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The Semiotic Hitchhiker's Guide to Creaky Voice: Circulation and Gendered Hardcore in a Chicana/o Gang Persona

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Abstract

This paper aims to build on some of Jane Hill's contributions to the understanding of indexicality and the creation of an intertextual media series (Hill 2005), as well as to elucidate the varying levels of awareness that speakers have of linguistic features in the circulation of a stereotype. I show how creaky voice, a type of nonmodal phonation, becomes enregistered within an early narrative context, and is then catapulted by centrifugal media forces, taken as part of a constellation of features that cluster around the persona of “hardcore Chicano gangster.” The data presented come from four separate but intricately related sources. One is a narrative of a Chicana girl from Northern California, collected in the 1990s when she was involved in gangs. I also analyze a media-based data set that includes songs about cholos by a Chicano hip hop artist, web-based text and video tutorials on how to act like a cholo, and a representation of a Chicano gangster in the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. I explain a mechanism through which a metapragmatically less-than-salient feature can become a semiotic hitchhiker, co-occurring with more overtly ideologized and stereotyped phenomena such as codeswitching and the usage of specific discourse markers. [creaky voice, intertextuality, metapragmatic awareness, enregisterment, Chicanos]

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