Language and Politics

Language and Politics

Language and Politics

Language and Politics

Excerpt

The sociology of language has, of late, been subject to the micro- sociolinguistic pressures of variational linguistics, on the one hand, and of ethnomethodology, on the other. Both of these pressures have contributed mightily to the growing empirical, methodological, and theoretical rigor of the sociology of language, but they have both exacted a great price in so doing. The price has not only been that of learning 'more and more about less and less' but of doing so under 'self-destruct' instructions which foresee and encourage the demise of the field itself.

Sociology per se, basically a many-splendored discipline with a strong macroscopic wing, has, nevertheless, sorely needed an ally in order to withstand the onslaught of microsociolinguistic astigmatism. Certainly the 'sociology of language' cannot long remain restricted by a notion of society as something no greater than 'conversations' or 'face-to-face interactions' or, indeed, the 'routines of everyday life'. This is not to say that all of the foregoing do not exist within a greater social context, but only to stress that it is that very context that needs to be seen.

The volume which the O'Barrs have put together is refreshingly and unabashedly macro-interested, although it is as microtechnical as any rigorist might desire. As an anthropologist and a political scientist working together, they have provided a prospective map of a field that sorely needs to be formulated: the political sociology of language. It is high time that we all returned to social reality in our concern for language in society, and there is nothing more real than the allocation of power in social relationships. This allocation so frequently either follows language lines or invites language demarca-

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