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School of Languages, Linguistics and Film

Linguistics Seminar Series: Tough Stance

When: Wednesday, March 17, 2021, 4:30 PM - 6:00 PM

Speaker: Scott Kiesling

We have the pleasure to welcome Scott Kiesling (University of Pittsburgh), who will present some of his current research.

This short presentation will summarize an early work-in-progress that problematizes the quality, or stance, of 'toughness' as it is indexed by sociolinguistic variables. Sociolinguistic explanations relying on 'toughness' are found early in the history of variation studies, starting at least with Trudgill's (1974) use of the quality to explain men's use of the vernacular in Norwich, all the way through Lawson's (2013) use of the term for Glasgow and Pratt's (2020) study of a high school in California. The term has been very useful, and has the advantage of being used emically by the members of the speech communities it has been used to describe. But 'toughness' has also remained a quality that is known only intuitively by speakers and analysts alike, with less exploration of a precise definition and how it relates to other stances and affects in a community. The project presented here is a first approximation of a multi-level model of understanding not only this term, but also an inquiry into its repeated utility in sociolinguistic studies and what that utility tells us about sociolinguistics more generally. I rely on theories of stance, affect, and enregisterment in order to begin to bring some definitional clarity to what it means to be 'tough,' or even simply to use language recognized as 'tough.'



Lawson, Robert. 2013. “The Construction of ‘tough’ Masculinity: Negotiation, Alignment and Rejection1.” Gender and Language 7 (3): 369–95.

Pratt, Teresa. 2020. “Embodying ‘Tech’: Articulatory Setting, Phonetic Variation, and Social Meaning.” Journal of Sociolinguistics 24 (3): 328–49.

Trudgill, Peter. 1972. “Sex, Covert Prestige and Linguistic Change in the Urban British English of Norwich.” Language in Societ 1 (2): 179–95. 


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