Our first Authors of the Month for 2015 are Annabelle Mooney and Betsy Evans, co-authors of the essential introductory text Language, Society and Power! Annabelle Mooney is a Reader in the Department of Media, Culture and Language at the University of Roehampton. Betsy Evans is an Associate Professor of Linguistics at the University of Washington.
The authors spoke with Routledge about the void they sought to fill in writing Language, Society and Power, the addition of two chapters in this fourth edition, the future of linguistic instruction, highlights, and much more. Read the entire interview today!
Why did you decide to write Language, Society and Power?
There are so many misconceptions about language and its influence on society. This textbook has always encouraged readers to challenge their understanding about an every day thing like language and this is a productive way to overcome the misconceptions. We thought it was important to keep the book up to date since language is changing all the time and the fast pace of evolving multi-modal means of communication mean that it's never hard to find something new to analyse with existing linguistic tools.
What can readers expect from your two new chapters, covering Linguistic Landscapes and Global Englishes?
In the chapter on Linguistic Landscapes, we wanted to draw attention to new work in sociolinguistics that considers the physical world around us. It's full of language that we may not pay attention to because it's so routine in our lives; traffic signs, legal notices, conditions of entry all shape space and our experience of it. In fact, the routine nature of linguistic landscapes makes it all the more important to pay attention to. We also consider the internet here; it is a constantly changing linguistic landscape.
With regard to Global Englishes, we wanted to highlight the importance of understanding the variation that exists in Englishes around the world and the perceptions people have about them. These attitudes play an important role in appreciating how linguistic discrimination happens in the globalised world.
How is the current political climate reflected in the principles laid out in Language, Society and Power?
The chapter on Language and Politics, and in the book more generally, we emphasise that it's important to understand that politics takes many forms. We encourage the reader to consider the atypical places where politicallly ideological discourses manifest themselves such as a Manifesto from political movement, children's toys, University education and television shows.
Is there anything you’d like to highlight about this topic or your book in particular?
This edition has a companion website where we've gathered together material for further exploration of the topics covered. We hope that the examples we are familiar with will prompt readers to find their own and to explore language use in their lives a little differently and look for places where power struggles are demonstrated in langauge.
What’s a common misconception about this topic that you’d like to clear up?
Something that came up all the time when we were writing the book was the idea that there's a 'correct' way to use language. As linguists, we love language variation. People use language in creative ways all the time; this is one of the things that makes studying language so enjoyable and interesting. But, if people have the idea that language must be used in a particular way, this can cause a great deal of injustice. It means that some speakers will be perceived as lazy or uneducated for example. We want to make clear that language variation is normal; language changes all the time. We should enjoy variation rather than punishing people who speak 'differently'.
What do you think is the future of linguistic instruction at university level?
That's a tough question! We would like to think the perceived value of lingustics will continue to grow. Language is incredibly important to how we conduct our lives, interact with others and make decisions as communities and nations. Understanding how people communicate, how meaning is conveyed and how power is exercised using language is valuable knowledge to have. So we hope that people continue to become interested in studying language at University level; it’s a challenging, stimulating and enjoyable subject to engage with.
Find out more about this book here.