IWhen Brown and Gilman published their classic work on pronouns of power and solidarity (1960; see also 1989), no one characterized that paper as a major contribution to ‘‘sociolinguistics.’’ When Gumperz and Hymes published their updated Directions in Sociolinguistics in 1986 (the 1972 edition was based on a 1966 publication of the American Anthropological Association), they were providing a paradigmatic definition of recognizable enterprise; that book included contributions by many of the founders. A two-part survey of sociolinguistics written in 1973 (Grimshaw 1973b, 1974a) noted that more had been published on sociolinguistic topics in the early 1970s than in all previous years. That review commented on about fifty new titles; only a few sociologists (particularly Basil Bernstein and Joshua Fishman, each with several volumes) were represented. In the three decades since that time, interest in language in use (micro sociolinguistics) has continued to grow exponentially; while that interest still is not seen as part of mainstream sociology, it is moving in that direction (Lemert 1979). Interest in more macro dimensions of the sociology of language—for instance, language conflict, language maintenance, and language spread and decline—also has grown, though much more slowly.
Some Activities and Some Labels
At least a dozen specialties investigate some aspect of language: its origins, structure, invariant and variant features, acquisition, use in social contexts, change, spread, and death, and so on. Among those specialties, there are at least five whose practitioners do not consider themselves sociolinguists or sociologists of language and whose research seldom is incorporated directly into sociolinguistics/sociology of language (SL/SOL) investigations:
CA has identified devices such as ‘‘preinvitations’’ and ‘‘preclosings’’ as well as ways of constructing accusations without accusing anyone explicitly (Atkinson and Drew 1979); workers in the field are interested in how these devices are used in the course of the immediate talk, not in how they might be directed to more complex goals of conversational participants. Whalen (1991) notes that CA ‘‘examines talk as an object in its own right, as a fundamental type of social action, rather than primarily as a resource for documenting other social processes.’’ None of the five activities listed above deals with language primarily as social resource.
In contrast, another handful of specialties focuses on the social dimensions of language/talk as interactional resource, a component of individual and group identity, and a social object. The ethnography of speaking and ethnolinguistics, like the anthropological practices from which they take their names, focus on the diversity of available linguistic resources and the uses to which those resources are put in individual speech communities and in human society at large, respectively. There is a strong comparative dimension to these arenas of investigation.
Sociolinguistics manifests a different kind of comparative orientation. The micro variety usually focuses on interactional accomplishment through the medium of language in use in social contexts:
The sociology of language, as the macro variety of sociolinguistics often is called (Grimshaw 1987a), tends to focus on distributional studies, such as the distribution of language varieties across individual repertoires and the distribution of repertoires across social aggregates, categories, and groups (nations or classes, genders or age groups, and families or friendship networks, respectively). At the most macro level, this implies studies of language maintenance, supersession and change, conflict, and so on.
The sociological social psychology of language is oriented to group effects on individual behaviors, including the acquisition of social-cultural competence through the medium of talk, the role of talk in the acquisition and organization of evaluative orientations, and uses of talk/written language in social control. At some point, the last activity shades off into symbolic interactionism; this boundary is not explored here. Finally, specialized studies of proxemics (social and interpersonal spacing) and kinesics (body movement, the organization of facial features, gesture, posture) have been done from both sociological and psychological perspectives (Hall 1966, 1974; Kendon,  1990).
Some Questions of Orientation
Since later sections of this article illustrate how sociological theory can be enriched by empirical SL/SOL research in specific substantive areas, the comments here are limited to four questions of general orientation in theoretical work in SL/ SOL:
As in other varieties of social behavior, SL/SOL theory and research must deal with complex problems of cause and effect. There are four principal perspectives on the causal relationship between social structure and language (see Grimshaw 1974b; Hymes 1966):
Most SL/SOL correlational studies focus on how the location of individuals or groups in the social structure is reflected in speech and/or other language behavior, as in the case of regional or class dialects, or determines it, as in the case of the section of a language variety in different situations and with different conversational partners (Blom and Gumperz 1972) or of pronominal forms or other names (for a review of some of this literature, see Grimshaw 1980a). A smaller but substantial number of correlational studies attempt to discover how language use (spoken and written) is associated with interactional outcomes as varied as providing or not providing a requested favor, succeeding or not succeeding in school, and deciding whether to go to war (for a review, see Grimshaw 1981; for illustrations of claims about language use and the risks of war, see Chilton 1985; Wertsch and Mehan 1988). Although closer scrutiny often reveals that ways of talking are themselves resources that are differentially available to interactants with different social origins, some language resources appear to be available throughout social structures. Ways of talking in turn have been shown to have effects independent of structural relations.
Figure 1 is a simplified schematic representation of a mutual-embeddedness perspective. It is also a schematic showing how the processes of cultural reproduction would operate in a world without change. Bernstein (1975), Bourdieu (Bourdieu and Passeron 1977), Cicourel (1980a, 1980b, 1981), Collins (1981a, 1981b), and Habermas (1984–1987) all address the question of cultural reproduction and questions of change. All take essentially mutuality perspectives. All accord central importance to language in the reproduction process. Collins explicates ways in which language is simultaneously a resource in interaction and a source of change. Only Bernstein and Cicourel actually collect data on language in use, and only Cicourel directly investigates talk. None of these scholars would strongly disagree with this characterization; each would wish to ‘‘complete’’ the chart by incorporating neglected features (see Bernstein’s diagram of the process [1975, p. 24], with its foregrounding of different transmission agencies, such as family and education; modes of social control; specific speech varieties; and context-dependent and -independent meanings).
