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Introducing linguistic ethnography – LEDS first session of 2019-20

LEDS got off to a promising start this year with our first meeting of 2019-20 on 16th October.  In the session, we firstly made introductions to each other and introduced the group.  We discovered that members have a diverse range of backgrounds research interests, including (but not limited to) identity in contexts of migration, historical ethnographic research, institutional and legal communication, speech therapy, language and social media, and doing research in multiple languages.

In our discussion about linguistic ethnography, we thought about the perspective on language that linguistic ethnographers share – being a view of language as an integral part of social life – and the consequent need to bring ethnographic methods to bear in studying the context(s) of language use.

We held a mini-data session, considering and discussing a transcript excerpt from a linguistic ethnographic study.  This provided an opportunity to consider what we can learn or infer from partial transcripts of social interactions but also what is missing.  We touched on how an ethnographic approach can help us to enrich our understandings of what is going on in specific interactions, as well as how a close examination of transcript data can help to reveal or evidence aspects of the social setting such as relations of power between speakers.

We discussed the question of ‘what is language’, and the different conceptualisations of language and communication that exist.  This was tied to consideration of what sort(s) of approaches researchers adopt when researching communication, or language use, in social settings.  As well as audio recording speech and analysing transcripts, linguistic ethnographers who are interested in broader/different conceptualisations of ‘language’ are interested in gesture and the use of objects and space in communication (using video recordings); written forms of communication (using document analysis and ethnographies of texts);  the use of different technologies to support communication (e.g. online social media interactions), to give just some examples.  The breadth of linguistic ethnographic work will be something we discuss in our next session on 30th October.

Finally, ideas for the topic and format of future sessions were mooted and the schedule for the rest of the term agreed – this is now published on the ‘Meetings Schedule’ tab of the blog site.  Thanks to everyone who came along and contributed to our first session!

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