Diana Boxer, Applying sociolinguistics: Domains and
face-to-face interaction. Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 2002. 244 pp.
Hb $108.00, Pb $47.95.
This book has many fine qualities, including careful attention to what
is meant by applying linguistics as opposed to applied
linguistics. The author's goal is to show readers how research
findings in micro-sociolinguistic interaction can be applied to several
domains of public and private life: family, education, religion, the
workplace, cross-cultural encounters, and so on. Application, in this
case, involves awareness of subtleties that go unnoticed in face-to-face
interaction, particularly those that create or sustain a power imbalance
between participants. That awareness, in turn, sets the stage for
“transform(ing) the social order” (p. 22, italics omitted) by
empowering “individual speakers in their ordinary day-to-day
interactions in all spheres of life and in all stages of life”
(222). Instead of a social or political agenda, the book suggests in each
domain what would constitute more “humane” interaction:
stories would be addressed to children, as well as told about them;
collaborative ways of speaking associated primarily with women would be
given more status in the workplace and used more often by both women and
men; gatekeepers who deal with international students (and other U.S.
Americans who interact with speakers for whom English is a second
language) would be more sensitive to the potential for face threat to
arise from misunderstanding.