Figure 1. Sketch of a mutual-embeddedness perspective (cultural reproduction without change)
In the mid-1960s, Fischer (1965, 1966) published perhaps the strongest version of the mutualembeddedness position and, from the disciplinary perspective of sociology, perhaps the most esoterically documented. (The papers are reviewed extensively in Grimshaw 1974b.) Fischer argued nothing loss that phonological and syntactic differences between two related but mutually unintelligible languages (Trukese and Ponapean, separated forabout eight centuries) are isomorphic to differences in the social structures of the two societies:
The mutuality perspective is a richly suggestive one.
Linguists write grammars; that is, they describe and write ‘‘rules’’ for phonological and syntactic systems for individual languages. They are also committed to the goal of writing a grammar of language, that is, identifying in grammars of individual languages features and/or rules that hold for all languages: a universal grammar. They distinguish between absolute and quantitative universals (i.e., between features of all languages that can be explained on theoretical grounds as required constituents and features that occur in all or most languages, such as terms for female derived from that for male [this kind of feature is known as marking], but for which no theoretically principled basis can be identified) and between weaker and stronger claims of universality (i.e., between a claim that all languages contain certain elements [nouns, verbs, prepositions] and a claim that those elements appear in the same order in utterances in every language).
An interest in the intrinsic ordering of the universe and a concern to avoid repeating old errors and rediscovering the already known are central in linguists’ interest in both the regularities in individual languages and universal rules. Sociologists have similar concerns in seeking to discover the rules of interactional grammars for specific societies or groups and in seeking social interactional universals and the role of language in use in both grammars and the grammar. Although there are greetings in most, if not all, societies (this is more a quantitative than an absolute universal, and there are societies in which greeting is the marked case and nongreeting the unmarked), how they are done, to whom, and to what purpose may vary considerably (Firth 1972; Goffman 1971; Ibrahim et al. 1976; Kendon and Ferber 1973).
Similarly, there must be a need for information everywhere, but questions are not the appropriate manner for obtaining information in every society (see Goody 1978; sources cited in Grimshaw 1969). Again, it seems likely that interpersonal relations of power and affect and considerations of valence and cost are everywhere involved in requesting behavior (Brown and Levinson 1987; Grimshaw 1989); their relative importance and the consequent variety of modes of requesting behaviors vary considerably.
Ways of talking are everywhere critical resources in interaction; very little is known, however, about what features of language in use in social contexts may be universal or, for that matter, about which rules within speech communities (or social groups) are variant and which are invariant (Labov 1968; Grimshaw 1973a). Indeed, some sociologists find the notion of rule misleading on grounds that expectations and behaviors are always under negotiation (Berger and Luckmann 1966). Notions of rules and exceptions vary across disciplines (Edgerton 1985; Labov 1968; Grimshaw 1973a, 1981).
These distinctions, along with the familiar polarities of social psychology and social organization— or qualitative and quantitative methods— often appear in discussions of sociological interest in language and language in use. Three sorts of questions can be asked in this arena:
As was suggested above, the micro–macro question is closely related both to those about mutual embeddedness and to those about cultural reproduction. The dimension added by asking the articulation question is that of social change: If socializing/cultural transmission agencies operate to reproduce values, attitudes, behaviors, and so on, in new generations, how does change occur? A perspective offered by Collins (1981a, 1981b) is that participants bring to everyday conversations interactional resources that are enhanced or reduced in the course of interaction and that modest changes in interactional resources ultimately eventuate in changes in institutions and cultural systems— and languages. Related formulations are cited in Grimshaw (1987b). The macro–micro questions constrain one to think deeply both about processes of change and about how people try to get co-conversationalists to agree with them or to do what they want those them to do.
Two additional questions about the construction and use of theory have methodological as well as theory-building implications. The first question is whether when sociologists study the uses of language in specific contexts such as educational, military, or medical institutions, they are interested primarily in understanding
There are, of course, no pure cases The second question has been put by Cicourel (1980a) as a distinction between ‘‘top-down’’ and‘‘bottom-up’’ theorizing. By ‘‘top-down,’’ Cicourel means approaching corpora of talk with sets of conceptual notions ranging from the generality of ‘‘cultural reproduction’’ or ‘‘role’’ and/or ‘‘conflict’’ to the specificity of ‘‘role conflict’’ or different‘‘footings’’ in talk (Goffman 1981). By ‘‘bottom- up,’’ he refers to researchers immersing themselves in their data and identifying regularities, then validating that identification, then discovering regularities in relations between previously observed regularities, and so on. All the investigators whose work is mentioned in this article—indeed, all sociologists—would like to believe that they let their data guide them to theory construction, and all are to some extent guided in their work by prior theoretical constructions.
