Off widd de spellin ov werdz: A Sociolinguistic Approximation to Respelling Practices. A Case Study of Scouse Alice
García Palomino, Azler
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A relatively uninvestigated topic in the literature (Sebba, 2007, p. 12), spelling variation is an interdisciplinary field interpretable as serving the purpose of revaluing the non-standard identities corresponding to the linguistic varieties represented by variant spellings. I aim to study the close connections between the encoding of sociophonetic variation through nonstandard spelling variants and the social evaluations of a vernacular variety, and to consolidate the typology of non-standard spelling variants by contributing more examples. To that end, I will divide this paper into two parts. Firstly, I will deal with some theoretical preliminaries to the study of non-standard spelling from a variationist and social-practice perspective while also providing a classification of the most relevant non-standard spelling categories: eye dialect, allegro forms, and dialect respellings. And secondly, I will analyse the respelling practices in a chapter of Scouse Alice so as to measure the incidence and significance of the non-standard Liverpool English phonological features represented and the sociolinguistic attitudes towards them using a corpus-based approach. In so doing, I will answer two research questions by investigating 1) the salience of Liverpool English sound features at the level of consonants and vowels and 2) the patterns of representation and distribution of these features through respellings. The empirical findings reported here show that, even though respelling practices in Scouse Alice are not entirely consistent, there is a noticeable tendency to regularise the systematic differentiation of certain features through spelling in a given social context, especially via eye dialect, in an attempt to present information about the phonological rather than just social aspects of Liverpool speech. This calls for a conceptual reformulation of the typology of non-standard spellings (Jaffe, 2008, pp. 165-166). From the results, I conclude that salience in the non-standard spellings representative of more regionalised features such as stopping of /θ, ð/, the NURSESQUARE merger, and retention of /ŋɡ/ in stressed syllables may indicate how significant and prestigious local features are becoming in Liverpool English. However, frequency and quality of respellings are not the only factors to take into consideration when assessing salience since availability of graphic resources is also determining.