Social class

Authored by: Julia Snell

The Routledge Handbook of Linguistic Ethnography

Print publication date:  September  2019
Online publication date:  August  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138938168
eBook ISBN: 9781315675824
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter explores the importance of social class as a concept within linguistic ethnography. It traces sociolinguistic interest in class back to Labov’s early work which explained the stratification of language variation in relation to social class, and shows how later variationist work such as Eckert’s high school research has demonstrated the ongoing symbolic and cultural constitution of class through interaction. The chapter goes on to describe a range of more recent research, which shows, through a detailed analysis of interaction, how people creatively draw on linguistic resources associated with different class and ethnicity groups to spontaneously perform stylised identities, skilfully negotiating cultural class boundaries in pursuit of interactional goals. The chapter reflects on the challenges associated with adopting a symbolic and cultural perspective on class in a context in which material and structural class inequalities are very real, and argues that linguistic ethnographic work on class can challenge prejudices in education and employment settings and can play a role in addressing such inequalities.

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