Data, Data, Everywhere
While sociologists sometimes are intimidated by the complex structure of formal linguistic theory, they may be equally envious of the easy access of linguists to their data, either in their own intuitions about the languages they speak or in the bath of talk and writing in which all people live (compare the ways of studying phonology in, for example, Chomsky and Halle 1968; W. Labov 1980). Students of SL/SOL share the advantage that many of the data in which they are interested are fairly accessible and, with modern technology, fairly easy to collect (denial of access and questions of ethics aside). They share the disadvantage that many of the sociological questions they want to study—matters as varied as
Just as there are fundamental questions about theoretical orientation in SL/SOL, there are fundamental questions about methods.
This brief discussion can comment on only a few of these methodological questions:
Labov (1972a) remarked that linguists work variously in library, bush, closet, laboratory, and street, where they collect and/or produce data that can be labeled texts, elicitations, intuitions, experimental results, and observations, respectively. Among the many sorts of data that can be useful in the investigation of SL/SOL issues, those associated with the following four ‘‘how’’ questions are central:
There is no such thing as a ‘‘verbatim’’ record without electronic recording, and optimal records of conversation include both high-fidelity audio recording and possibly multiple sound-image recordings (for discussions of sound-image recording, including some of the controversies about such data collection, see Feld and Williams 1975; Grimshaw 1982, 1989). When one is working with written texts, optimal data include photographic copies of handwritten originals as well as printed versions. Whatever texts and observations are collected and used as data, however, those materials are valuable only to the extent that contexts of both ‘‘situation’’ and ‘‘text’’ (i.e., embedding talk and written material) are provided (the distinction is Halliday’s following Malinowski). Two excellent articulations of the importance of context that suggest different boundaries for what must be taken into account are those of Corsaro (1981, 1985) and Cicourel (esp. 1994).
People are often skeptical of claims about what talk is actually like until they see it transcribed; they then are skeptical that the transcription is accurate until they hear electronically recorded audio while reading a transcript. Investigators who work with texts, elicitations, and observations must always take into account the effects of monitoring in most varieties of SL/SOL data; Labov (1972a) has referred to the Observer’s Paradox; that is, ‘‘we want to observe how people talk when they are not being observed.’’ One also should keep in mind, however, Sol Worth’s observation that all behavior, however carefully monitored, is ‘‘natural’’ (personal communication). Labov has developed elicitation techniques that have the advantage of generating different levels of self-consciousness of, and thus monitoring of, talk (see, e.g., 1972b).
Other concerns with data in SL/SOL research are, like those just reviewed, quite similar to those in sociological research in general. Self-report data on language varieties employed by oneself or one’s family or of uses of literacy are notoriously unreliable, and definitions and measurements of individual attributes such as literacy and bilingual fluency are often inconsistent.
Many of the data employed in SL/SOL research are the same as or very similar to those employed in other arenas of sociology, as are the methods employed in analysis. This similarity may be least evident in the case of the activities labeled ‘‘conversation analysis’’ (see Whalen 1991) and ‘‘comprehensive discourse analysis’’ (Labov and Fanshel 1977). Labov and Fanshel realize that the goal of comprehensiveness is chimerical: their pioneering study demonstrated the importance of such aspects of talk as prosodic and paralinguistic features. Lexical, syntactic, and even phonological selection are deeply involved in what is ‘‘actually said’’ (i.e., interactionally intended) in talk (for a discussion of the process of ‘‘disambiguation’’ of text, see Grimshaw 1987c). Sociologists have employed CDA and adaptations of it to ask more specifically sociological questions. Other students have developed similarly fine-grained approaches to written texts (Silverman and Torode 1980). Perhaps sociologists are now aware that questions about language as language have sociological significance and that talk and writing are no longer just media that contain answers to other questions.
While SL and SOL research and publications have increased tremendously in the last few decades, their literatures continue to be diffuse. There have been few replications. Most research has been on English, and much of the material on other languages is published in English. While much of the early activity in SL was interdisciplinary, there have been few truly interdisciplinary studies (for a discussion of problems with such projects, see Grimshaw, Feld et al. 1994) or parallel studies of shared data (see, however, Chafe 1980; Dorval 1990; Grimshaw, Burke, et al. 1994). There have been few explicitly comparative studies in which the same or collaborating investigators have simultaneously studied the ‘‘same’’ phenomenon in different speech communities (see, however, Watson-Gegeo and White 1990) or in different institutional contexts in same societies (see, however, Grimshaw 1990). There is reason to believe that all three of these important kinds of research are on the increase. Scholars all over the world are trying out SL formulations largely generated in the United States and Europe in their own societies, more and more work is being done on related SL phenomena in societies and speech communities where earlier work followed more traditional courses in linguistics and anthropological linguistics, and researchers from an increasingly wide range of disciplinary backgrounds are finding in SL/SOL data and theory materials to use in addressing their own questions.
Claims about the relative validity, reliability, and general worth of quantitative and qualitative research appear in SL/SOL, as they do in most areas of sociological work. While the modes of work are loosely associated with the micro–macro distinction, there are representations of both modes in both arenas.
SL/SOL as a Resource in Sociological Theory Building
A diminishing number of sociologists remain unfamiliar with SL/SOL and therefore unaware of both substantive findings and theoretical developments that could be helpful in their work. It is possible here to mention only a few contributions to the understanding of
Let us begin with two instances of sociologically relevant contributions by the linguist best known to sociologists (possibly excepting Chomsky), William Labov, and then turn to research by sociologists and other nonlinguists that focuses from the outset on identifiably sociological concerns.
