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Sociolinguistic diversity in mainstream media

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This article explores the attribution of authority and authenticity to speakers of “accented” or dialectal speech portrayed in the American documentary on dialectal diversity, “Do You Speak American?”. The focus is on the role of mediation and mediatization in this fundamentally political and ideological process: that is, the extent to which particular sequences of the documentary foreground the work of representation being done by media producers. The central claim made in the analysis is that speakers’ authenticity is produced through the backgrounding of this work of representation, but that speakers are attributed greater authority when they are depicted as having some control over how their images and speech are mediated and mediatized. Speakers who have both authority and authenticity benefit, it is argued, from media verisimilitudes: they are understood by media audiences as having control over the believable rather than the “real”.
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Keywords: authenticity; authority; language; media; mediation; mediatization

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2011

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