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Linguistic Diversity and Social Justice: An Introduction to Applied Sociolinguistics

This chapter examines the history of social activism in sociolinguistics, with a particular focus on efforts in the United States. It exemplifies ways that the study of sociolinguistics is critical for increased social justice and social change, and demonstrates how sociolinguistic models might better reflect a social justice framework if they are co-constructed by linguists and the communities in which they learn and teach.

At the heart of a linguistics-centered social justice framework is the most basic right of a speaker: the right to speak his or her language of choice at all times. Sociolinguistics has made great advances in helping to demonstrate the links between language use and social justice across racial and cultural groups. Keywords: sociolinguistics , US social activism , social justice , social change , language discrimination. Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read.

You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. We have seen the future, and the future is ours. Given the essential sociolinguistic premise that language is fundamentally a social action, sociolinguists are in a unique position to help scholars and practitioners across disciplines research issues that intersect with the societal consequences of language behavior and language policy.

As such, I exemplify ways that the study of sociolinguistics is critical for increased social justice and social change, and demonstrate how sociolinguistic models might better reflect a social justice framework if they are co-constructed by linguists and the communities in which they learn and teach.

Sociolinguistics as a discipline has been served by the examination of not only language change and its social correlates, but also by the complimentary p. Social justice—based frameworks of research and action fit naturally into the sociolinguistic model, as these frameworks call for respect and rights for every person and for a thorough respect for justice in all aspects of society Skutnabb-Kangas Language discrimination is one of the last acceptable forms of discrimination Lippi-Green and has frequently been used as a way to discriminate against individuals and groups of people without overtly judging their inherent being, despite the fact that Title VII of the U.

Civil Rights Act of prohibits workplace discrimination based on religion, national origin, race, color, or sex. Lippi-Green challenged linguists not only to affirm the languages that speakers use but, more importantly, to affirm the rights of the speakers to speak them.

Macrolevel language policies have been used as a way to justify social and political divisions and to force speakers of nonstandardized varieties and languages to assimilate linguistically.

Phillipson noted that unresolved tensions between language and nationalism further contribute to social constructions of language and linguistic hierarchies. Sociopolitical situations surrounding language rights often strongly correlate with access to literacy and education. For example, Slave Codes forbade the promotion of literacy among enslaved African Americans in the United States Baugh , and the struggle toward literacy among many Americans from the African Diaspora continues today Rickford The use of standardized testing to uphold the model of the U.

Crucial to positioning sociolinguistics in a social justice framework is knowing who the speakers and the researchers studying them are.

Much sociolinguistic theory has centered on speakers of nonstandardized varieties of language. Baker a, b examined how early anthropologists and linguists set the tone for who was worthy of linguistic study and why.

Powell and Frederic W. Putnam, and then continuing with Franz Boas and his students, the p. Baker a. Although hints of those early models still exist within both sociolinguistics and anthropology, sociolinguistics has made great advances in helping to demonstrate the links between language use and social justice across racial and cultural groups.

In general terms, sociologists were used to support broader ideas of cultural assimilation, while anthropologists were used to support ideas of cultural preservation and conservation. With a few exceptions, including Feagin and Kroch , scholars rarely study how privileged people speak from a sociolinguistic perspective.

As sociolinguistics draws on models from multiple fields including but not limited to linguistics, sociology, anthropology, and psychology, there is often an undercurrent of tension in the ways that different groups have been represented in the literature. A social justice framework helps to rectify those tensions.

Although many sociolinguists have been working within social justice frameworks, a greater focus on social justice in research priorities, even among those who study nonstandardized speakers, is still needed. For example, Rickford stated that while sociolinguistics has drawn heavily from African American communities, the return benefit to communities has been low. Sociolinguists can become even more socially engaged through social service and public outreach.

The U. National Science Foundation NSF , a major source of funding for linguists, has responded to these needs in research modeling and has called for researchers to devote more time to a direct commitment to the public interest. Under this mandate, the NSF requires responses to the following questions:. National Science Foundation The NSF mandate asks for plans for immediate dissemination of the knowledge.

This revision forces the researcher to be aware of and contemplate the relevance of the knowledge to be gained. The efficacy of and the compliance with the new broader impacts statement in linguistics research, however, have yet to be disseminated by the NSF. An attention to community needs in the design and implementation of sociolinguistic scholarship results in expanded funding sources.