Studies of classrooms, courtrooms, and clinics have generated findings that sometimes have resulted in changes in pedagogic, legal, and medical practice as well as contributed to our theoretical understanding of SL/SOL. Studies of a multitude of other settings, ranging from street, to dinner table, to backyard party, to workplace, also have produced important theoretical insights. Two of these findings come from Labov’s quantitative studies of language use in urban areas of the eastern United States (New York City and Philadelphia); the first has important implications for understanding social stratification, the second for understanding ethnic (and possibly class) relations, and both for understanding processes of social change.
In studies of dialects associated with class, Labov and others have shown that linguistically insecure informants, more often than not women with aspirations for upward social mobility (or concerns about slipping), often hypercorrect their phonological production in the direction of what they perceive as prestige variants, thus producing the prestige variant with higher frequencies than do those at social levels above them—and sometimes produce it inappropriately (Labov gives as an example, ‘‘Hi, say, that’s hawfully good of you’’). Awareness of this phenomenon should alert sociologists to look for analogues in other behavioral arenas (there is a family relationship to anticipatory socialization; the roots of the labeled behaviors may differ quite considerably); Labov (1972b, 1986) has pointed out important implications of this research for studies of linguistic (and, one may add, social) change.
Labov’s second finding is that the speech of urban blacks who have contact with whites continues to be modified in the direction of the grammar of the dominant group, while blacks in the increasingly segregated inner cities speak ever more divergent language varieties. This divergence cooccurs with concommitant differentiation in incomes and educational achievement, heightening social distance and probably enhancing intergroup hostility (see Williams et al. 1964). Labov comments, ‘‘The linguistic situation correlates with the formation of what has been called a ‘permanent underclass’’’ (1986, p. 278).
Studies of actual talk that occurs in the course of everyday interaction have generated both
Instances of the former (all from Grimshaw 1989) are the identification of hyperinvolvement (a phenomenon in which interactants are so deeply involved in the ongoing that they miss the things they intend to monitor), defects of nerve (a situation in which interactants know how to do something but are reluctant to do it because they are concerned that it may generate injury to self or another party), and phenomena such as topic avoidance, topic exploitation, and topic truncation (the last occurring when it becomes obvious to an interactant that interactional goals are not going to be accomplished).
An instance of this is Corsaro’s (1985) demonstration of the processes involved in children’s learning how to recognize and construct the cultures and social structures in which they find themselves. Another is Grimshaw’s (1990) distillation of the reported findings of a number of individual studies of conflict talk into propositions about the conflict process (see below).
Discourse in organizations→ What can be learned from a language-oriented approach to social structure and social behavior depends on researchers’ choices of an ‘‘entering wedge’’ (the term is John Useem’s), that is, the selection of units of analysis, particulars of language in use to be attended, and questions to be asked. The paragraphs below will address things that have been learned from studies of language in use in
Focus on narrative→ Czarniawska is a student of management and organization who disclaims linguistic or sociolinguistic competences language in use is nonetheless central to her analyses of public administration in Sweden. In Narrating the Organization (1997), Czarniawska demonstrates for the study of organizations, a central descriptive and analytic role of stories/narratives and a dramaturgical perspective. Czarniawska asserts that stories rule people’s lives and constitute the basis for the construction of society (p. 5); she seems to believe that the centrality of narrative as the main source of knowledge ‘‘in the practice of organizing . . . is not likely to generate much opposition’’ (pp. 5–6). I find this surprising if true. Her project is to apply the narrative perspective (for which she credits Jean-Francois Lyotard) to elucidate continuities and change in Swedish public institutions and/or organizations at various governmental levels. The argument is dense, and the examples unfamiliar; the demonstration is persuasive both for the organizations studied and for the application of this perspective to other arenas of social life.
Czarniawska conceptualizes organizational life as stories, and organizational theories as ways of reading stories (pp. 26–29). She invokes Burke and Goffman in identifying drama and autobiography as special kinds of narratives (p. 32), noting (following Merelman) how drama, for example, can simultaneously or alternatively generate catharsis, personification, identification, and suspense (p. 36). She observes that stories not only can be vehicles for identity claiming by their tellers but also can be contested by other stories, unsuccessfully performed, and turned into serials (and sagas); importantly, all descriptions favor the theories of their tellers (p. 71).
In her exposition of how she studied Swedish public organizations, Czarniawska reviews a number of methodological conundrums related to the logic of inquiry of interpretive studies, including
Focusing on two specialized fields—municipal administration and social insurance—she shows how stories, themes, and serials can be employed to elucidate the role of ‘‘good’’ and ‘‘bad’’ friction in social change, how new and old ways of acting have been integrated, and how new processes of ‘‘companyization’’ and ‘‘computerization’’ change the workplaces of individuals as well as the larger bureaucratic landscape. Narratives are central to people’s lives, and Czarniawska has shown the necessity of attending to them.
CA is treated elsewhere in this encyclopedia; conversational analysis (CAs) do not consider themselves sociolinguists or sociologists of language. For many years, the author has told CAs that their work is highly original, exciting, and of great potential value to sociology and that that potential will be achieved only when they integrate CA methods and concepts into more traditional sociology, simultaneously showing how traditional sociological concepts and perspectives ranging from status and role, to social structure, to socioeconomic status (SES), to self-esteem could help in interpreting CA findings.
