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Discourse Analytic Approaches to Language and Identity  

Dorien Van De Mieroop

Rather than thinking of identity as something that defines a person in such a way that it makes them distinguishable from others, researchers using discourse analytical approaches within linguistics—especially in the fields of pragmatics and interactional sociolinguistics—tend to adopt a social constructionist perspective and thus view identity as a multimodally constituted activity or process. From this perspective, identity is not something one is or has, but something that one does or creates by means of various linguistic and paralinguistic resources as well as bodily movements. This performative view of identity has a number of implications. Rather than thinking of identity in the singular, a plural conceptualization of identities is capitalized on. Moreover, these identities should not be regarded as pertaining to only the ‘large’ macro-level sociodemographic categories individuals belong to, such as gender, race, and social class; identities are often described in much more nuanced terms. Such a fine-grained approach is needed to do justice to this performative perspective on identity, as it helps to capture the many dynamic and extremely fleeting ways in which people engage in identity work. Furthermore, all these identity constructions are not necessarily always consistent with one another, and they may sometimes even be contradictory, as people may not always be—or be able to be—equally prone to enacting a particular identity. This may depend on what they are doing and with whom, as identities are also related to the identities other people may construct around them. All these aspects make the analysis of identity quite a complex endeavor, as not only can their plural and fleeting nature make identities quite hard to capture, but it can also be quite a challenge to pin down precisely at which points in an interaction we can actually observe identity work in action.


Humor in Language  

Salvatore Attardo

Interest in the linguistics of humor is widespread and dates since classical times. Several theoretical models have been proposed to describe and explain the function of humor in language. The most widely adopted one, the semantic-script theory of humor, was presented by Victor Raskin, in 1985. Its expansion, to incorporate a broader gamut of information, is known as the General Theory of Verbal Humor. Other approaches are emerging, especially in cognitive and corpus linguistics. Within applied linguistics, the predominant approach is analysis of conversation and discourse, with a focus on the disparate functions of humor in conversation. Speakers may use humor pro-socially, to build in-group solidarity, or anti-socially, to exclude and denigrate the targets of the humor. Most of the research has focused on how humor is co-constructed and used among friends, and how speakers support it. Increasingly, corpus-supported research is beginning to reshape the field, introducing quantitative concerns, as well as multimodal data and analyses. Overall, the linguistics of humor is a dynamic and rapidly changing field.


Language Ideologies  

Susan Gal

Language ideologies are representations about the nature, structure, and use of linguistic forms in a social world. These understandings are never only about language. They are politically positioned, morally and aesthetically loaded evaluations of the situated linguistic practices to which a social group attends. Language ideologies are evident in practices and in embodied dispositions, or may be implicit in textual form and in material infrastructures. Sometimes they are explicit in discourse. Language ideologies are indispensable in social life because they mediate between aspects of language and other sociocultural phenomena such as identities, interactional stances, and hierarchies of cultural value.Speakers must draw on their presumptions about language and speech to interpret talk and thereby engage in everyday interactions, including child socialization, political debate, ritual speech, intellectual exploration, and governance. Language ideologies have considerable sociopolitical and historical consequences as metacommunications that frame the meaning of enregistered signs-in-use. Mediatingsemiotically between linguistic practices and social as well as linguistic structures, ideologies shape the direction of linguistic and social change. Semiotic concepts of indexicality, differentiation, rhematization, fractality, and erasure are essential in analysis. Language ideologies are evident in communities of all kinds. Scholars, too, have ideological presuppositions which orient their research and have political consequences. A study of a social group's language ideologies is indispensable in projects of language documentation, revitalization, poetics, and multilingual sustainability.


The Language of the Economy and Business in the Romance Languages  

Franz Rainer

The expression language of the economy and business refers to an extremely heterogeneous linguistic reality. For some, it denotes all text and talk produced by economic agents in the pursuit of economic activity, for others the language used to write or talk about the economy or business, that is, the language of the economic sciences and the media. Both the economy and business contain a myriad of subdomains, each with its own linguistic peculiarities. Language use also differs quite substantially between the shop floor and academic articles dealing with it. Last but not least, language is itself a highly articulate entity, composed of sounds, words, concepts, etc., which are taken care of by a considerable number of linguistic disciplines and theories. As a consequence, this research landscape offers a very varied picture. The state of research is also highly diverse as far as the Romance languages are concerned. The bulk of relevant publications concerns French, followed at a certain distance by Spanish and Italian, while Romanian, Catalan, and Portuguese look like poor relations. As far as the dialects are concerned, only those of some Italian cities that held a central position in medieval trade, like Venice, Florence, or Genoa, have given rise to relevant studies. As far as the metalanguage used in research is concerned, the most striking feature is the overwhelming preponderance of German and the almost complete absence of English. The insignificant role of English must probably be attributed to the fact that the study of foreign business languages in the Anglo-Saxon countries is close to nonexistent. Why study foreign business languages if one own’s language is the lingua franca of today’s business world? Scholars from the Romance countries, of course, generally write in their mother tongue, but linguistic publications concerning the economic and business domain are relatively scarce there. The heterogeneity of the metalanguages used certainly hinders the constitution of a close-knit research community.


