(Re)defining linguistic diversity: what is being protected by language policy and planning?

SAYERS, Dave (2015). (Re)defining linguistic diversity: what is being protected by language policy and planning? In: Changing English : integrating cognitive, social and typologial perspectives, Helsinki, 8 - 10 June 2015. (Unpublished)

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This paper explores how ‘linguistic diversity’ is treated in English variationist sociolinguistics. Epistemological shortcomings are outlined, and their effects examined.

A distinction is necessary between ‘linguistic diversity’ and ‘linguistic heterogeneity’. Heterogeneity entails a discrete series of entities; that is, non-homogeneity. Sociolinguistics demonstrates this by showing statistical differences between identifiably discrete groups of speakers. Diversity, however, is more than this.

Linguistic diversity is the totality of linguistic variation and variability: all the different sounds coming from all the speakers, plus the capacity for new differences to arise in future. But since variationist sociolinguistics has traditionally focused on orderly heterogeneity – as a counter to myths about homogeneity and the imperfection of nonstandard dialects – it has tended to miss the opposite contrast: between heterogeneity and diversity. This is carefully caveated in some instances, but remains insufficiently articulated.

This is not just nit-picking. When conclusions about linguistic diversity are taken from a descriptive discipline like sociolinguistics into a normative discipline like language policy and planning, certain changes take place. There are frequent claims to be ‘protecting linguistic diversity’ by promoting minority languages, yet this neglects exactly the kind of language-internal variation, and future variability, that variationism could be used to spell out/

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Research Institute, Centre or Group: Humanities Research Centre
Depositing User: Jill Hazard
Date Deposited: 26 Jun 2015 13:41
Last Modified: 19 Aug 2015 21:12
URI: http://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/10605

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