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Showing posts from July, 2020

Linguistic Ecology: Language Change as Social Fact

A guest blogpost by Dr. Emily Reed (University of Sheffield), who visited the Anglo-Norman Dictionary project in February-March 2020 through an AHRC bursary ‘Language shift […] is a social fact with linguistic implications’  (Thomason and Kaufman 1988: 212). Language is a tool that we use to produce meaning. As such, it can only do what we enable it to do. Indeed, when wielded with skill, language can invest its user with much power. It can alter the usual course of events, it can change minds, and it can build a speaker’s reputation. A speaker can do this by playing to concepts that carry social currency: ‘politeness’, ‘aesthetics’, ‘eloquence’. Such labels might carry additional significances and consequences. For instance, ‘eloquence’ may be perceived as a marker of class, and depending on the listener, that may prejudice them in the speaker’s favour (or not). Of course, language is also the possession of the listener(s), who engage in a discursive back-and-forth with the speaker