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Anthropology of the Word

The Stepsister of Linguistic Anthropology

Grzegorz Godlewski

Anthropology of the word is an approach that originated in Poland, at the University of Warsaw, in the early 1990s. It emerged from philological study of language and literature, by widening and strengthening their cultural dimensions. Gradually, this approach grew closer to linguistic anthropology but retained its specificity, which consists essentially in considering linguistic practices as cultural practices, including language-mediated practices in which the verbal line is only one thread; studying historical forms of linguistic practices; recognising verbal art (including literature) as a set of peculiar linguistic practices and making it a subject of anthropological study; including linguistic practices other than oral and written ones; identifying various cognitive aspects of the textual bias in order to eliminate its distorting effect on the study of linguistic practices.

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Language Ideologies at Work

Economies of Yupik Language Maintenance and Loss

Daria Morgounova Schwalbe

Using an ethnography of speaking approach, this article discusses the ideological aspects of language practices, as they are played out in a traditional Yupik (Eskimo) village in Chukotka, in the Far East of the Russian Federation. The article shows how local linguistic practices and language choices of individual speakers intersect with purist language ideologies, which frame certain beliefs about languages and ways of speaking, making them appear more normal and appropriate than others. Placing the “work of speaking” within the context of cross-cultural dynamics and purist language economies, this article challenges the basic assumption of linguistic purism about language and identity being intertwined.

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Patrick Stevenson

This article addresses the complex relationships between political discourses, demographic constellations, the affordances of new technologies, and linguistic practices in contemporary Germany. It focuses on political and personal responses to the increasingly multilingual nature of German society and the often-conflicting ways in which “the German language” figures in strategies promoting social integration and Germany's global position. In order to do this, the idea of “the German language” is contextualized in relation to both internal and external processes of contemporary social change. On the one hand, changes to the social order arising from the increasingly complex patterns of inward migration have led to conflicts between a persistent monolingual ideology and multilingual realities. On the other hand, changes in the global context and the explosive growth of new social media have resulted in both challenges and new opportunities for the German language in international communication. In this context, the article explores internal and external policy responses, for example, in relation to education and citizenship in Germany, and the embedding of German language campaigns in strategies promoting multilingualism; and impacts on individual linguistic practices and behaviors, such as the emergence of “multiethnolects” and online multilingualism.