An Introduction to Linguistic Ethnography: Interdisciplinary Explorations

Sara Shaw, Fiona Copland and Julia Snell

The term 'linguistic ethnography' captures a growing body of research by scholars who combine linguistic and ethnographic approaches in order to understand how social and communicative processes operate in a range of settings and contexts. To date, linguistic ethnography has been described as an umbrella term: an area of shared interests where established research traditions interact (see Tusting and Maybin 2007; Rampton 2007a; Jacobs and Slembrouck 2010; Maybin and Tusting 2011). A great deal of research has been undertaken under this umbrella (see, for instance, the work of Jan Blommaert, Angela Creese, Marilyn Martin-Jones, Ben Rampton and Celia Roberts, and Table 1.1, below), building on the foundational work of scholars such as Frederick Erickson, John Gumperz and Dell Hymes, all of whom are cited throughout the collection. However, linguistic ethnography has yet to reach a position where we can claim it to be a clearly defined approach. Linguistic ethnographic work is dispersed among many different disciplinary areas and, currently, there is no dedicated journal to bring work together and support its development. We therefore thought it timely to publish a selection of contemporary linguistic ethnography work in one collection. Our aim is to take stock of linguistic ethnography: to invite readers to examine the breadth of disciplinary and methodological currents converging in linguistic ethnography, identify intelligible threads and consider opportunities and challenges.

Whether you are an established linguistic ethnographer with an interest in how the field is developing or you are new to linguistic ethnography and wondering what it's all about, we hope that there is something in the collection for you. We recount the historical, theoretical and methodological foundations of linguistic ethnography; present case studies of research written by experienced linguistic ethnographers;

and encourage readers to engage with these case studies and our interpretation of them. Our focus is on opening up the intellectual spaces in which those who are interested in linguistic ethnography are working, to engage with the range of approaches and interpretations they employ, and to encourage debate about linguistic ethnography.

We have structured the collection in such a way as to first provide readers with a basic outline of linguistic ethnography and an overview of some of the questions and challenges that readers (and researchers) may be grappling with (Chapter 1). We then give a detailed introduction to the assumptions, values, frameworks and techniques that currently characterise linguistic ethnography (Chapter 2); and finally, present 12 research studies (Chapters 3 to 14) that engage with current topics and approaches in linguistic ethnography. The studies that have been selected focus on different disciplinary areas and draw on a range of theories and methods.

 
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