Personae in sociolinguistic variation

Annette D'Onofrio*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


While studies of sociolinguistic variation traditionally have focused on correlations between macro-social categories and the use of linguistic variants, sociolinguistic work examining social meaning-making at an interactional level views linguistic variation as a resource deployed by agentive speakers and listeners. The persona has become an important construct in understanding how on-the-ground interactional practice builds up to form larger-scale patterns of sociolinguistic variation and change. Rather than members of macro-social groups, personae are holistic, ideological social types that are recognizably linked with ways of being and speaking. This article reviews the theoretical foundations for the use of personae as a social construct in the study of linguistic variation. It then describes the ways in which the construct has enriched sociolinguistic theories of social categories, intra-speaker variation, stylistic practice, explicit performances, sociolinguistic perception, and sociolinguistic change. Taking up the study of personae helps sociolinguists better articulate how linguistic variation is contextualized socially, and how links between personae and linguistic styles are formed and disseminated through time and social space. Further, examining the nature of the social constructs linked with variation, including personae and other constructs aside from demographic categories, helps inform the growing body of work that has aimed to incorporate social information into theories of language processing, perception, production, and representation. This article is categorized under: Linguistics > Language in Mind and Brain Linguistics > Linguistic Theory Psychology > Language.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1543
JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2020


  • indexicality
  • linguistic change
  • linguistic variation
  • personae
  • sociolinguistics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Psychology(all)


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