Language and Identity: National, Ethnic, Religious by John E. Joseph (auth.)

By John E. Joseph (auth.)

Offering a uniquely broad-based evaluation of the function of language selection within the development of nationwide, ethnic and spiritual id, this textbook examines quite a lot of particular situations from a variety of components of the realm that allows you to arrive at a few basic ideas about the hyperlinks among language and identification. it is going to profit scholars and researchers in quite a lot of fields the place identification is a crucial factor and who at present lack a unmarried resource to show to for an summary of sociolinguistics.

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Additional info for Language and Identity: National, Ethnic, Religious

Sample text

There is a widespread tendency to locate who one is – one’s subjective self – in one’s individual feelings. Even though many linguists and philosophers of language would not dispute this view, until recently they have shunned emotions as constituting an anti-rational domain that could not be subjected to rational enquiry. Throughout the humanities generally this attitude has changed drastically in the last decade and a half, but linguistics, a very conservative discipline, has been slow to embrace the change.

In sum, the classical understanding of language focuses on speakers as agentive subjects and the system of linguistic knowledge that allows them to produce and understand meaningful utterances. But linguistic identity research, following upon the essential breakthrough of 24 Language and Identity Malinowski’s conception of phatic communication, takes what is ‘meaningful’ in linguistic utterances to extend far beyond their propositional content. It is interested in all those features of utterances which hearers use to ‘read’ facts about the speaker – geographical and social origin, level of education, gender and sexuality, intelligence, likeability, reliability and trustworthiness, and so on.

But just what is ‘the English language’ in this perspective? Not the whole of the ability of English speakers to interpret the speech or writing of other English speakers, nor even their capacity for producing interpretable signs. For as noted above, these capacities inevitably exceed the boundaries of any given language, and even of human language. If the first task of sociolinguistics is to understand this broader interpretative capacity, its second task is to account for how specific interpretative traditions come to be conventionalised, institutionalised and passed from generation to generation, within social groups of various sorts, including the grouping we call the classroom.

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