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Sociolinguistics and the Politics of Helping: Language Use in the Political Mobilization of Low-Income Groups

Sociolinguistics and the Politics of Helping: Language Use in the Political Mobilization of Low-Income Groups

Abstract

Intelligible communication between different groups and classes in a society is a precondition for the existence of a 'public' in the classical, political sense of that term. The importance of such communication for a democratic policy was highlighted in the sixties when both reformers and revolutionaries generally failed in their efforts to educate or politicize tow-income groups. In this essay we discuss sociolinguistic theories as they bear on this question. First, we critically assess theories that bring the methods of linguistics to micro-sociological studies of speech behaviour Then we relate this work to the rich ethnographic literature on low-income culture, placing this amalgam of linguistics and ethnography in a larger political economic context We conclude by suggesting some moral and political implications of such a project.
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