The conference panel, “Scaling Linguistic Diversity: Language Standardization as a Scale-Making Project,” which I organized together with Sonia Das, was accepted for the 112th AAA Annual meeting to be held at the Chicago Hilton November 20-24, 2013.
Language standardization can be usefully understood as a “scale-making project” (Tsing 2000). Standardization and linguistic differentiation (Irvine and Gal 2000) can solidify existing sociolinguistic hierarchies at the level of the nation-state, or they can challenge them, redrawing the map so as to link the local with the global in new ways. The metaphor of “sociolinguistic scale” (Blommaert 2007), based on the notion of “indexical order” (Silverstein 2003), rejects the simplistic micro-macro dichotomy, instead measuring processes of typification and framing through linguistic practices. This allows scholars to talk about the role of language in social as well as geographic mobility. Also, by treating scale as a “project,” it becomes possible to articulate its contested, ideological nature. Doing so opens up new possibilities for productive exchange between work on “language ideology” (Woolard and Schieffelin 1994) and “language and political economy” (Irvine 1989), as well as for interdisciplinary exchange around issues of heteroglossia, mobility, and indigeneity. In situations of linguistic “superdiversity” (Blommaert and Rampton 2011), scale accomplishes a lot of the work done by ecological approaches (Mühlhäusler 1996) without the burden of biological metaphors. Viewing language standardization as a scale-making project also helps to focus discussion of “linguistic fields” (Bourdieu 1977) onto processes by which official and “alternative linguistic markets” (Woolard 1985) are created. Finally scale has a temporal dimension, bringing together language trees and language maps to create vertical linkages that can either reinforce or transcend horizontal boundaries. Whether working with minorities, migrants, vernacular or endangered language communities, the papers on this panel treat language standardization as a scale-making project to explore contestations and debates surrounding language ideologies, interdiscursive processes, code-switching, and acts of sociolinguistic boundary-making. Through their attention to various scalar dimensions, metaphors, and processes, each of these papers breaks away from teleological views of language standardization that envision the authoring and institutionalization of dictionaries, religious texts and pedagogical materials as unilinear processes whose end results are a foregone conclusion. Some highlight how orthographic standards index competing language ideologies at different scales (Falconi), or how similar ideologies of scale index contradictory language ideologies pertaining to standards (Friedman). Others destabilize ideologies of diglossia (Fenigsen) and challenge simplistic notions of code-switching (Spreng) by revealing actors’ ability to negotiate evaluations of standards at multiple levels of scale. Another highlights temporal dimensions of scale by exploring how standardization naturalizes globalized pasts and futures (Das). In doing so, each of these papers raises important questions about the role of language standardization in social reproduction and social change: How do linguistic boundaries map onto geographic and temporal boundaries at different scales? How do language practices deploy scalar metaphors to index local, global, primordial, modern, and other identities? How do official language ideologies shape and, in turn, get shaped by scaling processes? How does one characterize standardization projects that cross multiple dimensions of time and space? Such questions relate scale to standardization by demonstrating the contested ideological natures of both.
Individual paper abstracts below. Read More