Increasing numbers of researchers across the social sciences and humanities have come to value CA as an approach to everyday talk; until recently, CA-trained sociologists did not undertake to demonstrate the value of talk as data for studying fundamental sociological questions such as how social organization is constituted, reproduced, and modified— and how members contribute to that constitution, reproduction, and modification through talk—in what may appear to be mundane and unremarkable interactions. (CA methods are increasingly being employed in sociological analyses. Atkinson and Drew  on Court proceedings, Maynard  on plea bargaining, and Goodwin  on black children’s play groups are impressive examples. These studies do not as directly as the work discussed here foreground the epistemological issues implied by the CA posture described above [see, for example, Boden pp. 214–215].)
Boden (1994) provides a demonstration that many readers will find convincing. Using audiorecorded talk from telephone calls and meetings of varying levels of formality collected in organizations ranging from a travel agency and a local television station to hospitals and a university administrative department to the Oval Office, Boden shares her understanding of the sometimes extraordinarily delicate but analytically identifiable ways in which talk is employed to ‘‘inform, amuse, update, gossip, review, reassess, reason, instruct, revise, argue, debate, contest, and actually constitute the moments, myths and, through time, the very structuring of [the] organization’’ (p. 8). The argument is often dense, and for readers unfamiliar with CA, it may be difficult to follow. The way in which an accountant comes to see that physicians in different departments may differently view policy change that could improve a hospital’s overall revenue position but reduce ‘‘their’’ money (p. 58 ff) is a case in point.
Boden’s goal is to use her collected talk to undertake two quite different but complementary projects:
In the course of pursuing her projects, Boden shows how members of organizations can at the same time account for their behaviors in terms of a ‘‘rational actor’’ model and be unaware of how actual decision making is accomplished incrementally in fragments of unremembered and individually unremarkable chat rather than through a focused weighing of ‘‘rational’’ considerations. Boden simultaneously shows how concurrent and articulated employ of the previously segregated conceptual apparatuses of general sociology and CA (e.g., adjacency organization, agenda, bracketing, placement, sequence [centrally and critically], turn and so on) is mutually enhancing.
Boden argues that stages of
One may find in Boden’s study a convincing demonstration of Collins’s ‘‘microfoundations of macrosociology’’ perspective.
Boden goes a step further and anticipates the result in offices of the future of today’s incremental changes (p. 209 ff); they will be places with more talk (and reduced opportunities for reflection), sped-up expectations of productivity, increased scope of action for all personnel, a flattened hierarchy, and real downsizing. Careful study of Boden’s book allows one to see how
As early as the 1970s, concern was expressed about the increasingly disparate and noncumulative character of work on language in use in social contexts (Grimshaw 1973b, 1974a). In response to this concern, the Committee on Sociolinguistics of the Social Science Research Council initiated in the 1970s the Multiple Analysis Project (MAP), in which representatives of different disciplines and different theoretical and methodological approaches agreed to undertake analyses of a shared corpus of data, in this case a ten-minute fragment of a doctoral dissertation defense (Grimshaw 1989; Grimshaw, Burke, et al. 1994). The author has (Grimshaw 1994a) attempted to assess the success of this project in achieving its goals of theoretical cumulation, testing the comparative strengths and weaknesses of analytic approaches and methods, and an illumination of a shared corpus of data beyond that available from one or two studies by individual researchers. While it is not possible to conclude that one or another of the analytic modes employed is more comprehensive, a reading of the studies together conveys a sense of the complexity of language use in talk in its several contexts beyond the richness of most studies done from single analytic perspectives (but not all; see Labov and Fanshel , who synthesized a variety of perspectives in their pioneering study of Rhoda and her therapist).
The anthropologists, linguists, and sociologists who investigated the dissertation segment variously focused on laminations of context (Cicourel 1994), formulaic talk (Wong Fillmore 1994), clause structure (Halliday 1994), humor (Fillmore 1994), [Who didn’t find funny that which sociologists in the defense thought was.], speech acts, cohesive devices (Burke 1994; Hasan 1994), prosodic features and contextualization cues (Cook-Gumperz and Gumperz 1994), proforms (Grimshaw 1994b), and many other elements of the talk to study an equally wide range of behavioral outcomes. The outcomes included the reproduction and/or reshaping of social structure; control of the course of talk (and, by extension, interaction); creation of social relations; social and sociolinguistic constraints on discourse and interaction; negotiation of meaning; the notion of fluency, humor, laughter, and short-term social reorganization; membership-affiliation- identification processes and the structuring of group boundaries; and ‘‘face work’’ and political maneuvering. Each of these varieties of behavioral outcome is autonomously a sociological matter. In more macro directions, they are also deeply implicated in the search for answers to the following five interrelated questions; the answers to which require attending to particularities of language in use:
What is going on, in short, when someone orders another person rather than asking or cajoling, or when someone says, ‘‘Don’t include me in that you!’’ or when an interactant says, ‘‘Along those lines . . . ’’ and then challenges something said by an interlocutor/conversational partner?
