Discourses of difference: Applied methodologies for evaluating race and speech style

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1 Scopus citations


Questions of how speech style is racially identified have pervaded linguistic research and public concern for decades. However, the types of evidence used in linguistic studies on this topic often restrict application outside of the discipline. Particularly, the dichotomy between privileged linguistic 'expert' interpretations of perceptions and lesser valued 'lay' reactions to speech raises methodological issues for application. This article discusses alternative methodologies for analyzing how race functions as a linguistic category in evaluative interactions. While linguistic studies often treat race as an unproblematic category attached to speakers, this study proposes a discursive approach that (re)considers how speech becomes 'racialized' in lay discourses of difference. Framed by a methodological approach that problematizes epistemological formulations of race, speech, and researcher knowledge, I offer evidence of a discursive approach's applied usefulness through examples from Membership Categorization Analysis (MCA) of one interviewee's racial evaluations of speech. I argue that inclusion of a discursive approach to better understand racial speech evaluation promotes application of linguistic research by offering evidence that existing approaches cannot by nature of their epistemological tenets and methodological focus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-151
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Applied Linguistics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Discourse
  • Membership categorization analysis
  • Methodology
  • Race
  • Research interview
  • Speech evaluation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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