Many linguists have been supported by cultural and historical preservation funds as well as by funding from sources in related fields, including education, anthropology, and history. Four waves of social justice—centered sociolinguistic scholarship have each approached calls to social justice in various ways that model and mirror changes that have occurred across academia, especially in the humanities and social sciences. The waves do not represent generations of scholars; rather, they reflect the natural and iterative progression of thought and action, such that a scholar can easily appear in all four waves of work and that scholars who remain active across a lifetime should expect to participate in three to four waves For more information see Eckert, The first wave of sociolinguists approached sociolinguistic social justice by seeing their mission as getting ideas out into the academic and public sphere and then starting to test them through quantitative and qualitative measures.

Labov recounted the education-centered motivations for his work in Harlem. Sociolinguists, including Wolfram and Labov , responded to this argument by showing that language difference—not language deficit—was at the heart of language variation among speakers of nonstandardized varieties of English.

The implementation of the difference framework did a great deal to eliminate paucity arguments from studies of language and culture and gave further evidence to basic linguistic frameworks that centered around the reality that most humans have the ability to speak and that no language is superior to another in either form or function.

Even among the first wave of sociolinguists, there were definitely the underpinnings of direct action at the core. The explanations of early modern linguists in the s, s, and s that all language varieties, both spoken and signed, were equal were acts of social justice into themselves. CAL has sponsored many projects and programs that have had great impact in the areas of language assessment, instruction, and access.

First wave research is still an ongoing necessity to interweave sociolinguistic theory within a more globally centered social justice framework and to examine varieties that are not as represented or studied in the literature. For example, Alim, Ibrahim, and Pennycook demonstrated the influence that hip-hop music has had on African American and global cultures and shed light on the integral nature of language and music throughout the world.

The second wave of sociolinguists tested the initial hypotheses of the first generation and expanded the social context of the sociolinguistic finding that language is both internally and externally conditioned, such that the speakers in their local contexts were examined more deeply for both linguistic and social meaning.

As described in the findings of many of the chapters in this handbook, second wave sociolinguists recognized that a true understanding of social categories provides a more comprehensive set of strategies that linguists can use to bring about linguistic and social justice. As such, the second wave brought about a greater emphasis on action research. In describing the situation that linguists faced in the Ann Arbor trial, Labov asserted that the objectivity linguists need for scientific research may often lie in opposition to their commitment to social action.

Action research models integrate elements from both basic and applied research and recognize the immediacy of the need to make findings available for community use and knowledge Gray Action research embodies a focus on simultaneous action and research in a participative manner.

Research subjects are themselves researchers or are involved in a democratic partnership with a researcher, and data are generated from the direct input of the researcher and those being studied. Research that focuses on social justice is another way to reconfigure and reconcile the basic and applied model, as all of the models are critically important for the advancement of theory and practice. Social justice research emphasizes the processes and conditions that allow for social justice and, as such, is basic, applied, and action-centered in nature.

With a focus on building bridges between the traditional models, researchers who work in a social justice framework are freer to work across disciplines on social issues that are informed by both theory and process. Sociolinguistics is a natural fit for this model. Along these lines, Cameron and colleagues focused on empowerment of the communities served and not just sociolinguistic investigations of them. Wolfram and this volume introduced the principle of linguistic gratuity, proposing that linguists give back to the local communities where they conduct their studies.

Wolfram , ; see also chapter 37 , this volume evaluated his own public outreach measures to see in what ways efforts to give back to the local communities of North Carolina were successful or contested by local communities. Wolfram has coauthored numerous books and papers for non-linguistic readership for examples see Wolfram, chapter 37 , this volume. As sociolinguistics has expanded its realm to include greater numbers of women, minorities, and scholars with physical differences, the focus of sociolinguists expanded as well.

Rickford noted that AfricanAmerican linguists have often made homes in other departments that allow for cross intersection of the waves, especially with regard to outreach, and do not shy away from alliances with speech hearing sciences, communications, and education.

The second wave of linguistics has also demonstrated that sign language has variation just like any other language. Lucas, Bayley, and Valli demonstrated the variability in sign language, which demonstrated its p.

Baugh demonstrated that the distinctiveness of African American speech patterns and features has resulted in such discrimination as landlords denying housing to African Americans as early in the process as the initial telephone inquiries. The increased focus on community engagement and social justice is a movement that is happening across higher education Boyer Traditional notions of basic research as the standard measure of academic excellence are being revisited to privilege research that both expands knowledge and includes models that acknowledge that applied research does indeed influence basic fundamental and theoretical questions Gray Applied research that addresses the improvement of the human condition is now being seen as theoretical and fundamental.

As such, the third wave of social justice sociolinguistics expanded the social implications of the previous two waves of sociolinguistic work and is greatly adding to the dimensions of sociolinguistic activism such that it is not secondary to the research but central to the framing of key questions within sociolinguistic theory.

