Qualitative Methods in Sociolinguistics

By Barbara Johnstone | Go to book overview
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A great deal of qualitative research in sociolinguistics makes use of both ethnography and discourse analysis. Ethnography is the study of culture. Discourse analysis is the study of language use. It is possible to study culture without studying discourse, but since discourse is the primary way in which culture is circulated, many anthropologists (and, by definition, all linguistic anthropologists) study language. It is also possible to study texts without studying culture; for example, Conversation Analysis is based on the belief that people create the knowledge they need to interpret the world in the process of interaction, so that there is no need to posit, or to study, any kinds of context other than the immediate context of the interaction at hand. But many sociolinguists believe that speakers do bring previously formed expectations, beliefs, and norms to bear in interaction with others, so they necessarily embed analyses of discourse in analyses of aspects of culture. In this chapter and the next we examine the field and analytical methodologies associated with ethnography and discourse analysis. Because the methods of ethnography are typically used in studying the wider contexts that give rise to discourse, we deal with it first.

The participant observation methods of ethnography have long been important in qualitative sociolinguistic work, and they are being used more and more explicitly in quantitative studies as well. A great deal has been written about how to do participant observation (see the Suggestions for Further Reading at the end of this chapter) and it is neither possible nor necessary to summarize all


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Qualitative Methods in Sociolinguistics


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