Language variability in interaction: a configurational and a longitudinal approach

Auteur Guillaume FERNANDEZ
Directeur /trice Eric Widmer
Co-directeur(s) /trice(s)
Résumé de la thèse

My thesis explores the concept of linguistic style and its expression in interaction. It focuses on the individual variation and its variability throughout the life course. More precisely, I aim to study the social mechanisms which could motivate the individuals to adapt their language to their interlocutors, especially when these latters are ‘significant’ relations. The basic research questions that will run throughout the thesis can be resumed as following: Do the individuals systematically adapt their language in particular interactional situations and how does this latter vary accordingly to the interlocutors and life transition?


In order to do so, a configurational and a life course perspective will be mobilized. For this former, the personal network of the participants and the distribution of social capital within it will be linked to the lexical realization in dyadic face-to-face interaction; for this latter, the interest is of how the transition from the end of the studies to the entering into the labor market shapes the social configurations and may impact the social capital distribution and how, in turn, it influences the stylistic adaptability.


Several dimensions will be considered, such as the geometry of the network and its structural properties on the possibility of variation; the differentiated influences of the interdependencies on the lexical practices; the relation between social capital and linguistic practices; the influences of life event transitions on the lexical uses.


Two waves are planned in the aim to collect configurational and linguistic data. The first wave will be held during the last year of bachelor's degree for students from college. The second one, with the same population, will take place one year later when it is expected for the former students to have entered into the labor market. In order to maximize the chance to observe the desired transition, the retained major are the ones of the HES-SO, a professional college, known for its ability to prepare students for the labor market. This ability is one of the claims of this institution.


The envisaged approach allows to (re)place the individual in his/her individualized context and to consider social interactions in a broader perspective than the mere moment of the interaction by considering the interdependencies that structure the personal network of the individuals. Moreover, by linking a configurational and a life course perspective, it enables us to explore to what extent certain interdependencies and their influences are stable and to what extent, depending on life events, we can observe differentiated mechanisms.

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