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Article

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”).

Article

Critical Applied Linguistics  

Alastair Pennycook

Critical applied linguistics is a field of inquiry and practice that connects questions of power and inequality—domination (constraining possibilities), disparity (inequitable access), discrimination (ideological exclusion), difference (cultural distinction), and desire (social preference)—to applied linguistic concerns. It brings together common applied linguistic interests such as classroom utterances, translations, conversations, genres, second-language acquisition, and media texts with critical sociological engagement with ideology, neoliberalism, colonialism, gender, racism, sexuality, and so on. While critical applied linguistics may therefore suggest certain domains of inquiry—language and migration, workplace discrimination, anti-racist education, and language revival, for example—it also insists that all domains of applied linguistics—classroom analysis, language testing, sign language interpreting, and language and the law—need to take into account the inequitable operations of the social world, and to have the theoretical and practical tools to do so effectively. Critical applied linguistics can also be understood as the intersection of a range of related critical projects, from critical pedagogy, critical literacies, and critical discourse analysis to critical approaches to language policy, critical language testing, and critical language awareness. As a domain of applied work, critical applied linguistics seeks not just to describe but also to change inequality through forms of research, pedagogy, and activism.

Article

Language Crossing and the Global Southern Gaze  

Cristine Severo, Sinfree Makoni, and Ashraf Abdelhay

The notion of language crossing is discussed from the perspective of Southern language practices and epistemologies. The notion of language is expanded to include the voices and metalanguages of subjects who were historically invisibilized and silenced, with a focus on Southern contexts that underwent processes of colonization and liberation, specifically Africa. This also includes speaking across the human/nonhuman dimension. Language crossing not only is a contemporary and Northern practice but also includes a complex set of arrangements, alliances, and negotiations inscribed in the meaning-making process that cannot be reduced to the modern ideas of linguistic, national, or ethnic borders. By drawing on the decolonial sociolinguistic critique of language and linguistics, the concept of crossing is revised and elaborated in light of the insights from certain African sociolinguistic situations. Southern perspectives of language crossing should be able to include the role of objects, animals, nature, and humans in language practices. The following questions are addressed: (a) What does language crossing look like when viewed from the global South/s? (b) What can those who study language crossing learn from the perspective of a global Southern gaze? (c) What can African multilingualisms teach us about the situated dimensions of the notion of language crossing? The conclusion argues that language crossing in Southern contexts is connected to issues of legitimacy, authenticity, and belonging that characterize a sense of community, which is a complex and context-based notion. This means that different peoples, individuals, or groups may have different understandings of what counts as communication and language use. By crossing the disciplinary Northern boundaries toward an approach that dialogues with Southern voices and experiences, the political nature of the notion of boundary is problematized.

Article

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.

Article

Orthography and the Sociolinguistics of Writing  

Mirka Honkanen

Orthography is not a neutral tool for representing language in writing. Spelling is a linguistic variable capable of carrying social meaning, and orthographies are technologies embedded in larger societal structures. Spelling plays a role in the construction of national and other social identities, the delimitation of languages, the authentication and stigmatization of speaker groups, standardization, and the written representation of paralinguistic features. In these and further ways, orthography is a topic of high sociolinguistic relevance. After written language had long received less sociolinguistic attention than speech, there is now a growing body of sociolinguistic research into spelling variation and orthography as a socioculturally situated practice. Sociolinguists investigate the social role of orthographies and spelling choices. When orthographies are developed for previously unwritten languages, decisions have to be made not only regarding phonemic representation but also between creating distance from and closeness to related languages. Orthography becomes a highly debated topic also when spelling reforms are proposed; different ideological, aesthetic, financial, educational, and sociopolitical arguments are typically brought forth. Standardized spellings are seen by language users as granting languages and speakers authority. When non-standardized spellings are used in transcripts of speech, they have been shown to assign sociolinguistic stigma to the speakers represented. Non-standardized spellings are used in different less than fully regulated orthographic spaces, such as digital writing, company and personal names, literary texts, subcultural publications, advertising, and private writing. Sociolinguistic studies on spelling often rely on data from digital communication such as text messaging or social media interactions. Such studies not only describe and classify different kinds of non-standardized spellings but also increasingly establish quantitative tendencies, explore correlations with macro-level sociodemographic factors, and show the potential for respelling to construct identities, personae, and meaning at the micro level of the utterance. Spelling can index identities and stances, act as a contextualization cue, and represent prosodic and dialectal features.

