Language ideology, language attitudes: What’s the difference and does it matter?
- 18 April 2019
- Sociolinguistics Series Spring 2019
2311 BD Leiden
Sociolinguistics is awash with studies into language ideologies and language attitudes within the broader framework of researching and understanding how people and communities engage – in sociocognitive terms – with the linguistic world around them. Dating back to the pioneering works of Hymes (1962), we now accept as a fait accompli that the social environs of language behaviour should be given as much attention as that behaviour itself. We acknowledge, for example, that a language has a greater chance of ongoing vitality if it is prized and valued by society, whether this be for social, cultural or economic reasons (May 2000, Albury 2016). We recognise that language ideologies can act as unspoken language policy in communities of practice (Spolsky 2004), and also that people evaluate each other’s languages, accents, and dialects in attitudinal terms (Baker 2011). Crucially, ideologies and attitudes become enacted such that they help to structure – for better or for worse – perceptions of the other and, therefore, relations between groups of people, social status, and even the credibility and integrity of an individual. So, what actually is the difference between language attitudes and language ideologies in theoretical terms? Surprisingly, and despite these being ubiquitous terms that are often used interchangeably, minimal work has sought to discuss or define the two concepts for conceptual clarity from each other. After giving a brief overview of the value of language ideological and attitudinal research, this paper seeks to delineate and problematise language ideologies and language attitudes in theoretical terms, and highlights the opportunities and challenges that they, as distinct (or related?) concepts, bring to sociolinguistics with reference to an international library of sociolinguistic research.
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