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In this chapter we will examine language ideologies – what people imagine languages to be and how they expect languages should be used. In particular, we will look at two powerful language ideologies: the monolingual ideology that says that monolingualism is better than multilingualism, and the standard language ideology, which says that there is one correct way of speaking a language and that other ways of speaking it are somehow inferior. At the end of the chapter, in the focal topic, we will explore the consequences that these ideologies have on people’s lives.
In Chapter 2 we saw that people often creatively use different kinds of resources to communicate different meanings at different times and with different people, and in Chapter 3 we considered different ‘varieties’ of language associated with different groups of people. In this chapter we will focus on people’s practices of mixing together more than one ‘language’, ‘dialect’, or register when they communicate and some of the reasons for these practices. We will provide an overview of the different ways these practices of ‘mixing resources’ have been conceptualised in sociolinguistics, including code switching, crossing, and translanguaging. The focal topic for this chapter is language in education, where we will explore issues around mixing and switching linguistic resources in classrooms.
Throughout this book we have talked about how different resources (‘languages’, ‘dialects’, ‘styles’) are valued differently in different societies. The value assigned to different resources manifests not just in structural inequalities (see Chapter 2), but also in the pervasive everyday attitudes people have about particular ‘languages’ and ways of using language, and the acts of ‘othering’ and aggression that sometimes result from these attitudes. In this chapter we will focus on the study of language attitudes, exploring how and why people respond to other people’s communicative practices in negative or positive ways. The focal topic explores how the linguistic practices of certain groups of people are represented, mocked, and appropriated in ways that perpetuate racism and marginalisation.
This chapter focuses on the mobility of communicative resources and the way they interact with and are influenced by different resources they come into contact with as a result of this mobility. It explores the different ways sociolinguists have addressed mobility, from more traditional approaches that focus on ‘language contact’ to more contemporary ones which attempt to trace the trajectories along which people and resources ‘flow’ through global networks. It then examines the communicative practices of global hip-hop artists as a case study in language and globalisation. The focal topic for this chapter is migration, specifically the communicative challenges migrants face and the strategies they deploy when they move from one place to another.
In this chapter we will consider how people communicate not through ‘languages’ in the traditional sense, but through collections of resources – ‘pieces’ of language and other things like pictures, gestures, and clothing – which allow them to communicate not just what they mean but also who they are. Different people have access to different kinds of resources, which can create problems of inequality in society, an issue that we will take up in the focal topic section of this chapter.
In this chapter we will talk about how people use language and other communicative resources to show themselves to be ‘certain kinds of people’. We begin by discussing the notion of identity, arguing that people don’t just have one identity, but rather perform different identities in different situations by adopting different styles of speech and behaviour. We will then review the different ways sociolinguists have understood style, from perspectives which focus on how people adopt certain styles to fit the people they are talking to, to perspectives which focus on how people actively ‘style’ their identities in order to align to certain groups or to strategically manage different social situations. The focal topic features a discussion of how people use communicative resources to manage gender and sexual identities.
In this chapter we will consider different modes of communication other than language, such as images and emojis. We will also consider the different media that serve as carriers for communicative resources, and how they can affect the way these resources circulate, how they can be used, and by whom. We will also discuss how media, especially digital media, can affect the formation of different kinds of communities, and how different kinds of texts and other communicative resources circulate through these communities. Finally, in the focal topic we will discuss the role different modes and media play in the stigmatisation of the communicative practices of particular individuals or groups and the promotion of particular ideologies such as sexism and racism.
In this introduction we will explain how sociolinguistics is relevant to helping us to solve real-world problems. We will also explore some of the challenges we face when we talk about concepts such as ‘language’ and ‘society’, and introduce some of the more recent concepts, theories, and practical tools that sociolinguists have developed to talk about and analyse the relationship between language and social life.
In this chapter we will delve deeper into the connection between language and social meaning by exploring the traditional concern of sociolinguists with what is known as language variation. Variation means difference, so people who are interested in language variation are interested in how language use differs among different groups of people and the social meanings those differences might index. We will take a critical look at the different ways scholars have studied language variation, exploring how even small alterations in the way people talk can signal belonging or not belonging to a particular group, and we will also examine the social processes through which certain ways of speaking come to be associated with certain kinds of people. In the focal topic section we will look more closely at the issue of ‘belonging’.
This chapter focuses on the relationship between language and the material world. The material world includes public spaces and built environments, our bodies, and the objects that we use on a daily basis. We will start by exploring different kinds of public signs that are displayed in the physical environment, showing how things like posters, notices, billboards, advertisements, street names, and graffiti both reflect sociolinguistic realities and serve as resources for enacting those realities. We will then turn our focus to the relationship between language and the body. The ultimate aim of this chapter is to demonstrate that our bodies and the world around us are as important for performing social identities and managing social relationships as the words we speak. At the end of this chapter, in the focal topic, we will explore the significance of signage and embodiment in situations of conflict and political protest.