Ochs, Schegloff, et al. (1996), another volume of studies of language in use, provides additional evidence of the convergence of CA (and linguistic) concerns with those of both sociolinguists and more traditional sociologists. The book is innovative in that the collaboration it reports is among pioneers in articulating work in formal syntax, CA, paralinguistics (e.g., voice quality, intonation, and tempo), kinesics (e.g., facial expression, gesture, and ‘‘body language’’), and proxemics (interpersonal distancing and arrangements of ‘‘things’’ in space) in investigating interactional accomplishment. It illustrates some of the range of autonomously syntactic (e.g., clausal organization and reorganization, employ of inflection and particles, movement of nouns or verbs), prosodic and paralinguistic, pragmatic, and other devices available in different languages and cultures (English, Finnish, Japanese, Kaluli) for the management of turns (including shifts of rights to the floor, acceptance or rejection of interruptions, and simultaneous speech), making credible claims, and making cautious characterizations of those not present or accomplishing a joint response to disruption. Fox et al. (1996) claim that English clause beginnings are richer than Japanese with information about ‘‘how clause is likely to continue,’’ thus providing potential interrupters with valuable information. They also observe that repair (by the speaker or another person) extends the possibilities for how an utterance can be completed in any language (p. 220). They are talking about syntactic resources for interaction. Some of these resources and/or devices are both familiar and fun in a Goffmanesque manner, as when the reader is introduced to and immediately resonates to notions such as ‘‘trailoffs’’ and ‘‘rush-throughs’’ (Schegloff) and ‘‘outlastings’’ (Lerner 1996).
The book is informative because in addition to demonstrating the interinfluence of syntax and interaction, it provides windows to sociological understandings revealed when seldom exploited perspectives are applied to concerns at the core of sociology, including issues of symbolic interaction, the socialization of neophytes, and social change. Beyond this, it allows similarly (and seminally) novel views of specialties such as the sociology of science and that of occupations. Particularly instructive, for example, are Ochs, et al. (1996), on how scientists construct indeterminate referential identities—sometimes in the process blurring the distinction between themselves and the physical world under their scrutiny—and how meaning is built through routine interpretive activity involving talk, gesture, and graphic representation. Also engrossing is Goodwin’s (1996) rich integration of different channels of behavior (syntactic production, intonation, body movement, display of awareness of a world beyond the immediate and ongoing) in a dynamic reconceptualization of Goffman’s notion of participation framework as it operates in situations of disruption (of initially unknown magnitude) of routines—in an airport control tower.
Sociologists can profit from this book because of sociologically relevant questions posed, answers given, and because of passing observations. Lerner’s (1996) thoughtful and suggestive work on how and why interlocutors complete utterances of speakers without being asked initially suggests as functions of such completion
Lerner later argues that an early opportunistic completion may be intended to initiate or sustain a special alignment with a speaker such as affiliation (pp. 263–264). Sorjonen (1996) suggests that repeats and the Finnish particles niin and joo variously function as
There are obvious parallels to English. She also has some observations on sweetening recommendations of others when the recommender suspects that an unwanted invitation or request may be forthcoming. Schieffelin (1996, p. 442 ff.) shows how the invention and introduction of an evidential construction to refer to printed religious material, translatable as ‘‘known from this source/not known before,’’ not only has granted authority to written text when there is no basis in fact for doing so but also has been associated with the introduction of higher status for a new role of interpreter of Christianity in a society where prior stratification rested on different bases (and, not incidentally, also to a lowering of the status of women in a previously more egalitarian society).
conflict talk as language in use in social context: Early studies of intragroup conflict were largely experimental (often involving researcher-instigated disputes in dyads), usually nonattentive to particulars of subjects’ talk, and, in part because of these two features, likely to overestimate the proportion of disputes that are in some way ‘‘resolved’’ (Corsaro and Rizzo 1990; Goodwin 1996). These writers and others have suggested that many pioneer stustudents of conflict talk (and social conflict more generally; for an early modern commentary, see Bernard 1950) were concerned with the disruptive consequences of disputation and thus tended to underestimate more positively valued outcomes, such as the creation of social organization and socialization of conflict participants (long ago identified by Simmel and others). In recent years researchers have, with great profit, turned increasingly to texts of actual disputes.
Students of processes of social conflict have more frequently than most other social scientists sought to formalize the regularities they have discovered in this phenomenon in propositions (see Coser 1956; Mack and Snyder 1957; Williams 1947; Williams et al. 1964). Taking into account the interaction of the sociological variables (affect, power, valence) and considerations of continua such as intensity, hostility, and violence and matters of external threat and internal cohesion as manifested in a range of studies of conflict talk, the author has formulated preliminary propositions. Space limitations constrain discussion of various sorts of propositions or of how sets of propositions permit the forecasting of patterns of conflict talk. Consider, however, the following:
Many disputes include instances of assignment of blame or responsibility (see Fillmore 1971). A discourse rule for this behavior might look like the following:
The influence of power on the availability of aggressive, uncompromising, and sometimes hostile modes of talk in conflict is similar to its influence and constraint on other selection of ways of talking:
It is interesting to note that in talk where the parties are proxy military representatives of superpowers discussing matters of very high valence, confrontational modes generally are avoided (Grimshaw 1992). A growing literature on conflict talk demonstrates that the behavior of interest is simultaneously immensely complicated and has a rich potential for new understandings both of social conflict itself and of discourse more generally. This is true even though records of critically important conflict-talk events on the group and international levels have not been available for study (Grimshaw 1992).