Pop Cultural Linguistics  

Valentin Werner

Pop cultural linguistics represents an emerging research subfield. It can be conceptualized as a specific type of media linguistics concerned with the study of performed language as represented in various pop culture manifestations, such as music, TV series, movies, comics, cartoons, and video games, among others. Pop culture is thus viewed as a broad category that includes artifacts with a commercial, entertainment-related purpose that are (mass-)mediated, fall within the mainstream, and represent largely fictional and scripted content. Linguists working in pop cultural linguistics explicitly take account of the current social and practical relevance of pop culture and the fact that it is largely a multimodal phenomenon with a strong linguistic component and the potential for affective engagement. Pop cultural linguistics possesses inherent relevance for the broader area of cultural studies, which may benefit from quantitative and qualitative approaches used in linguistics to increase the overall validity of findings and to develop a comprehensive picture of pop culture artifacts. The main object of study in pop cultural linguistics is performed language. While performed language was traditionally sidelined in linguistics due to its alleged “inauthentic” nature, it has gradually been acknowledged as a regular part of everyday language use and thus has been normalized in linguistic study. The increasing availability of resources relevant for pop cultural linguistics, such as language corpora and thematic bibliographies, illustrates the vitality of the field, as does the growing body of research. Research in pop cultural linguistics is methodologically eclectic and commonly adapts approaches and frameworks used in established linguistic subfields, such as sociolinguistics, stylistics, or corpus linguistics. It serves to explore salient topics, such as the linguistic construction of authenticity and identity from a sociolinguistic angle or the representation of politeness from a pragma-stylistic point of view, occasionally also applying a contrastive perspective in terms of performed language vs. natural conversation. Pop cultural linguistics is further characterized by increasing methodological reflection and a growing recognition of the affordances of multimodal analysis, even though these aspects will have to be addressed more explicitly in the future.


Register and Enregisterment in Germanic  

Jürgen Spitzmüller

Enregisterment denotes the sociolinguistic process within which specific forms of speaking, writing, or signing are subsumed by a social group into a coherent, distinctive whole (a language, a dialect, a standard, a slang etc.), which is often also given a label (such as Viennese, Spanglish, chatspeak, youth slang, officialese) and associated with specific contexts of use, media, groups of users, purposes, and ends, which are expected to be “typical” with regard to these forms. The product of such a process, an allegedly distinct set of communicative means that is associated (indexically linked) with assumed contexts and hence evokes specific expectations as far as their use is concerned, is called a register, register of discourse, or register of communication. According to the sociolinguistic theory of enregisterment, registers are interpretive or ideological concepts rather than ontological facts; that is, there is often not much empirical evidence that these forms of communication are really used in the exact way, as distinctively, or as coherently as the register allocation would suggest, but nevertheless there is a shared belief throughout the relevant community that this is the case. Since such shared beliefs do have an impact on how people categorize the world they find themselves in, however, registers are not dismissed as “false beliefs” about language, but are rather seen as a core ingredient of the social use of language, particularly in relation to processes of social positioning, and of alienation and social discrimination, as well as the construction of social identities. Furthermore, many scholars have pointed out that enregisterment is not merely a “folk-linguistic” phenomenon (as opposed to allegedly “nonideological” forms of inquiry practiced by linguistic experts), since enregisterment processes are often propelled by linguistic scholars, and registers (such as “ethnolects” or “netspeak”) sometimes even derive from academic discourse. Since the concept has gained great prominence in contemporary sociolinguistics, registers and enregisterment have been widely researched in Germanic languages, most notably English but also other Germanic languages such as German, Dutch, Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian. Enregisterment processes have been identified with regard to multiple historical and contemporary dimensions with which registers are being linked, among them nation states (language standardization and pluricentric standard variation), regions (regional and urban varieties), gender (e.g., “female speech,” “queer slang”), class (e.g., received pronunciation), age (e.g., “youth slang”), media (e.g., “netspeak”), profession (e.g., “officialese”), and ethnicity (e.g., “ethnolects”).