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Julia Snell: Sociolinguistics and social change

Language and Society
Wednesday 24 February 2021, 13:00-14:00
online (link will be sent to those who register)

Sociolinguistics and social change

Julia Snell (School of English, University of Leeds)

Sociolinguistic analyses of classroom data help us to understand how language attitudes and ideologies manifest in situated interaction and how these influence teachers’ practice, pupils’ identities, and learning processes. But what role can this research play in challenging (indeed changing) negative attitudes and misconceptions about language that often circulate in the educational domain? For example, in the UK, there has been increased focus on the link between regional dialect and educational underachievement. Some schools have attempted to ‘ban’ the use of regional dialects in pupils’ speech with the (erroneous) assumption that this will improve literacy rates. Such high-profile attempts to police nonstandard speech in schools have reinvigorated UK linguists’ interest in tackling dialect prejudice. Some linguists have continued to make the longstanding argument that nonstandard dialects are as systematic, logical and rule-bound as standard varieties (following Labov 1969; Trudgill 1975), while others have advocated for a ‘repertoire’ approach that foregrounds the social and interactional dynamics that give rise to nonstandard forms (Snell 2013). Nonetheless, negative perceptions of nonstandard dialects persist in educational contexts, and recent work has criticised linguistic research for being ineffectual in bringing about social change (Block 2014; Lewis 2018). In this talk, I reflect critically on the role of the sociolinguist in educational debates and suggest possible avenues for future work, focusing in particular on how sociolinguistic research on language diversity might connect with educational research on talk-intensive pedagogies.

Registration is required (and free), via this form.  Please register by midnight the night before the talk.  You will receive instructions by email, two hours before the talk at the latest.