Over the past decades protagonists of critical sociolinguistics and the sociolinguistics of globalization have repeatedly questioned the relevance of macrosociolinguistic research in the tradition of Joshua A. Fishman. Partly because of its rather essentialist conceptions of language and the structure of society, traditional macrosociolinguistics would fail to adequately illuminate the heightened complexity of language practices in an increasingly superdiverse world. One cannot ignore that critical sociolinguistics and the sociolinguistics of globalization have succeeded in promoting concepts and methods that are eagerly used to study many different aspects of today’s linguistic diversity in a society that can hardly be compared to the society in which the founding fathers of the sociology of language and macrosociolinguistics were active. The drive for innovation that marks much of what in a short period of time has become mainstream sociolinguistics is certainly to be applauded. What is debatable, however, is the way in which some protagonists of critical sociolinguistics and the sociolinguistics of globalization sometimes tend to posit stances, characterize views that are prevalent in macrosociolinguistics as dust-laden remnants of 19th-century thinking or argue in favor of ditching older concepts altogether (Darquennes 2014; Pavlenko 2018; Darquennes, Salmons and Vandenbussche 2019; Edwards 2022). In the introduction to his edited volume entitled Sociolinguistics. Theoretical Debates, Coupland (2016: 12) characterizes sociolinguists’ “recent enthusiasm for theoretical innovation and change” as being “admirable, engaging, and often inspiring”. He argues, however, that “progressive evolution can be more productive than abrupt revolution” (which, as one could argue, is how sociolinguistics emerged, cf. Wölck 1977) and that “[i]n many cases what we arguably need is to reinflect and retheorize older concepts (community, variety, diversity, identity, standard and vernacular, mediation, etc.) rather than dispense with them altogether” (Coupland 2016: 12). Obviously, researchers whose work is rooted in the macrosociolinguistic tradition can contribute to such an endeavor by drawing the attention to and building on the richness of the constructive debates that took place in networks of scholars interested in processes of language maintenance and shift in minority language communities. Focusing on a selection of debates in sociolinguistics’ fairly recent history, this talk seeks to contribute to a more systematic and detailed historiography of ideas, beliefs and concepts that circulate(d) in the sociolinguistic enterprise and that color the variety multifocal lenses used to look back into the future (Krogull & Darquennes 2020).
Coupland, Nikolas. 2016. Introduction: Sociolinguistic theory and the practice of sociolinguistics. In Nikolas Coupland (ed.), Sociolinguistics. Theoretical Debates, 1-34. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Darquennes, Jeroen. 2014. Macrosociolinguïstisch onderzoek naar historische taalminderheden in tijden van globalisering: Pleidooi voor een vernieuwing van binnenuit. Us Wurk LXIII: 73-92.
Darquennes, Jeroen, Joe Salmons & Wim Vandenbussche. 2019. Language contact research: scope, trends, and possible future directions. In Jeroen Darquennes, Joe Salmons & Wim Vandenbussche (eds.), Language Contact: An international handbook (HSK45.1), 1-12. Berlin: De Gruyter.
Edwards, John. 2022. Deconstructivism, postmodernism and their offspring: disorders of our time. Sociolinguistica 36(1&2). 55-68.
Krogull, Andreas & Jeroen Darquennes. 2020. How to learn from history? Some policy-relevant research possibilities on the circulation of ideas and beliefs about language. Language, Society and Policy. http://www.meits.org/files/opinion_articles/uploads/Krogull-Darquennes-2020-How-to-learn-from-history.pdf
Pavlenko, Aneta. 2018. Superdiversity and why it isn’t: Reflections on terminological innovation and academic branding. In Barbara Schmenk, Stephan Breidbach & Lutz Küster (eds.), Sloganization in language education discourse: Conceptual thinking in the age of academic marketization, 142-168. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
Wölck, Wolfgang. 1977. Sociolinguistics. Revolution or Interdiscipline? American Behavioral Scientist 20(5). 733-756.