Article

Unsettling Imperial Science: Centering Convivial Scholarship in Sociolinguistics  

Finex Ndhlovu

The universalizing posture of claims made by colonial approaches and their regimes of representation continues to inform most mainstream sociolinguistics research agendas and project designs. Such claims reflect an imperial scientific tradition that overlooks and marginalizes other ways of knowing, particularly those from communities of the global South. Decolonizing sociolinguistics entails doing at least three things. First, we must decolonize ourselves through critical reflection on our own practices and how such practices contribute to the continuation of inequalities in knowledge production and in society. Second is the need to develop new narratives, new words, new grammars, and new vocabularies for eliciting empirical data to support the suppositions and arguments we advance in our anti-conventional and anti-colonial theoretical approaches to language and society research. Such alternative trajectories require a decentering of the dominant (colonial/imperial) voice and an increase in other voices speaking from other equally valid approaches that are currently being overlooked. Third, decolonizing sociolinguistics entails developing new models that draw on a rich collection of thought from a broad spectrum of traditions of knowing. This is about promoting convivial scholarship through mobilizing diverse resources to advance collaborative engagements that link our academic pursuits to public interests, including the interests of marginalized, minority, and global Indigenous communities. Convivial scholarship says the paths we follow in doing sociolinguistics research must be those that are committed to re-membering and rehumanizing Indigenous and other Southern peoples subjected to more than 500 years of coloniality. Decolonizing sociolinguistics must, therefore, mean freeing the field from the colonial tradition of knowing by bringing back to the center historically marginalized Indigenous and Southern knowledge systems. The premise is that a sociolinguistics that works for all must open pathways and avenues for epistemic access and cognitive justice through valuing diverse founts of knowledges as key contours.

Article

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.

Article

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.

Article

Critical Discourse Analysis in China: History and New Developments  

Jiayu Wang and Guangyu Jin

Since critical discourse analysis (CDA) was introduced to China, it has developed into an influential field. Studies in CDA in China from the 1990s to 2020 can be delineated through four stages of development. The first stage focused on introducing the theories and concepts in CDA to China’s academia. During the second stage, CDA in China was no longer confined to reviewing theories abroad but was extended to deeper and more extensive theoretical, methodological, and empirical investigations. During the third stage, Chinese scholars in CDA became more concerned with domestic issues than in the previous stages and started to conduct interdisciplinary studies. The fourth stage marked the flourishing of CDA studies in terms of the numbers of studies published and scholars engaged in the field, and in terms of the breadth and the variety of research methods, topics, and disciplines involved. Chinese scholars tend to gear CDA to China’s social, political, and cultural contexts.

Article

History of Languages for Specific Purposes  

Wolfgang Pöckl

It is often said that languages for specific purposes (also named special languages or technolects) are the product of a division of labor. Although this concept was introduced only as late as 1776 (by Adam Smith, in An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations), the idea that professions or occupations of all kind are characterized by a particular vocabulary that is not understood by all native speakers was already manifest in the writings of medieval scholars (for instance, in Dante’s De vulgari eloquentia). In the Middle Ages most Romance languages conquered a more or less wide range of domains. The question arose whether they were also appropriate to serve as a medium of scholarship. The disciplines taught at the universities (arts, theology, law, medicine) had a strong Latin tradition; their knowledge was popularized by means of translations, which enriched the vocabulary and the syntactic flexibility of the emerging languages. Thus, the translators—sometimes organized in “schools”—contributed to the elaboration of the target languages and to their emancipation from Latin. Aside from the septem artes liberales, however, a second group of (seven) disciplines without Latin roots (called artes mechanicae) established and introduced mainly native vocabulary typical of the respective occupational fields. During the first centuries of modern times, more and more scholars felt that their mother tongue should take the place of Latin as a means of propagating scholarship and new findings. In the 17th and 18th centuries, French held the lead among the modern languages in nearly all fields of knowledge; it maintained its dominant position among the Romance languages until the second half of the 20th century. On a global level, German was a strong rival in the humanities and several scientific disciplines in the 19th century; for many decades, however, English has been the universal medium of communication in the scientific community. This process has given rise to many discussions about language planning measures to be taken in order to curtail the Anglo-American supremacy. Before the 18th century, special languages did not have a strong impact on the physiognomy of developed languages. In the sphere of academic disciplines, translations of canonical Latin texts entailed a general re-Latinization and, as a consequence, a process of convergence of the Romance languages. The technical languages of trade and artisanry were highly fragmented so that their special vocabulary was used and understood only in limited geographical areas. In the Age of Enlightenment, the growing prestige of experts, on the one hand, and philosophical considerations about the optimization of language(s), on the other hand, led to increasing harmonization efforts on national and supranational levels. Organizations were founded with the purpose of creating and standardizing terminologies for various kinds of subjects (technical products, medicine, etc.). Special languages, far from being homogeneous varieties, are differentiated vertically. Linguists use to distinguish between three levels of communication: specialists inter se (e.g., physician—physician), specialist—skilled worker (physician—nurse), and specialist—layman (physician—patient). Studying how technical terms seep into common language and what changes they undergo during this process is a great challenge for linguists.