Too often I get asked: Socio-what? (or Socio-wo?, if you’re in London and a master of the glottal stop) what is it that you study again? It’s about time I start to refer people to read it up on my blog and get into the business of sociolinguistics because, people, it’s exciting times.
In the words of William Labov (1982): “There are two questions that are put to linguists…What is linguistics about? What is it good for?”Labov on Ann Arbor Trials (=’what are you going to do with it?’ is the question we get most in this economy-driven world).
Well, sociolinguistics is a field that passionately exposes inequalities, leads research into social issues such as language and gender, language and ethnicity or language and the media are examined in relation to the socio-cultural (and situational) contexts in which speakers use language as well as in relation to different representations of specific socio-cultural groups in the media and other (written) texts. For example, we investigate how women speak and how women are spoken about (e.g. sexist language). An interesting topic is the political correctness debate; attitudes to non-standard English; multicultural London English and the linguistic construction of identity.
We use analytical tools and frameworks such as critical discourse analysis (CDA), systemic functional linguistics (SFL), semiotics, conversation analysis, feminist linguistics, ethnography and variationist sociolinguistics. We investigate how language is used and meanings are created, interpreted and contested in a range of different texts, discourses and socio-cultural environments.
Sociolinguistics and Ecolinguistics are incredibly useful and important fields of study because they can be used to uncover inequalities in various societal domains. One notable is example is one of the most prominent variationist sociolinguist Labov testified on the Black English Ann Arbor trial to help change the perception of AAVE (African American Vernacular English) in schools and education on the whole, and specifically how to reverse the educational failure of inner cities. Labov addressed the issue of linguists facing a confrontation between what he called the scientific conscience and the social conscience. He calls for a resolution between objectivity and commitment and demonstrates how his knowledge and expertise can help change social paradigms.
Ugh, another blog!
It may seem like just another blog at first, but it’s so much more! In my work and studies, I come across such interesting articles and readings that most of the population never gets to see and even if they do see it (I send my dad stuff all the time) it may be too condense and inaccessible. I also think that this inaccessibility holds back disciplines like sociolings and ecolings – they want to uncover and exposed ideologies and power but they only really exist in the academic realm and very rarely venture out. We’ll change all that 🙂 Stick around.
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