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LEDS first meeting: introducing linguistic ethnography

Thank you to everyone who came along to our first meeting on 24th October for a rich introductory session (a broad introduction to the group and our first meeting’s agenda can be found here).  Through introductions to the group and each other, we discovered a diverse range of research interests and backgrounds, which was fantastic and made for rich discussions.  There were also varying levels of exposure to linguistic ethnography as an approach to research, with some curious newcomers as well as some more seasoned linguistic ethnographers amongst us.

In a short ‘taster’ data session, Judith shared a brief transcript excerpt from her research into lawyer-client communication, asking the question (a) what can we learn from the transcript; and (b) what can we not learn, but might need to know, to fully understand what is going on?  The exercise provided an opportunity to consider what ‘counts’ as data in linguistic ethnography, as well as what we can, and cannot, learn or infer from partial transcripts of naturally-occurring social interactions. More broadly, we considered the benefits of combining ethnographically-gathered data collection with analysis of language use in the social setting of interest.

This then led into a discussion of a a range of quotes (handout opens in a new window) focused on the central question, what is linguistic ethnography?  This included members of the group advancing their understandings of ethnography, and of applied linguistics, as research fields, and discussing how these might come together in linguistic ethnographic work.  There was also reflection on the labels and terminology applied to different research approaches and disciplines, including discussion of questions such as how are linguistic anthropology and linguistic ethnography different, and what is the relationship between linguistic ethnography and sociolinguistics.  Conclusions were that the maze of traditions and (inter)disciplinary backgrounds that inform and influence linguistic ethnography is confusing, both for newcomers and for more seasoned linguistic ethnographers.  In addition, what exactly counts as ‘linguistic ethnography’ is still not well defined.

To close this first session, ideas for the topic and format of future sessions were mooted and the schedule for the rest of the term agreed.  Check out our upcoming meetings in the Autumn 2018 term, and a list of topics that we hope to cover during Spring 2019, on the ‘Meetings Schedule’ page of the blog.  We look forward to seeing you at our next session on 14th November, when George Jennings from Cardiff Metropolitan University will be sharing with us his current research into linguistic practices as part of martial arts learning and teaching. A summary of the session can be found here.

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