Journal of Language and Literature
Volume 3 Number 1 2004
ISSN 1478 - 9116

The 'Clue-bearing' Function of Language: The Politics of Dialect in Twain's "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer"

Akila Sellami-Baklouti
Univerity of Sfax, Tunisia

View pdf Version


About a century after Mark Twain had written "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer", and with the emergence of the newly developed discipline of Socilinguistics, it was strongly claimed (Trudgill, 1995) that language has a 'clue-bearing' function, and that the way a person uses language reveals his/her background (social status, level of education, occupation, ethnic or regional belonging…).

This paper tries to apply a sociolinguistic approach to "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer". It analyses the linguistic features (phonological, morpho-syntactic and lexical) of the characters' speech in the novel. It further investigates the 'clue-bearing' function of this speech i.e. whether there exists a correlation between the way Twain's characters use language and their social background concluding on Twain's motivation behind the use of such linguistic variation.

Key Words: Sociolinguistic investigation, linguistic variation, dialects, social factors, language use, "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer", characterisation.

About the Author

Dr Sellami-Baklouti works in the Faculty of Letters and Humanities, University of Sfax, Tunisia.