On Being a Linguist and Doing Linguistics: Negotiating Ideology through Performativity

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ISSN: 1934-5275

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Stebbins, Tonya
field linguistics, linguistic theory, language ideology, language development, endangered languages, community language activism
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In this paper I explore and contrast the multiple positions available to me as a linguist, both within the academy and in the communities where I do fieldwork. These domains make quite different demands on me in my professional practice. In my experience, transitioning between these domains can be challenging, since the assumptions about my identity and role are divergent and often conflicting. I use the concept of performativity to identify the different positions I enact and which are attributed to me in each of these roles. I suggest that rather than seeing a binary division between academia and community, it may be useful to conceive of our work with communities as occurring in a third space that is shared by members of the relevant community, but which is distinct from the community per se. Such a distinction provides space for both linguists and communities to negotiate the extent to which ideas, methods, and ideologies from one field are expected to infiltrate another. The advantage of such a model is that it allows everyone involved to recognize and, where appropriate, engage with the frameworks of others. This facilitates a richer understanding of the forces at play in language development work and allows competing priorities a place in the process.

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