Sociolinguistic Studies, Vol 12, No 3-4 (2018)

Thinking about language with Bourdieu: Pointers for social theory in the language sciences

Linus Salö
Issued Date: 2 May 2019


This paper presents Pierre Bourdieu's sociological gaze, agenda and toolkit to scholars of language, so as to offer a social theoretical framework within which sociolinguistic questions can be fruitfully investigated. It outlines Bourdieu's dual conception of social life and presents the key thinking tools - field and habitus - with which this dualism can be explored empirically. In addition, it locates work produced at the nexus of sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology where Bourdieusian insights have been productively employed. It also discusses Bourdieu's reputation as a macro theorist, and argues that this image must be supplemented with an understanding of his idea that social reality also has a mode of existence in people's bodies, habitus, and practices. The paper argues that Bourdieu's gaze and thinking tools import with them a solid social theoretical base of the comprehension of human practice, including linguistic practice, which therefore offers some purchase to account for the relationship between the market side of language and its embodied manifestations.

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DOI: 10.1558/sols.32916


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