(2012) Language and society in cinematic discourse

Jannis Androutsopoulos (ed.) 2012
Language and society in cinematic discourse
Special Issue, Multilingua 31: 2/3.


Drawing on film and television data from various countries and languages, the seven articles that follow ask how cinematic discourse represents linguistic heterogeneity, what conceptual and analytical tools in sociolinguistics are adequate to its study, and how this might challenge and further sociolinguistic theory.

An increasing number of scholars are turning to objects of study that are usually thought of as the ‘territory’ of disciplines such as literary, film and media studies. ‘Postvariationist’ sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology, social semiotics and critical discourse studies all contribute to this turn, and media data have been pivotal for the theorising of notions such as stylisation, linguistic flows or performativity within the discipline (e.g. Coupland 2007; Pennycook 2007; Alim et al. 2009). Cinematic discourse ought to figure large at this intersection due to its popularity as a site of sociolinguistic representation and its complexity as a multimodal semiotic artefact. However, film has not yet found due attention as a sociolinguistic site of inquiry, though of course important predecessors do exist.

The contributors to this issue are spread around the world in terms of their academic homes and objects of study. They examine American films (Bleichenbacher, Higgins & Furukawa, Petrucci) and television series (Bednarek) as well as European productions from Cyprus, France and Germany (Tsiplakou & Ioannidou, Planchenault, Androutsopoulos). Ranging from comedy and drama to post-modern satire, these films and series tell stories of everyday life and intercultural encounters in urban or rural settings. They stage style-shifting and code-switching between a number of dialects and languages, including varieties of English (Hawai’i English, African-American Vernacular English); French (Parler banlieue and Patois), German (‘Interlanguage German’); Greek (Cypriot-Greek dialect); Hawaiian and Hawai’i Creole; and Turkish. The analyses offered are mostly qualitative, though with some instances of quantification (Bednarek, Bleichenbacher). Together, these seven articles offer snapshots of the diversity of sociolinguistic representations in contemporary audio-visual fiction, and by so doing, they reveal some common themes in theory, method and analysis. (From the Introduction.)

With papers by: Jannis Androutsopoulos; Lukas Bleichenbacher; Christina Higgins & Gavin Furukawa; Monika Bednarek; Peter Petrucci; Gaëlle Planchenault; Stavroula Tsiplakou & Elena Ioannidou; and an afterword by Robin Queen & Kay Richardson.