Recent events have demonstrated the continuing importance of what Geertz (1963) labeled ‘‘primordial sentiments’’ and shown that feelings about language are central among those sentiments. The range of sociological and sociologically relevant ways in which both language in general and writing and literacy in particular permeate and/or pervade human cultural and social structures and relations, as well as conceptions of identity and of self on the individual level, defies easy summary or description. People go to court in defense of their mother tongue; people have also fought in the streets and burned themselves alive over language issues. Becoming literate in any language can be primarily an instrumental acquisition; in some instances, it can have profound effects on both individual personalities and social organization (see, particularly, J. Goody 1987). The ‘‘invention’’ and development of national languages can have reverberating effects through previously atomized collectivities (Anderson 1990); when printed material becomes available, it can have critical impacts both on change in general (Eisenstein 1979) and on the development of national communities and identities (Anderson 1983).
Sociologists of literature have shown how national literatures can reveal cultural and social values (e.g., Moore 1971); sociologists who study both contemporary life and that in past times are becoming increasingly aware of the rich data in personal documents from journals to correspondence. It is even possible to hear the question, ‘‘Who wants citizens to be literate, and to what ends?’’ (the implication is that social control may be as much a goal as is the enrichment of individual lives [see Kress and Hodge 1979]). Related interests have drawn a number of investigators to study of how written materials affect their readers, a question that has been addressed both by methods that project the ‘‘interruption’’ or ‘‘interrogation’’ of written and/or spoken texts (Silverman and Torode 1980) and by those of psycholinguistics or cognitive science.
This introduction to matters of language in use in social contexts should not be closed without mention of a dimension of social life increasingly recognized by sociological social psychologists as well as sociolinguists. This section includes brief reviews of two studies that focus on this use of language in identity matters and closes with a listing of suggestive but previously unexamined questions.
Constitution of morally relevant categories of people→ T. Labov (1980) has been concerned with specifying how ascriptions of morality are made in conversational discourse and about whom (i.e., which persons and collections of persons) they are made. She has concluded that a task prior to the location of evaluation and obligation in talk is the specification of how people are located in talk and how morally relevant categories of people are constituted.
According to Labov (1980), all types of ‘‘collections of people’’ (a term ‘‘used to designate any plurality of people which can be referred to in talk or systematically inferred from the talk’’) are potentially relevant in moral matters; since there is a potentially infinite number of such collections, it is imperative to develop procedures for reducing the number to be examined in any given investigation, that is, to discover principled bases for classifying collections. She does this by first developing discovery procedures for locating collections and then gathering the collections into sets bounded by common identifying dimensions.
Labov (1980) observes that references in talk to collections of people often occur in the form of common nouns, proper names, and pronouns. What people are often unaware of, she argues, are collections of ‘‘hidden people,’’ that is, ‘‘those collections of people not immediately evident in the surface talk, but systematically retrievable.’’ Collections are hidden in five ways:
Collections can conveniently be labeled as ‘‘feature plus people,’’ for instance, ‘‘doing research on language and identity people’’ or ‘‘reading encyclopedia articles people,’’ to make ‘‘explicit in a standardized way what features of the people are being considered’’ (emphasis added). It is precisely such explicitness that is needed forthe specification of identities and their boundaries.
Labov realizes that the identification of collections used by individual speakers is not sufficient to permit an understanding of how discussion of moral matters is accomplished in talk, and she continues by raising several critical questions. The general question is, ‘‘How do analysts (and interlocutors) know that coconversationalists are talking about a ‘same’ collection?’’ There is no easy answer to this question; collections to which reference is being made change in the course of a single speaker’s utterance, overlap across utterances, shift across utterances because the original speaker’s identification was unclear or because a hearerbecome- speaker misheard or deliberately Misunderstood (Grimshaw 1980b) the original identification, are layered, subsumed, expanded (Labov’s notion of layering is loosely akin to both the linguistic and Goffman’s  more specialized uses of the term ‘‘embedding’’), and so on. Resolution of these complexities is a requirement for coherent and cohesive discourse. Labov proposes the ‘‘notion of ‘category consensus’ for a situation where the relevance of a given collection of people is shown interactional support’’ and ‘‘which occurs as co-interactants ratify the use of specific collections of people.’’ Category consensus is not always achieved; like other varieties of consensus, it is often the subject of challenge, negotiation, and metadiscussion. This is, of course, what the study of identity(ies) is about.
Exploitation of referential ambiguity in pronominal usage→ A complication is introduced by the use of definite or indefinite articles such as ‘‘reading-the- Borgatta-encyclopedia people’’ versus ‘‘readingan- encyclopedia people.’’ This introduces the possibility of the use of referential ambiguity in language as an interactional resource. The question of how collectivities (both categories and groups) are constituted and bounded and how that boundedness may be explicitly or implicitly signaled in spoken or written discourse provides a venue for additional demonstration of the value for sociology of examination of language in use. Personal and other pronouns are a useful resource in boundary work; their referential ambiguity also provides a resource exploitable for including and excluding both those present and those absent from relevant social collectivities (Grimshaw 1994a).
