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Published by: Saidrizi on Sep 09, 2010
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Sociolinguistics, Power and Identity

Niloofar Haeri

American sociolinguists have been concerned with issues related to power and identity at least since the 1950s. According to Niloofar Haeri, a linguist in the Anthropology Department at Johns Hopkins, topics involving power and identity have long been the object of linguistic scrutiny. Among others, one may mention the influential work of Charles Ferguson on diglossia (1959), which touched crucially on the status of classical or standard languages co-existing in a variety of communities; and that of Uriel Weinreich on the linguistic and sociolinguistic consequences of languages in contact (1954). In the 1960s, Joshua Fishman, William Labov and Dell Hymes pioneered studies which focused on linguistic variation in relation to a multiplicity of social and cultural factors. Ethnicity, for example, which plays a central role these days in discussions of identity, was the focus of Labov's 1966 study of New York City English among Italian, Jewish, Irish and Black Americans, and also the topic of Gumperz's extensive work on cross-cultural (mis)communication. Fishman's research over a forty year career in the field has addressed ethnicity, language and education, Jewish languages, and nationalism. Bilingualism and the relations between standard and non-standard varieties and dialects, particularly in multi-ethnic societies, have been

.not real linguists. In fact. the counterpart of Julia Kristeva in linguistics here. From outside the field. by not delving too deeply into the social constructs they use to shed light on the interactions of language. Given the dominance of Chomskyan formalists in American linguistics. Among these Haeri includes the works of Katherine Woolard. Furthermore. Haeri is optimistic that the field is becoming more aware of its own shortcomings. quite a few linguists acknowledge the present lack of direction in the field. and so on. and the other from Wales. "formal linguists have been extremely successful. and on the other hand. Chomsky. politics. a number of recent publications on language and gender specifically address this shortcoming and offer ways of moving further ahead with this topic. Bambi Schiffelin and Judith Irvine. the division between "formal" linguists and those who take social context into account to varying degrees is rather sharp. They consider other linguists soft -. But the two sides of his intellectual engagement seem never to meet on the question of language.. does spend half of his time on questions of power." Sociolinguistics' lack of engagement with wider theoretical concerns in the social sciences has now reached a crucial juncture.technical and quantitative aspects of some sociolinguistic work. say. but attend equally to theoretical issues raised in other fields. .S. culture. that one is from France.and they are very intimidating with their abstractions and theories. showing their capabilities in their works. "I do not know anyone who would be. She notes. Critically engaged analyses have recently emerged from both within and outside the field. Penny Eckert. as compared to say France. however. she mentions the sociological critiques of Pierre Bourdieu and Glyn Williams. Several linguists have worked on more integrative analyses which utilize sociolinguistic methods and techniques. According to Haeri. Here. and social structure." Haeri believes that this division in linguistics echoes various other fields in the U. some sociolinguists respond to this tension by..S. who is the foremost proponent of formal linguistics. in the U. such as anthropology and sociology. In general. on the one hand.

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