Language Variation

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William Labov's "fourth floor" experiment - 1966

There was a varied use of the postvocalic "r" in the different department stores. "The overall percentage of "r" inclusion was higher in Saks than in Macy's and higher in Macy's than in Kleins." 
- These results proved that social class in New York was reflected in the language or New Yorkers = the higher socio-economic groups included the postvocalic "r," while lower social classes omitted it. 
- The "r" inclusion was seen as a characteristic of high social class

Interestingly, the overall percentage of "r" inclusion was higher on the upper floor of Saks, where there were less items on sale, increased floor space and mannequins displaying clothing items --> the items are expensive which accomodates the use of the postvocalic "r."
- "r" inclusion was evidence for a prestige pattern that was being superimposed in New York.  

The casual speech (the initial response) and the emphatic speech (the second response) differed in Klein's. There was a higher percentage of "r" inclusion in the emphatic stress than in the casual speech = sale assistants are inserting elements which they feel are socially desirable. 
- The use of these two types of speech also proved that the use of the postvocalic "r" was not random because the salesclerks could chose which one they wanted to use. 
- The choice is dependent upon the customer = if the customer appears to be low-class, the "r" inclusion will be omitted. The downward convergence would show similarity between the two people, improving sales, because the customer feels more relaxed. 

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