Language Ideologies

1. Kroskrity, P., (2004) ‘Language ideology’. In: Duranti, A. (ed.) Companion to linguistic anthropology. Blackwell: Oxford: pp. 496-517.

If my own experience has to say anything about the topic of language ideology, it is that reading about it can get very dense. Kroskrity here makes no exception, but his work and coincidentally this book chapter are nonetheless seminal contributions to the field. In this book chapter, Kroskrity identifies the major strands of research on language ideology to date. Not only does Kroskrity trace the progression and history of the field, but also highlights some of its main issues, such as the lack of a core literature and the range of definitions. Perhaps one of the most significant aspects of his study is the five-way layers of language ideology he proposes. With the intention of identifying and exemplifying different strands of language ideology, he suggests the following levels: (1) group or individual interests, (2) multiplicity of ideologies, (3) awareness of speakers, (4) mediating functions of ideologies, and (5) role of language ideology in identity construction. In all, Kroskrity’s contribution to the field is essential for any student diving into the depths of language ideology.

2. Woolard, K., (1998) ‘Language ideology as a field of inquiry’. In: Schieffelin, B, Woolard, K & Kroskrity, P., (eds.) Language Ideologies: Practice and Theory. Oxford University Press: New York: pp. 3-49.

Woolard’s chapter is an essential yet accessible introduction to the field of language ideology. She assesses the different formulations of and approaches to language ideology, by looking at, for example, Ethnography of Speaking, Language Contact and Conflict, and Literacy and Orthography. Particularly helpful is the insightful distinction she makes between the ‘great divide’ in studies of ideology between critical (also called negative) and neutral approaches. It is also worth mentioning that the entire edited volume itself is essential to anybody researching language ideology. It is comprehensive, unbelievably insightful, and highly recommended!

3. Silverstein, M., (1979) ‘Language structure and linguistic ideology’. In: Clyne, P, Hanks, W & Hofbauer, C. (eds.) The Elements: A Parasession on Linguistic Units and Levels. Chicago Linguistic Society: Chicago: pp. 193-247.

Another fundamental read is Silverstein, who was one of the first to formulise the concept of ‘linguistic ideology’, which he defines as ‘sets of beliefs about language articulated by users as a rationalization or justification of perceived language structure and use’ (1979: 193). Silverstein’s approach explains how certain social realities are justified and rationalised by language ideology(-ies). This was particularly important as it broadened the horizon of previous research by elucidating the interdisciplinarity and relevancy of language ideologies in society.

4. Other key reads on language ideology

Heath, S., (1991) ‘Language ideology’. International Encyclopaedia of Communications 2: Oxford University press: New York: pp. 393-95.

Irvine, J., (1989) ‘When talk isn’t cheap: Language and political economy’. American Ethnologist 16(2): pp. 248-267.

Preece, S., (ed.) (2016) The Routledge Handbook of Language and Identity. Routledge:
London & New York.

Wortham, S., (2001) ‘Language Ideology and Educational Research’. Linguistics and Education 12 (2): pp. 253-259.

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