The waves of research models are directly relevant in sociolinguistics as speakers of nonstandardized varieties help to negotiate the research priorities of sociolinguists who work with them. Granted, even traditional models set degrees of relevance based on the immediate usefulness of the information. As Rickford stated, for the benefit of speakers who are donating their time and energy to the research efforts, some immediacy of presentation of results and implications should be built into the research model.

Rickford compelled linguists to improve the relationships between their universities and the communities in which they work. The information drawn from this work greatly informs the community and the interpters and others who serve them. Skutnabb-Kangas and colleagues put together an edited collection that worked to re-frame language and education policy through a social justice lens. It was one of the first texts in sociolinguistics and language policy to take that approach. The editors situated the text at the intersection of education, opportunity, and politics on a global scale, and through the case studies in the book, they wished to demonstrate how using several languages can contribute to social justice.

Batibo and Brenzinger addressed how poverty affects language survival and how differential access to economic resources is most often the fundamental determinant of language shift and language death.

Along these lines, Magga et al. They showed how dominant language instruction prevents access to education because of linguistic, pedagogical, and psychological barriers; leads to language extinction; and does not present any method by which break the cycle of poverty created by lack of literacy and education. In this sense, the notion of linguistic genocide extends not just to death and physical injury based on the language that someone speaks but also to mental harm and detriment or destruction of the language among speakers.

More needs to be done in sociolinguistic research lines to extend notions of linguistic insecurity and discrimination to focus on the actual harm done to speakers minority languages and language varieties. What is critical in all of these models is that sociolinguistics is kept central in these larger conversations of social inequality; for sociolinguists of the fourth wave, this will be a continued component of sociolinguistic social justice work.

Across academia. The greatest benefit of sociolinguistic research thus far has been to students of sociolinguistics: those who stay in the field of sociolinguistics, but more importantly, those who go on to influence society in a myriad of ways and who take their sociolinguistic information with them. Many schools of education have relationships with local public schools that service-learning courses may be able to partner with.

It is important to examine our own campuses to discover answers to the following questions:. The answers to such questions call for cooperation across disciplines, excellent teaching and advising, and collective responsibility for sociolinguistic information outside what can be seen as the realm of sociolinguistics.

Linguistic Diversity and Social Justice: An Introduction to Applied Sociolinguistics

There are two main purposes in writing this chapter: One is to show the significance of language in how social structures in a society are produced, maintained, and reinforced, demonstrating why we must avoid narrow definitions of language which underestimate its power and why it is essential to see language as social practice. The second purpose is to display how such a critical awareness of the role language plays helps us understand issues of social concern and create a platform to contribute to empowerment of people. The chapter will also emphasize the pedagogical implications of adopting a critical language awareness perspective for social justice in education. Whatever we do we do it with language. We use it constantly — whether we fight, talk, play games, or work in the office, language is there.

This chapter examines the history of social activism in sociolinguistics, with a particular focus on efforts in the United States. It exemplifies ways that the study of sociolinguistics is critical for increased social justice and social change, and demonstrates how sociolinguistic models might better reflect a social justice framework if they are co-constructed by linguists and the communities in which they learn and teach. At the heart of a linguistics-centered social justice framework is the most basic right of a speaker: the right to speak his or her language of choice at all times. Sociolinguistics has made great advances in helping to demonstrate the links between language use and social justice across racial and cultural groups. Keywords: sociolinguistics , US social activism , social justice , social change , language discrimination. Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed.


Request PDF | Ingrid Piller, Linguistic diversity and social justice: An introduction to applied sociolinguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Language and Social Justice

As globalization and migration produce societies of increasing linguistic diversity, much academic attention has focused on the implications of this diversity for the constitutional and political structures of the state. What has been largely absent from this academic discussion, however, is any systematic evaluation of how linguistic diversity relates to social justice. This book therefore fills a gap in the literature. It provides a general, accessible, and highly readable analysis of how language can provide a basis for unequal treatment, or injustice, in societies characterized by linguistic diversity. Starting from first principles, Ingrid Piller demonstrates how linguistic diversity creates the conditions for language to function as a basis for disadvantage and discrimination.

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Understanding and addressing linguistic disadvantage must be a central facet of the social justice agenda of our time. This book explores the ways in which linguistic diversity mediates social justice in liberal democracies undergoing rapid change due to high levels of migration and economic globalization. Focusing on the linguistic dimensions of economic inequality, cultural domination, and imparity of political participation, Linguistic Diversity and Social Justice employs a case-study approach to real-world instances of linguistic injustice.

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Such ideology does not represent transnational human mobilities, and hence reproduces social injustice. Piller further argues that language learning success.

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