Stylistic Variation in a Preschool Classroom


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




Based on a classroom ethnography in the San Francisco Bay Area, this project examines how preschoolers, at the very beginning of social life, position themselves via linguistic styles: ways of speaking that are socially recognizable within a community. Using audio recordings across different interactional settings, this study proposes that ideologies of maturity are central to the preschool experience. Linguistic styles are one way that children begin to embed themselves within the first peer order, asserting and performing maturity in opposition to “babyhood.” This project demonstrates that even preschoolers are not simply passive acquirers and reproducers of sociolinguistic meaning, but rather, their linguistic performances of (im)maturity make them active collaborators in the emerging structure of the peer group.