Language and social class?

Yesterday, the Guardian posted a call asking readers to express their personal thoughts on what the terms “working class” and “middle class” actually mean. These are terms well-known from sociolinguistics, so I’ll be curious to so how readers will respond.

The distinction is actually much more fine-grained, and has been so since Labov’s famous sociostratificational study carried out in New York and published in 1966. And to place the question into the context of a paper I’m preparing for the sixth Prescriptivism conference to be held in Vigo, Spain, in September this year, I’d like to refer here to Martin Amis’s latest novel called Inside Story, where on p. 313 he describes a character as “upper middle, yet her voice was […] pleasingly accentless ” . Another character is described on the previous page as “Minor public school with pretensions. He sounded the t in often”.

So: I bet a lot of comments will be coming in, and I’m looking forward to the article as it will appear on Sunday.

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