterns of structured variation in mass media texts that are most readily consumed by the population group targeted in this study.

In order to explore issue (i) and (ii), the project will develop and implement a questionnaire and evaluate it quantitatively using appropriate methods of statistical analysis of data (Dörnyei 2007). Research question (iii) will be investigated via variationist techniques of sociolinguistic analysis (Tagliamonte 2006, 2012).

The project seeks to contribute to the discussion concerning the role of mass media in the propagation of linguistic innovation and structured variation. In so doing, it explores the quality of the sociolinguistic, variationist input that EFL learners receive as they engage with their favourite mass media products presented in a globally available language, i.e. English. Exploring patterns of structured variation in media texts is informative as it helps us understand what it is exactly that English learners may acquire from the language of mass media.

Dörnyei, Zoltán. 2007. Research Methods in Applied Linguistics. Quantitative, Qualitative and Mixed Methodologies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Tagliamonte, Sali A. 2012. Variationist Sociolinguistics: Change, Observation, Interpretation. Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell.

Tagliamonte, Sali A. 2006. Analysing Sociolinguistic Variation (Key Topics in Sociolinguistics). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

H.Prof. Dr. Priv.-Doz. Julia Davydova
Liechtensteinerstraße 33-37
AT-6800 Feldkirch