Staging language: an introduction to the sociolinguistics of performance

Allan Bell*, Andy Gibson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

137 Citations (Scopus)


Staged performance involves the overt, scheduled identification and elevation of one or more people to perform, with a clearly demarcated distinction between them and the audience. It involves the agentive use of language, building on the foundation of existing social meanings. Staged performances tend to be linguistically stylized, pushing the limits of language creativity. They have the potential to trigger significant sociolinguistic effects, circulating novel forms and contributing to language change. The paradigms used in this theme issue for approaching language performance include Bakhtin's notion of Stylization, Bell's Audience and Referee Design, Silverstein's Indexicality, Agha's Enregisterment, and Bauman's construct of Discursive Culture. Themes that run through the articles include: a concept of identity that is part product, part process; the centrality of the audience; the reflexivity of staged performance; and the importance of non-linguistic modalities such as music and appearance. The language analysis in this collection of papers concentrates mainly on phonological features of varieties of English, finding instances of selectivity, mis-realization, overshoot and undershoot in their performances of a range of targeted dialects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)555-572
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Sociolinguistics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • performance
  • stylization
  • indexicality
  • enregisterment
  • referee design
  • reflexivity
  • multi-modality
  • audience


Dive into the research topics of 'Staging language: an introduction to the sociolinguistics of performance'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this