Monday, March 04, 2013

Language attitude vs Language ideology

Sociolinguistic research has long used concepts such as stereotypes or attitudes to characterize sociocultural beliefs about languages and their speakers. Yet these notions emphasize individual psychology at the expense of the sociocultural level at which belief systems contribute to the structuring logics of power. 

(Bucholz & Hall, "Language and Identity")

...language ideologies are defined as explicit metalinguistic discourse or talk about language. From a traditional sociolinguistic view, language ideologies, for instance under the label of attitudes and beliefs, have been treated as representation fo internal mental processes and phenomena...attitudes and beliefs are subjective, stable experiences located in the individual. However, this notion is rather limited. Instead, the focus is is now turning to the variable nature of beliefs and attitudes and their discursive construction as well as their real-life contexts.... statements containing beliefs or attitudes are often produced among others, in particular recurrent interactional contexts to resist a certain view or a possible counter-argument. 
Gal (2006)...defines the field as a form of discourse analysis exploring the cultural, metapragmatic assumptions of how language is connected to its speakers and to the social world.

(Laihonen, "language ideologies in interviews: a conversation analysis approach" 2008)

...the observation of language attitudes in discourse - and more specifically language attitudes in interaction -- can provide the researcher (with things) that quantitative, statistics-based methods cannot.

(Liebscher and Dailey-O'Cain "language attitudes in interaction" 2009)


'Language ideology' is primarily a term that comes out of the tradition of linguistic anthropology, while 'language attitudes' is from sociolinguistics. There is very little overlap between the two in terms of keeping to their separate academic silos. They are also likely to use each other's terms interchangeably. You can see that the third quoted article here is basically arguing what the first two are, but is more solidly locating itself in sociolinguistics by sticking with the term 'attitude'. (The article also mentions that this discourse approach can be used in conjunction with matched-guise technique, which is a quantitative sociolinguistics method.)

It also seems as if 'ideology' has a more explicit connection to larger social discourses (hence the emphasis on various kinds of DA for studying this stuff), which 'attitude' seems to be pretty limited to individual expressions -- but this might not be true for everyone using these terms.

What is clear is that social constructionist theory is making inroads with people who study 'beliefs' about language (whether they call those attitudes or ideologies), as are the methodological tools of discourse analysis.

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