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Publication Detail
Metapragmatics in the ethnography of language policy
Abstract
This chapter traces briefly the origins and development of the ethnography of language policy. It argues that, although this tradition has put ethnography firmly on the language policy research agenda since the turn of the 21st century, it has not yet sufficiently addressed some persistent challenges. These include: a) the reproduction of dichotomies, such as that of agency/structure, that go against well-established developments in both social theory and communication studies; b) a focus on explicit commentaries on policy documents by participants, which are taken as the primary context of interpretation; c) an event-based entry point to data collection/analysis that is taken as the relevant platform to understand the implementation and appropriation of policies in a given context, even in multi-sited research where a compound of events is defined a priori by researchers; and d) a tendency towards portrayals where research participants appear as mere ciphers in the matrix. Against this background, matepragmatics is presented as suitable epistemological framework to overcome some of these challenges, one that draws from two contemporary shifts in the study of texts, contexts and meanings within the fields of linguistic anthropology and sociolinguistics, namely: 1) a departure from emphasis on denotational meanings, towards closer description of performative actions; and 2) a displacement of the analytical entry point, from communicative events to trajectories of identification. These shifts are examined with reference to some existing work in LPP, and illustrated via previous ethnographic work that is revisited through the proposed lens. Some of the implications are also derived in relation to the study of LPP processes under conditions of late modernity.
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