Communities of practice in sociolinguistics

Communities of practice in sociolinguistics The Davies article (page 557 of this issue) has an important underlying premise – that we need to understand the role of power generally in linguistic practice, and specifically in variation and the spread of change. We agree with this premise, and concur that communities of practice are a good locus for studying how power is organized and exercised in day‐to‐day linguistic practice. However, we are concerned that her approach might be misleading. Davies argues that hierarchy and acceptance are a pair of concepts that are missing from the framework. If by hierarchy she means any power structure whatever form it takes, then it is already in the theory. A community of practice by definition is such a power structure in a way that we will articulate shortly. Calling it a hierarchy may draw attention to the centrality of power issues, but it does not add anything conceptually. If as we suspect she means something much more specific, a stratified structure that confers power according to positions, then we believe that it is an oversimplification of the question of power in communities of practice and that it should not be built into the theory. We will argue that http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Sociolinguistics Wiley

Communities of practice in sociolinguistics

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Publisher
Wiley
Copyright
Copyright © 2005 Wiley Subscription Services, Inc., A Wiley Company
ISSN
1360-6441
eISSN
1467-9841
DOI
10.1111/j.1360-6441.2005.00307.x
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

The Davies article (page 557 of this issue) has an important underlying premise – that we need to understand the role of power generally in linguistic practice, and specifically in variation and the spread of change. We agree with this premise, and concur that communities of practice are a good locus for studying how power is organized and exercised in day‐to‐day linguistic practice. However, we are concerned that her approach might be misleading. Davies argues that hierarchy and acceptance are a pair of concepts that are missing from the framework. If by hierarchy she means any power structure whatever form it takes, then it is already in the theory. A community of practice by definition is such a power structure in a way that we will articulate shortly. Calling it a hierarchy may draw attention to the centrality of power issues, but it does not add anything conceptually. If as we suspect she means something much more specific, a stratified structure that confers power according to positions, then we believe that it is an oversimplification of the question of power in communities of practice and that it should not be built into the theory. We will argue that

Journal

Journal of SociolinguisticsWiley

Published: Nov 1, 2005

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