The Challenge of Sociology of Language: Living in Society, Living with Words

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 3:45 PM
Room: Booth 62
Oral Presentation
Frederic MOULENE , Université de Strasbourg, France
Nowadays, « sociology of language » is explicitly identified in the research groups within the I.S.A. although many sociological associations all over the world don’t seem to have equivalents at their national extent. Alongside, this domain of sociology has an uncertain situation within the university systems: few scholar jobs and chairs, research programmes, articles and books are clearly dedicated to « sociology of language ». The cause is probably that it is difficult for sociologists to work on language even though by definition, linguistics is a specific disciplinary field aimed at investigate language. Moreover, linguists  have developed their general framework from the canonic principles of Saussure for whom language has to be studied beyond the social context ; it is significant that a scholar as influential as Chomsky still follows the « saussurean dichotomy» and considers speakers as basically identical and interchangeable. For their part, sociologists usually keep language questions out from their study domain. Thus, they forget that society is spoken by the individuals and with all the words they have learnt by living and doing; moreover, since Austin, we know that it is often as long as certain things are told that they can perform, change the reality. So, knowing that each science tends to consider its object of study as its exclusive preserve, sociology of language is an academic challenge. However, it is worth the effort because social reality is always something we reach with language (that is socially constructed) – how could we do things to each other without words? Do we need an autonomous sociology of language indeed? Or should we try to persuade the sociologists that all sociology is inevitably a sociology of language (in the same way, for Labov all linguistics is necessarily social)?