Identity, style, and styling: a sociolinguistic perspective


The definition of style and the range of phenomena that it is 'made up of', arguably, remain to be elusive. A similar characterization can also be applied to identity. One solution which allows for a more encompassing view of style and can, simultaneously, provide further insights into the phenomenon of identity is theorizing style 'dynamically' as being more about styling than fixed sets of whatever can be said to 'make up' a certain ('static') style. Within this framework, styling can be seen as a more or less deliberate attempt on the part of an individual to position themselves in social encounters, which can, in turn, be construed in terms of (a combination of) 'tokens' of certain social 'types'. Viewing identity dynamically as 'performing' or 'styling' is a perspective within which such facets of identity theorization as enhanced agency of an individual in forming and enacting their identity, multiple identifications resulting in so-called 'fractured' identities, and being able to position oneself in a multiple (unique) ways in social encounters can be neatly explained. Viewing styling identity as being 'all about the usage of semiotic resources' and theorizing said resources vis-a-vis indexicality and metapragmatic processes also allows extending the range of these resources to naturally incorporate all other (nonlinguistic) object-signs and to explain in indexical and metapragmatic terms how these object-signs perform because the ways both linguistic and nonlinguistic signs operate indexically turn out to be identical. This complex framework is finally exemplified by means of examples of styling different personae (social 'types') within one discourse thus 'voicing' their respective stances and, simultaneously, allowing the author to align with these groups of their putative audience. Another example that is being used to illustrate the principles discussed above are so-called 'lingua-cultural types' (personae), as theorized and studied in the Russian strand of sociolinguistics.