The fact that there are times when hearers or readers don’t know to what person or set of persons reference is being made can be weighted with social implication when it is not clear, for example, who is being scolded or praised, positively or negatively or neutrally characterized, or invited or rejected. Uncertainty can persist even in the presence of apparently disambiguating specifications such as ‘‘you all,’’ ‘‘all of you,’’ ‘‘the n of us’’ (when the collection address includes n-plus persons), and ‘‘the four of them.’’ Hearer-readers ordinarily are able to make inferences that are correct or close enough that they can sustain conversation (or reading) without continuously finding it necessary to stop to resolve ambiguities. It is also true, of course, that ambiguities may go unrecognized, be recognized but not resolved, or even be intentionally exploited. Unresolved ambiguities can be inconsequential, but they may occasionally have delayed consequences of considerable importance (e.g., when ‘‘uninvited’’ guests turn up or unintended ‘‘insults’’ are repaid with interest).
Most readers will be far more familiar with the language–identity connection in which people participate whenever they talk with others. Except under extreme circumstances (ongoing or pending disaster) or service situations in which interactants are treated more as part of the scene than as other humans, the first thing people do when a partner in interaction speaks (in person, on the telephone, or in writing) is to ‘‘place’’ that person in terms of background (in which one usually includes age, education, ethnicity and national origin, gender, occupation, regional provenance, social class, and, depending on situation, other achieved and ascribed attributes). This sensitivity to the link between how people speak and who they are is further demonstrated by the ways in which the speech of others is imitated in ‘‘poshing up’’ (Goffman 1979) and in the production, with varying degrees of friendliness, condescension, and hostility, of ‘‘mock’’ Spanish or black English or other real or imagined languages (Hill).
Note, for example, the insertion of foreign words and phrases (insertion of not-currently-inuse- code speech:
How are such insertions and switches to be interpreted? Readers will be able to construct scenarios in which the following are or are intended to be conveyed: ‘‘I am one of you,’’ ‘‘I am not one of you, but I am attuned and sympathetic to you,’’ ‘‘I and those of my auditors who understand what I have just said are different (superior to?) from those who did not understand,’’ ‘‘I and those who understand my metaphorical use of a variant are different from (superior to) those who processes it nonmetaphorically’’ (e.g., ‘‘humorous’’ employ of socially disvalued variants).
Questions of language in use and matters of identity (and thus of stratification, life chances, social conflict, and so on) are inextricably interrelated and intertwined; neither can be fully comprehended without attention to the other.
Applied Sociolinguistics, Social Amelioration, and Theory Building
The increased interest in SL/SOL has been accompanied by and contributed to by growing public exposure to and interest in language as a social problem. Consider in the last decade of the twentieth century in the United States alone issues of free speech (‘‘hate crime’’ versus political correctness, arrests for public ‘‘cursing’’) in both public discourse and on private computers, the ‘‘English as official language’’ movement and accompanying disputes about ‘‘rights’’ to non-English ballots or other government documents, and the public hue and cry about ‘‘Ebonics.’’ Public concern about propriety in language use is not a new phenomenon (see Kamensky 1997).
Work on ‘‘real’’ problems in a variety of institutional areas has benefited from a growing body of theory, to which it has in turn contributed. Again a distinction can be made between micro and macro concerns. Micro sociolinguistic research has been done on how communication fails in classrooms, courtrooms, and clinics; macro studies have examined how the speaking of socially disvalued language varieties is associated with educational failure, differential treatment in the judicial system, and unsuccessful interaction with medical services delivery systems. Ameliorative programs have ranged from bilingualism in education to the English as official language movement, from the provision of interpreters in the courtroom to attempts to simplify legal language, and from attempts to teach prospective doctors to become better interviewers and listeners to trying to get doctors to use less technical language. Bitter controversies have raged over how the ways children talk are related to educational success and failure; the Ebonics dispute is one instance among many (see Labov 1982). Some investigators have argued that some language varieties are not suited for abstract, critical, logical, and propositional thought; others, that the success and failure of persons who speak in different ways are determined by the political preferences about language varieties of gatekeepers such as teachers and employers.
Recent years have seen the development of the role of the ‘‘language scientist’’ as an expert witness (e.g., Rieber and Stewart 1990); SL considerations are sometimes deeply involved in such testimony. Many of these programs and much of this work initially grew out of concerns with language varieties associated with ethnicity (in the United States, different varieties of Spanish and, particularly, Black Vernacular English (BVE]). There has also been more explicit attention paid to problems of communication across classes, age groups, and, particularly, gender; Tannen’s (1990) book on gender differences in talk spent many months on best-seller lists.
On a more explicitly macro level, language planning and language policy have become more visible arenas of government activity in both rich countries, which must deal with visiting or immigrant workers who speak unfamiliar languages, and poor countries, which must make decisions about which competing languages are going to receive official status and support or about which orthography to employ for previously unwritten languages. (The latter is a decision that is likely to have political as well as economic implications.) They must in some cases decide whether high literacy (often seen as an index of modernism) will ultimately contribute to their economies (or other values) as much as or more than would other investments (on outcomes of increases in literacy in industrial [izing] and less developed countries, respectively, see Graff 1979; Goody 1987). Both rich and poor countries must deal with native multilingualism; they have done it with varying success in Belgium, Canada, Finland, India, Indonesia, the former Soviet Union, Spain, Switzerland, and a number of countries in Africa (see McRae 1983, 1986, 1997, for excellent studies on Switzerland, Belgium, and Finland, respectively).
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