In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Language Ideologies and Language Attitudes

  • Introduction
  • Some Key Texts and Edited Collections
  • Early Research on Language Attitudes
  • Critical Discourse Analysis—a Convergent School from the Humanities
  • More-Recent Developments on Language Ideologies within Linguistic Anthropology
  • Language Attitudes and Ideologies in the Expression of Style and Identities

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Linguistics Language Ideologies and Language Attitudes
Paul V. Kroskrity
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 August 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 April 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199772810-0122


As conceptual tools, language ideologies and language attitudes were created by researchers in the second half of the 20th century to provide a means of treating speakers’ feelings and ideas about various languages and linguistic forms as a critical factor in understanding processes of language change, language and identity, and language in its socioeconomic context. But even though each of these concepts can be viewed as related to a common effort to bring linguistic subjectivity into research once exclusively dominated by objectivist frameworks that attempted to explain linguistic phenomena, without recourse to speakers’ apparent understandings, the two concepts have complementary histories of development. Definitions of both these concepts typically invoke speakers’ feelings and beliefs about language structure or language use. But a close analysis of their distinctive histories and patterned distribution reveals that they have not only very different origins but also significant differences in the way they encourage researchers to focus on distinctive aspects of similar phenomena. In addition to their different histories and arenas of focal concern, the two concepts are typically associated with very different kinds of methodologies. Language attitudes, as a concept, is generally associated with an objectivist concern with quantitative measurement of speakers’ reactions. This concern is surely related to its conceptual origins in social psychology, quantitative sociolinguistics, and educational linguistics. In contrast, the concept of language ideologies is associated with qualitative methods such as ethnography, conversational analysis, and discourse analysis, as will be exemplified in the various sections of this article. This methodological reliance on qualitative methods is certainly related to its association with linguistic anthropology, interpretive sociology, and systemic functional linguistics. Also in contrast to the history of application for the concept of language attitudes, language ideologies—in accord with its anthropological origins—has tended to emphasize how speakers’ beliefs and feelings about language are constructed from their experience as social actors in a political economic system, and how speakers’ often-partial awareness of the form and function of their semiotic resources is critically important. While students of language ideologies read them both from speakers’ articulate explications (e.g., in interviews or conversational interaction) and from comparatively unreflecting, habitual discursive practice, students of language attitudes tend to measure reactions through more standardized and objective forms of data collection (survey, extended interview, matched guise test, and the analysis of sociophonetic samples). Apart from the social sciences, research in the humanities has also taken up language as a cultural phenomenon and has added a historical as well as an ideological dimension to the study of the emergence of awareness regarding the use of urban dialects and other local linguistic forms, perhaps as symbolic pushback to sociolinguistic globalization.

Some Key Texts and Edited Collections

Though both concepts are still very important to researchers interested in understanding sociolinguistic processes such as language change, language shift, or linguistic revitalization, there is no introductory text devoted to either. The listed works are some of the more widely used texts that attempt to convey significant concepts through case studies. Baker 1992 provides a resource both for specialists and nonspecialists alike that argues for a more central role of language attitudes in studies of multilingualism, language maintenance and loss, and language planning. Like Baker 1992, Garrett 2010 also critically surveys research on language attitudes, with more of an emphasis on methods. For language ideologies, Schieffelin, et al. 1998 combines an influential collection of exemplary case studies with an insightful introduction that overviews the development of the field. Blommaert 1999 complements that collection with an anthology composed mostly of works by European scholars who treat explicit language ideologies. Focusing on the making of linguistic authority, Gal and Woolard 2001 illustrates how language ideologies enable the construction of various publics.

  • Baker, Colin. 1992. Attitudes and language. Multilingual Matters 83. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

    Important overview of the origins and concerns of research on language attitudes.

  • Blommaert, Jan, ed. 1999. Language ideological debates. Language, Power, and Social Process 2. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

    An early and highly significant edited collection featuring work on explicit language ideologies and their contestation.

  • Gal, Susan, and Kathryn A. Woolard, eds. 2001. Languages and publics: The making of authority. Encounters. Manchester, UK: St. Jerome.

    An important and focused anthology on authoritative uses of language in the public sphere.

  • Garrett, Peter. 2010. Attitudes to language. Key Topics in Sociolinguistics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511844713

    An outstanding textbook-type treatment of the history and proliferation of research on language attitudes, by one of its most prolific scholars.

  • Garrett, Peter, Nikolas Coupland, and Angie Williams. 2003. Investigating language attitudes: Social meanings of dialect, ethnicity, and performance. Cardiff, UK: Univ. of Wales Press.

    An excellent study and overview of relevant research and research methods, with a special emphasis on Welsh and English.

  • Schieffelin, Bambi B., Kathryn A. Woolard, and Paul V. Kroskrity, eds. 1998. Language ideologies: Practice and theory. Oxford Studies in Anthropological Linguistics 16. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    This edited collection, revised from an earlier 1992 special issue of Pragmatics, is the most widely used book on the topic.

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