Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in English Composition



First Reader/Committee Chair

Vickers, Caroline


This thesis investigates the construction of identity and authenticity through sociophonetic variation, focusing on British Hip Hop artist Amy Winehouse. Prior work on British vocal artists’ phonetic variation has relied upon regional categorical frameworks (Trudgill, 1983; Carlsson, 2001) and found variation to be evidence of production errors and speakers’ misidentification of targeted speech patterns, resulting in summative interpretations of conflict between speakers’ discreet identities and speech pattern categories. More recent work has attended to linguistic processes within cultural movements influenced but not strictly delimited by sociolinguistics’ canonical categories of region, class, race, etc. Within the context of the Hip Hop cultural movement, which demands members maintain authenticity via its mantra of keepin’ it real, scholars have described processes by which authenticity is redefined and re-localized (Pennycook, 2007), emphasized the performative process of the construction of identity rather than the categorical delineation of identity (Alim, 2009), explicated the construction of authenticity within Hip Hop as inextricable from Hip Hop’s roots in the Black American Speech Community (Alim, 2006), and shown how linguistic processes mediate the markedness of artists’ Whiteness as they construct authenticity within Hip (Cutler, 2007). This work applies sociophonetic analytic tools to sung and spoken speech informed by indexical theory. Through indexical theory, the construction of identity is examined via the employment of variants that do not convey fixed meanings but instead create complex fields of possible meaning (Eckert, 2008). The variables examined include postvocalic contexts of the liquids /l/ and /r/ and intervocalic instances of /t/. Findings indicate that Winehouse’s use of non-rhotic postvocalic /r/ in spoken language, rhotic postvocalic /r/ in singing language, glottal [ʔ] intervocalic /t/ in spoken language, intervocalic /t/ as [ɾ] in singing language, and categorical use of vocalized postvocalic /l/, demonstrates a negotiation between a Hip Hop identity and a White British non-posh identity. Her spoken and singing language represent a re-localizing of Hip Hop’s demand for authenticity within Winehouse’s British context. Findings indicate that phonetic features can index a redefinition of authenticity as forms of talk, such as Hip Hop, gain ownership in new contexts.