Linguistics and English Language

Language in context seminar

Speaker: James K. Puchowski (University of Edinburgh)

Title: Language activist studies and researcher positionality in sociolinguistic fieldwork

Abstract: As sociolinguists (of all kinds) face further calls to examine 'bottom-up' processes in language change and variation (Linn 2010), and study metalinguistic/metapragmatic discourse as a relevant and socially-constituted practice (Albury 2018, Karlander 2017), the use of linguistic ethnography and societal treatment methods has proven productive and useful when researching public figures and authorities in minority language studies.

Contemporary sociolinguistic fieldwork is broad in both in its range of study objects, and in the research methodologies employed. Research projects I have conducted on Norwegian Nynorsk language activism since 2015 have examined both structural and ideological/attitudinal questions (Puchowski 2016, 2017, 2018), though my own personal relationship with the individuals and the organisations I have contacted has required me to continually re-evaluate my own role in data collection processes. In other words, positionality in linguistic anthropological and ethnographic fieldwork is a fundamental preoccupation requiring the researcher's full attention (Irvine and Gal 2008, Becker 2014).

Nevertheless, using qualitative methods and studying phenomena as a participant-observer itself has limitations. In this talk I openly present the research methods I use, and discuss how researcher positionality has consequently been tackled as I have examined language in its dynamic, overlapping and varying social contexts.


If you would like any further information about the Language in Context Seminar Series, or have any recommendations or feedback you’d like to give us, you are warmly invited to contact either Stephen McNulty or Sarah Van Eyndhoven at:

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Stephen McNulty

Sarah Van Eyndhoven

Co-ordinators of LinC


We hope to see you very soon!

Oct 31 2018 -

Language in context seminar

2018-10-31: Language activist studies and researcher positionality in sociolinguistic fieldwork

1.416 Teaching Room 9 (Doorway 3), Medical School, Teviot Place, Edinburgh, EH8 9AG